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Major General Charles W. Sweeney (27 December 1919 – 16 July 2004) was an officer in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II and the pilot who flew the "Fat Manmarker" atomic bomb to Nagasaki on 9 August 1945.

Biography

He was born in Lowell, Massachusettsmarker the son of a plumber and began flying while attending North Quincy High Schoolmarker. After graduation in 1937, he attended classes at Boston Universitymarker and Purdue Universitymarker, then joined the U.S. Army Air Corps on 28 April 1941, as an aviation cadet. After receiving his pilot wings and a commission as a second lieutenant, Sweeney trained for two years at the Jefferson Proving Ground in Indianamarker.

Sweeney served as an operations officer and a test pilot at Eglin Fieldmarker, Floridamarker. In 1944 he was promoted to major and assigned as a B-29 Superfortress pilot instructor at Grand Island, Nebraskamarker.

509th Composite Group

Sweeney then became an instructor in the atomic missions training project, Project Alberta, at Wendover Army Airfieldmarker, Utahmarker. Selected to be part of the 509th Composite Group, he was named commander of the 320th Troop Carrier Squadron on 6 January 1945. Initially his squadron used C-47 Skytrain and C-46 Commando transports on hand to conduct the top secret operations to supply the 509th, but in April 1945 it acquired five C-54 Skymasters, which had the range to deliver personnel and materiel to the western Pacific area.

On 4 May 1945, Sweeney became commander of the 393d Bombardment Squadron, Heavy, the combat element of the 509th, in charge of 15 Silverplate B-29s and their flight and ground crews, 535 men in all. In June and July Sweeney moved his unit to North Field on the island of Tinianmarker in the Marianasmarker.

In addition to supervising the intensive training of his flight crews during July 1945, Sweeney was slated to command the second atomic bomb mission. He trained with the crew of Captain (Charles D.) Don Albury aboard their B-29 The Great Artiste, and was aircraft commander on the training mission of July 11. He and the crew flew five of the nine rehearsal test drops of inert Little Boymarker and Fat Manmarker bomb assemblies in preparation for the missions.

On 6 August 1945, Sweeney and Albury piloted The Great Artiste as the instrumentation support aircraft for the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima.

Three days later, on 9 August 1945, Major Sweeney commanded Bockscar, the B-29 that dropped Fat Manmarker on Nagasaki. Having diverted from the primary target, Kokuramarker, because of weather conditions, Bockscar dropped a plutonium weapon with a blast yield equivalent to 21 kilotons of TNT. Approximately 70,000 people were killed in the initial explosion and 60% of Nagasaki was destroyed. Japanmarker surrendered six days after the bombing.

In November 1945, Sweeney returned with the 509th Composite Group to Roswell Army Air Base in New Mexicomarker to train aircrews for the atomic testing mission, Operation Crossroadsmarker.

Post-war activities

Sweeney left active duty with the rank of lieutenant colonel on 28 June 1946, but remained active with the Massachusettsmarker Air National Guard. On 21 February 1956, Col. Sweeney was named commander of its 102nd Air Defense Wing and shortly after, on 6 April, was promoted to Brigadier General. He retired in 1976 as a Major General in the Air National Guard.

Throughout his life Sweeney remained convinced of the appropriateness and necessity of the bombing, and wrote War's End: An Eyewitness Account of America's Last Atomic Mission to defend the action in light of subsequent historical questioning. He also appeared in the 1970s television series "World At War" and was seen explaining the buildup to the mission raids.

In his later years Charles Sweeney performed in various air shows doing many maneuvers to awe crowds. Sweeney died at age 84 on 15 July 2004 at Massachusetts General Hospitalmarker in Bostonmarker.

A short documentary featuring an audio recording of Sweeney describing the Nagasaki mission preparation and execution called "Nagasaki: The Commander's Voice" was made in 2005. The 2002 audio recording was the last one made before his death.

References

Notes

  1. Charles W. Sweeney Dies; Led Bomb Drop Over Nagasaki (washingtonpost.com)

Bibliography

  • Brooks, Lester. Behind Japan's Surrender: Secret Struggle That Ended an Empire. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1968.
  • Grayling, A.C. Among the Dead Cities. London: Bloomsbury, 2006. ISBN 0-74757-671-8.
  • Miller, Merle and Abe Spitzer. We Dropped the A-Bomb. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1946.
  • Olivi, Lt.Col.USAF(Ret) Fred J. Decision At Nagasaki: The Mission That Almost Failed. Privately Printed, 1999. ISBN 0-96787-470-X.
  • Sweeney, Maj.Gen.USAF(Ret) Charles with James A. Antonucci and Marion K. Antonucci. War's End: an Eyewitness Account of America's Last Atomic Mission. Dresden, Tennessee: Avon Books, 1997. ISBN 0-38097-349-9.
  • Tomatsu, Shomei. 11:02 Nagasaki. Tokyo, Japan: Shashin Dojinsha, 1966.


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