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Today marks 67th year of Nagasaki bombing

THE atomic bomb that hastened the end of WWII was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan exactly 67 years ago today.

Senji Kanaeda chants from the Lotus Sutra during the From Hiroshima to Hope Lantern Ceremony  at Green Lake on Monday. From Hiroshima to Hope is an annual lantern floating ceremony which is held to promote peace and remember victims of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and all victims of war. APSenji Kanaeda chants from the Lotus Sutra during the From Hiroshima to Hope Lantern Ceremony at Green Lake on Monday. From Hiroshima to Hope is an annual lantern floating ceremony which is held to promote peace and remember victims of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and all victims of war. AP“There are no ceremonies planned,” said local historian Don Farrell.

Two years ago, Farrell organized a symposium commemorating the 65th year of the dropping of the atomic bombs “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and drew the participation of experts Dr. Roger Meade, an archivist for the Los Alamos National Laboratory; John Coster-Mullen, author and a leading source on the two atomic bombs; Jim Petersen, founder of the Wendover Air Field Historical Society; Professor Anderson Giles, and Nancy Bartlitt, author and oral historian and past president of the Los Alamos Historical Society.

Although the Enola Gay navigator Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk could only participate via teleconference, two Air Force generals, USAF vice chief of staff Gen. Howie Chandler and Pacific Air Forces vice commander Maj. Gen. Douglas Owens were able to attend.

Variety asked Farrell to share the role that Tinian played in ending WWII.

The dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6 was a success; however, the second atomic bombing mission proved critical.

Farrell tells the story of how the dropping of the more complex atomic bomb nicknamed “Fat Man” was made.

“Shortly after midnight, 67 years ago, August 9, 1945, the re-organized Russian Army crossed their border into the Japanese-held, Chinese province of Manchuria.  Premier Joseph Stalin had been planning the invasion for months.  The Allies had requested him to enter the war and attack Japan from the north to draw Japanese troops away from the proposed Allied landing beaches in southern Kyushu. He had originally scheduled his entry into the war for August 15; however, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima forced his hand.  He was fearful that America’s use of the bomb might cause Hirohito to surrender before the Red Army could land troops in Hokkaido, the northern-most of Japan’s main islands, and claim it for Soviet occupation.”

Farrell described the day of the mission as “dark, dismal, drizzly morning.”

“Major Charles Sweeney, pilot of the B-29 Bockscar, boarded his ship at about 2:30 am and began the preflight ritual.  The transfer pump for the auxiliary fuel tanks failed, delaying the mission.  It was a bad omen,” he said.

He narrated how Bockscar began rolling down Runway Able, North Field Tinian, about three hours after Russian tanks began smashing through the Japanese defenses.

“Unlike the crew of Enola Gay who were unaware of the nature of the mission to Hiroshima, Sweeney and his men were fully aware of the implications of their mission.  They knew they would be dropping a weapon of mass destruction, and hoping it would end the war and stop the killing,” he said.

Farrell said a storm was passing over Iwo Jima, their normal rendezvous on “Empire Runs.”

Their newly designated rendezvous, narrated Farrell, was Yakushima, a small island off the southern end of Kyushu in Kagoshima prefecture which they had never visited it before.

“At about 8 a.m., as Bockscar flew through the night toward Japan, an irate Foreign Minister Togo stormed into Prime Minister Suzuki’s office in Tokyo, furious that the Prime Minister had not insisted on an emergency meeting of the Supreme Council the day before.  Suzuki agreed to summon the members of the Supreme Council to an urgent conference.  Togo then visited with Navy Minister Mitsumasa Yonai, who also agreed to accept the Potsdam conditions, with Togo’s proviso on the preservation of the imperial household.  However, despite the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and news that Russia had entered the war, Japan’s military leadership resisted surrender.  War Minister General Anami announced that ‘there is no other way than to fight out this sacred war determinedly for the defense of Japan,’” continued Farrell.

According to Farrell, Bockscar arrived over Yakushima at about 9 a.m., joined shortly by The Great Artiste.  The two aircraft, he says, waited for 45 minutes for the third member of the B-29 strike force, but Big Stink never appeared.

“Forty-five minutes of fuel was wasted,” said Farrell.

He said, “On they flew toward their primary target, the major Japanese arsenal at Kokura.  Unfortunately, it was covered with smoke and haze.  General LeMay’s staff had sent an incendiary mission to Yawata, upwind of Kokura the day before.  The raid had been exceptionally successful.  Despite three attempts to find a hole in the clouds, the bombardier Kermit Beahan was unable to see the target through the crosshairs of his Norden bombsight and had to announce, ‘No drop.  I can’t see the target.’”

With the aircraft low on fuel, Farrel said Sweeney turned Bockscar toward Nagasaki, their alternate target.

He said, “They only had enough fuel on board for one pass over the target.  If they didn’t drop it, they were faced with a dilemma: drop it by radar, which was against regs; drop it in the ocean, which would be a billion dollar waste; or try to land with a lived atomic bomb.  Commander Dick Ashworth, USN, the bomb commander, finally agreed to a radar run. At the very last minute, literally, Beahan shouted, ‘I can see it! I’ve got it!’”

Then, he said, seconds later, the bomb was released and Bockscar lurched upward as the 9,700-pound “Fat Man” fell free.

Having accomplished the task, Sweeney gave Radioman Spitzer a short message to send to Tinian: “Nagasaki bombed visually through 7/10 cloud with good results.  No fighter opposition and no flak.  High order of detonation.  Bombs away time probably 090158Z.”

This reporter in a previous conversation with Farrell recalled him explaining that Sweeney wasn’t supposed to fly this critical mission, a decision that shocked General LeMay.

Then Col. Paul Tibbets, who commanded the first mission aboard his plane “Enola Gay” chose Sweeney to take his stead and he had the prerogative to use his own plane, “The Great Artiste.”

But at the time Sweeney’s plane had just been used for the Hiroshima mission as an instruments plane and instead of moving the equipment, Sweeney chose Bockscar instead.

But on the night of the Nagasaki atomic bombing, Farrell said Emperor Hirohito made his final decision to end the war.

The tentative acceptance of surrender was wired from Tokyo at about 6 a.m. on Aug. 10.