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The Marshall Islands & the Bomb

Marshall Islands

Between 1946 and 1958, the United States detonated 67 nuclear bombs on, in and above the Marshall Islands — vaporizing whole islands, carving craters into its shallow lagoons and exiling hundreds of people from their homes.

Operation Crossroads                

The first testing series in the Marshall Islands occurred under Operation Crossroads. The purpose of Operation Crossroads was to investigate the effect of nuclear weapons on naval warships. Testing in the islands began at Bikini Atoll with the Shot Able test, on July 1, 1946. After Shot Able, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists confirmed the power of these weapons. They determined that soldiers on ships up to a mile away from this explosion would be instantly be killed.

The U.S. then conducted the Shot Baker test on July 25.

From the Youtube video on Operation Crossroads

These tests were the first time that the U.S. tested nuclear weapons since the Trinity Test in 1945. These were also the first U.S. nuclear detonations since the “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” bombs dropped over Japan. Operation Crossroads ended on August 10, 1946, due to concerns over radiation, especially to the soldiers involved. In 1969, the U.S. began a long term project to decontaminate Bikini Atoll.

IVY

Operations Greenhouse and Ivy

In January of 1950, President Truman made the decision to increase U.S. research into thermonuclear weapons, which would lead to further U.S. nuclear testing. Operation Greenhouse, was a series of nuclear tests conducted at Eniwetok Atoll in 1951. These were done to test design principles that would later become pivotal in the development of the hydrogen bomb. The tests aimed to reduce the overall size of nuclear weapons, including the necessary amount of fissile material, while increasing their destructive power.

The U.S. conducted its first series of thermonuclear tests, Operation Ivy, at Eniwetok Atoll, in November of 1952. Shot Mike was the first successful hydrogen bomb test. Then, on November 16, the U.S. conducted the King Shot.

Marshall Is. test sites

Castle Bravo

The U.S. conducted its largest nuclear detonation ever, Castle Bravo, at Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954. This was part of Operation Castle, a series of thermonuclear tests. Bravo was over 1,000 more times powerful than “Little Boy.” Bravo used a device called “Shrimp” which used lithium deuteride as its fuel. Bravo was the first test of a deliverable hydrogen bomb.

Bravo fallout pattern

Despite potential risks, Major General Percy Clarkson and scientific director Dr. Alvin C. Graves ordered the test to continue as planned. Due to Castle Bravo radioactive debris was released into the atmosphere, and to surrounding atolls. The test was more powerful than scientists predicted. Ocean currents, weather conditions, and wind patterns contributed to this spread of fallout and debris. The fallout was composed of pulverized coral, water, and radioactive particles, and it fell into the atmosphere appearing as ashy snowflakes. This affected nearby atolls and U.S. servicemen. Traces of radioactive material were later found in parts of Japan, India, Australia, Europe, and the United States. This was the worst radiological disaster in U.S. history and caused worldwide backlash against atmospheric nuclear testing.

Bikini Is. relocation

Relocation of the Marshallese

In 1946, Navy Commodore Ben Wyatt met with the 167 people living on Bikini Atoll. Wyatt asked the Marshallese to relocate, and for use of their atoll “for the good of mankind.” He explained that they were a chosen people and that perfecting atomic weapons could prevent future wars. The residents were promised they could return one day, but realistically they had no choice in this matter. Immediately following this speech, the U.S military began preparations to relocate the residents to Rongerik Atoll, an uninhabited island with limited resources 125 miles away. Residents of Bikini Atoll resettled in 1969, but then evacuated in 1978, after radiation levels were determined to be excessive.

A month later, the Marshallese filed a complaint with the UN, but this did not prevent U.S. nuclear testing. In 1948, the U.S. government forced residents of Eniwetok Atoll to evacuate due to expanded nuclear testing with Operation Sandstone.

Now and Then

Timeline:

7/1/1946: Testing begins at the Marshall Islands, with Shot Able.

7/25/1946: Shot Baker is conducted, under Operation Crossroads.

4/30/1948: Shot Yoke, under Operation Sandstone, is conducted. This was the first fission weapon to use a levitated core design.

4/20/1951:  Shot Easy nuclear test is conducted at Eniwetok Atoll, under Operation Greenhouse. The Easy test was meant to test a new, lighter implosion bomb.

5/1951: Operation Greenhouse testing occurred at Eniwetok Atoll.

11/1/1952: The Mike Shot is conducted at Eniwetok, under Operation Ivy. This was the first U.S. thermonuclear test.

