The actual bomb: Fat Man
One would have thought that after the meticulous and monumental job of creating an atomic weapon in just a few years would be shadowed by the same meticulous planning in delivery. For the most part, World War II was decided by the armies that could best organizer and maintain supply lines. Band for the most part, especially in the Pacific theater, the Allies organizational skills were magnificent.
That said, the bombing of Hiroshima, moral questions notwithstanding, went off without a hitch at 10:30 Am on August 6th, 1945. But everything that could go wrong did go wrong on the Kokura raid on August 9th, 1945.
On Tinian Island during the evening of August 8th, 1945, engineers were assembling Fatboy and armed the bomb and left it armed for hours before the flight. Upon examination during the flight, two red lights indicating an armed warhead alerted engineers who saw that some fusing switches were improperly installed and had to be repaired.
The original first choice target was Kokura, Japan, a manufacturing center. The previous day a massive raid of 229 B-29 bombers hit Yawata, Japan. The smoky fires burned through the night and obscured Kokura from the bombardiers sites. So the Bockscar, from the 509th, piloted by Major Charles Sweeney was assigned the mission. The only problem, or possible problem was the fact that out of all the experienced bomber pilots in the region, they selected a man who’s participation would be his first combat.
The fuel pump to the Bockscar’s reserve fuel tank was inoperative. The amount of time it would have taken to repair it would move the mission to another day. It was decided to gamble that the amount of available fuel would be sufficient for a return.
Over Kokura, Sweeney had to make three passes before the bombardier and the co pilot agreed they should move to the secondary target, Nagasaki. One the third pass, anti aircraft fire pelted the aircraft. That said, they moved on to the next target.
Again, Nagasaki was occluded by cloud cover. They had to make a radar approach and after a few passes, bombardier found a hole then in cover and dropped the bomb known as Fat Man. The world’s first fission weapon fell two miles off target. Still, it immolated 35,000 people in an instant. Upon landing, the Bockscar almost ploughed into a dozen parked B-24s, all fully armed with incendiaries.
“Bockscar” upon delivery to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in 1961. The nose art was added sometime after the raid against Nagasaki. (U.S. Air Force photo)