6/28/1958: The Oak test is conducted, at Eniwetok Atoll, under the Operation Hardtack I series. This was the 6th largest U.S. nuclear test. Hardtack I included 35 total tests. Hardtack I was the last testing series conducted on the Marshall Islands.

Clean up is still going on today.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Joseph Bullock – Sarasota, FL; US Air Force / FHP Trooper

Kirk Douglas (Issur Danielovitch) 103 – Amsterdam, NY; US Navy, WWII / actor

Gus Elias – Cannonsburg, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, APO, antiaircraft

Paul Farnes – Hampshire, ENG; RAF, WWII, ETO, 501st Squadron & 229th Wing Commander (Ret. 20 y.)

Oscar E. Koskela – Detroit, MI; USMC, PTO, Cpl., HQ Co./29/2 Marine Division, KIA (Saipan)

John McGlohon – Asheboro, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI, ATO & PTO, Sgt., aerial photographer (only one to take pictures of the Hiroshima blast)

Harold Rafferty – Louisville, KY; US Army, WWII, PTO

Dan E. Reagan – USA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Oklahoma, fireman 1st Class, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Frank Wasniewski (100) – Jersey City, NJ; US Army, WWII, PTO, 98th Coast Artillery

Sophie Yazzie (105) – Canyon de Chilly, AZ; US Army Air Corps WAC, (a member of the Navajo Nation)

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Paul Tibbets and Duty

Paul Tibbets

After receiving basic flight training at Randolph Field in San Antonio, Texas in 1937, Tibbets quickly rose through the ranks to become commanding officer of the 340th Bombardment Squadron of the 97th Bombardment Group. After leading the first American daylight heavy bomber mission in Occupied France in August 1942, Tibbets was selected to fly Major General Mark W. Clark from Polebook to Gibraltar in preparation for Operation Torch, the allied invasion of North Africa. A few weeks later, Tibbets flew the Supreme Allied Commander, Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower, to Gibraltar. Tibbets quickly earned a reputation as one of the best pilots in the Army Air Force.

Paul Tibbets in New Mexico

Tibbets returned to the United States to help with the development of the B-29 Superfortress bomber. On September 1, 1944, Tibbets met with Lt. Col. John Lansdale, Captain William S. Parsons, and Norman F. Ramsey, who briefed him about the Manhattan Project. Tibbets, who had accumulated more flying time on the B-29 than any other pilot in the Air Force, was selected to lead the 509th Composite Group, a fully self-contained organization of about 1,800 hand-picked men that would be responsible for dropping the first atomic bomb on Japan.

Paul Tibbets

From September 1944 until May 1945, Tibbets and the 509th Composite Group trained extensively at Wendover Air Force Base in Wendover, Utah. Flight crews practiced dropping large “dummy” bombs modeled after the shape and size of the atomic bombs in order to prepare for their ultimate mission in Japan.

In late May 1945, the 509th was transferred to Tinian Island in the South Pacific to await final orders. On August 5, 1945 Tibbets formally named his B-29 Enola Gay after his mother. At 02:45 the next day, Tibbets and his flight crew aboard the Enola Gay departed North Field for Hiroshima. At 08:15 local time, they dropped the atomic bomb, code-named “Little Boy,” over Hiroshima.

The crew of the “Enola Gay”

Tibbets was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by Major General Carl Spaatz immediately after landing on Tinian. When news of the successful mission appeared in American newspapers the next day, Tibbets and his family became instant celebrities. To supporters, Tibbets became known as a national hero who ended the war with Japan; to his detractors, he was a war criminal responsible for the deaths of many thousands of Japanese civilians. Tibbets remains a polarizing figure to this day.

The book, “Duty”, by Bob Green, is a must read  Duty is the story of three lives connected by history, proximity, and blood; indeed, it is many stories, intimate and achingly personal as well as deeply historic. In one soldier’s memory of a mission that transformed the world—and in a son’s last attempt to grasp his father’s ingrained sense of honor and duty—lies a powerful tribute to the ordinary heroes of an extraordinary time in American life.

No regrets … Colonel Paul Tibbets, standing.

What Greene came away with is found history and found poetry—a profoundly moving work that offers a vividly new perspective on responsibility, empathy, and love. It is an exploration of and response to the concept of duty as it once was and always should be: quiet and from the heart. On every page you can hear the whisper of a generation and its children bidding each other farewell.

Warning leaflet dropped on 14 Japanese cities

“TO THE JAPANESE PEOPLE: America asks that you take immediate heed of what we say on this leaflet. We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man. A single one of our newly developed atomic bombs is actually the equivalent in explosive power to what 2000 of our giant B-29s can carry on a single mission. This awful fact is one for you to ponder and we solemnly assure you it is grimly accurate.” (American leaflet warning Japan to surrender)

With the end of the war in 1945, Tibbets’ organization was transferred to what is now Walker Air Force Base, Roswell, N.M., and remained there until August 1946. It was during this period that the Operation Crossroads took place, with Tibbets participating as technical adviser to the Air Force commander. He was then assigned to the Air Command and Staff School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., from which he graduated in 1947. His next assignment was to the Directorate of Requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, where he subsequently served as director of the Strategic Air Division.

BG Paul Tibbets

Brigadier General Paul W. Tibbets Jr. retired from the United States Air Force in 1966. He died in 2007, his ashes were scattered at sea. For more on Tibbets, see Manhattan Project Spotlight: Paul Tibbets. To watch his first-person account of the Hiroshima mission, click here.

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Leaflet dropped on Nagasaki

9 August, ‘Bock’s Car’ dropped the next atomic bomb, “Fat Man,” which was nicknamed after Churchill or Sidney Greenstreet’s character in “The Maltese Falcon,” there are two conflicting stories. The bomb killed 80,000 people. This second bomb was different in that it was a spherical plutonium missile, ten feet long and five feet in diameter. The plane made three unsuccessful runs over the city of Kokura, but due to the lack of visibility, they went on to Nagasaki.  Jake Beser, an electronics specialist, was the only crew member to make both atomic bomb runs.

From the collection of images taken by Yosuke Yamahata, a Japanese military photographer.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Stellla Bender – Steubenville, OH; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Ian Cowan – Christchurch, NZ; NZ Army # 635101, WWII, J Force

Raymond Evans – Naashville, TN; US Army, WWII

Wilbur Grippen Jr. (99) – New Haven, CT; US Army, WWII

Albert Hill – Nampa, ID; US Army, WWII, CBI

Floyd Kennedy – Tonasket, WA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 674/11th Airborne Division, Medical Corps (Ret. 21 y.)

Louis Mueller – Baltimore, MD; US Navy, WWII

Clinton Phalen Sr. – Foster City, MI; US Navy, WWII, Chief Petty Officer

Raymond Shannon – Worchester, MA; US Air Force, Korea

Max Thomas – Calhoun, GA; US Army, WWII

 

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Personal Note – 

GP Cox had the pleasure – or should I say ‘best experience ever’ yesterday as I boarded a B-17 Flying Fortress.  If anyone has a chance to take a flight – DO IT!!

The Wings of Freedom Tour of the Collins Foundation is coming to a city near you!!  Tell them Pacific Paratrooper sent you!

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I was unable to download any of my videos, Pierre Lagace did this for me!  Actually for 6 years he has been helping me out – m Mentor!

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Truman Diary – July 1945

 

Churchill – Truman – Stalin

From: The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum

Entry:

25 Jul 1945

We met at 11 A.M. today. [That is Stalin, Churchill and the U.S. President.  Clement Attlee was also there.] But I had a most important session with Lord Mountbatten & General Marshall before that. We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world.  It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.

Anyway we think we have found the way to cause a disintegration of the atom.  An experiment in the New Mexican desert was startling – to put it mildly. Thirteen pounds of the explosive caused the complete disintegration of a steel tower 60 feet high, created a crater 6 feet deep and 1200 feet in diameter, knocked over a steel tower 1/2 mile away and knocked men down 10,000 yards away. The explosion was visible for more than 200 miles and audible for 40 miles and more.

This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop this terrible bomb on the old Capitol or the new.

He & I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one and we will issue a warning statement asking the Japs to surrender and save lives. I’m sure they will not do that, but we will have given them the chance. It is certainly a good thing for the world that Hitler’s crowd or Stalin’s did not discover this atomic bomb. It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful.

At 10:15 I had Gen. Marshall come in and discuss with me the tactical and political situation. He is a level headed man – so is Mountbatten.

Gen. George Marshall, US Army Chief of Staff and Gen. Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold, Commanding General US Army Air Corps (NARA pic)

At the conference Poland and the Bolsheviki land grant came up. Russia liked herself to a slice of Poland and gave Poland a nice slice of Germany taking also a good slice of East Prussia for herself. Poland has moved in up to the Oder and the west Niesse, taking Stettin and Silesia as a fact accomplished. My position is that according to commitments made at Yalta by my predecessor Germany was to be divided into four occupation zones, one each for Britain, Russia and France and the U.S. If Russia chooses to allow Poland to occupy a part of her zone I am agreeable but title to territory cannot and will not be settled here. For the fourth time I’ve stated my position and explained that territorial sessions had to be made by treaty and ratified by the Senate.

We discussed reparations and movement of populations from East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Italy and elsewhere. Churchill said Maisky had so defined war booty as to include the Russi German fleet and Merchant Marine. It was a bomb shell and sort of paralyzed the Ruskies, but it has a lot of merit.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Potsdam Political Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

William Brownsey – TX; US Army, 11th Airborne Division

Roger Cannon Jr. – UT; US Navy, WWII / US Army, Korea

Code talkers’ Monument

Edward Dietsch – Towson, MD; US Army, WWII, ETO, 12th Armored Division, Medic

James Hampton – Springfield, IL; US Navy, WWII, USS Fraser (DD-607)

Ronnie Knopp – WY; US Army, WWII, ETO, Interpreter

Conway Lewis – Memphis, TN; USMC, WWII, Purple Heart / US Army, Korea, OCS Interpreter

John Montgomery – Franklin, KY; US Army, WWII

Leonard Nace – Quakerstown, PA; US Navy, WWII, Seaman 1st Class

Harry Preston = Kitchener, CAN; Canadian Army, WWII, Galt Highland Light Infantry

Gary White – Miami, FL; US Army, Vietnam, 2 Bronze Stars

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The Bomb Babysitter

Donald Hornig

Donald Hornig was a year out of graduate school when he received a mysterious job offer.  No one would even tell him what or even where the job was, so he declined – until the President of Harvard University called and convinced him to take it.

Soon after, Hornig bought an old car and headed for Los Alamos, New Mexico.   He would become one of the youngest leaders of the team that developed the first atomic bomb and the last surviving witness of the detonation on July 16, 1945.

Albert Einstein & Julius Robert Oppenheimer

Born in Milwaukee, Hornig “was the first in his family to go to college,” said the Associated Press.  He studied physical chemistry at Harvard, earning his Doctorate in 1943.  In Los Alamos, the head of the Manhattan Project, J. Robert Oppenheimer, gave him the job of developing the firing unit that triggered the detonation.


The Trinity tower. “At 9 p.m., I climbed the 100-foot tower to the top, where I baby-sat the live bomb,” Dr. Hornig recalled in a 2005 NPR interview. Credit Los Alamos National Laboratory

On the eve of the blast, Hornig “was assigned another task,” said The Washington Post.  Oppenheimer decided that someone should be at the site to babysit the bomb, he later remembered.

As lighting and thundered raged outside, Hornig sat by the bomb reading a book of humorous essays.  In the morning, “he took his place beside Oppenheimer in a control room more than 5 miles away.”

When the bomb exploded, at 5:29:45 a.m., Hornig recalled, “My first reaction, having not slept for 48 hours, was, ‘Boy am I tired.’  My second was, We sure opened a can of worms.”  He later described the massive orange fireball as, “one of the most aesthetically beautiful things I have ever seen.”

Hornig went on to teach at Brown and Princeton universities, said the New York Times, before becoming science adviser to President Lyndon Johnson.  “Working for Johnson was reportedly not easy; the president disdained scientists because many of them opposed the Vietnam War.

Hornig was named president of Brown University in 1970, where his budget cuts restored the institution’s finances.  Upon his resignation in 1976, he described his tenure as “bittersweet.”    He returned to Harvard and to teaching to end his career.

Donald Hornig was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 17 March 1920 and the world lost him on 21 January 2013 in Providence, Rhode Island.

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Military HALLOWEEN Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE!!

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Farewell Salutes – 

Lawrence Brown – Yale, OK; US Navy, WWII & Korea, submarine service

Jesus Cepeda – Lawrenceville, GA; US Navy, WWII, Pearl Harbor

Adrian Dunt – Howard County, IA; US Army Air Corps, Japan Occupation, 11th Airborne Division

Robert Frear – Whangamata, NZ; NZEF # 76618, WWII

Robert Kost – Williamsport, PA; US Navy, WWII, boat mechanic

Maurice McCarthy – WV; US Merchant Marine, WWII, ETO / US Navy

Ethel Orr – VT & HI; US Army WAC, WWII, PTO, Operating nurse

James Slape – Morehead City, NC; US Army, Afghanistan, Sgt., KIA

Henry Suverkrup – Dubuque, IA; US Navy, WWII, USS Saratoga

Charlie Wolfers – Canon City, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII, communications

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Last Crew Member of Enola Gay Dies in Georgia

As this site begins to retell the story of WWII – A part of history passes….

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