Tag Archive | "A-Bomb"

VJ Day, 1945

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August 6, 1945 was no ordinary day.  Although the Allied Forces had achieved victory in Europe, World War II still raged on in the Pacific Theater.  The Japanese were, and remain to this day, an extremely proud race.  Demonstrating their resolve at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, they preferred to fight to the death rather than face dishonor by surrendering.  Many Japanese pilots became kamikazes: the equivalent of human bombs.  The devastation they left behind made the war more costly to the Allies, and the Japanese had hoped that we would cave in by suing for peace.   Even Japanese civilians were trained to counterattack their enemies with anything that could kill or main.  This included hastily fashioned weapons such as sharpened bamboo stalks.


The war had begun during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration.  FDR had vowed that we would achieve unconditional surrender from our enemies.  When Harry S. Truman assumed the Presidency after FDR’s death, he was honor-bound to fulfill the wishes of his former Commander-in-Chief. And fulfill them, he did.


The atom bomb, or A-bomb, was classified as Top Secret.  Testing at Alamogordo, New Mexico revealed that this weapon represented an incredible, unprecedented level of destruction.   So secret was it that those on the “Need to Know” list were a relative handful.


With the A-bomb, the planned invasion of Japan was on the drawing board, along with the date, the time, and calculated cost of life.  President Truman agonized over whether to drop the bomb on a city, rather than a military target, or follow the original invasion plan and pay the price in American casualties.  In the end, he ordered that the city of Hiroshima be bombed on August 6, 1945.  On that day, accompanied by two other B-29 bombers, the Enola Gay unleashed the power of the atom and initiated the Atomic Age, devastating the city of Hiroshima.  After bombing another city, Nagasaki, Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allies.


August 14, 1945 was declared VJ day.  All across America and the rest of the free world, crowds gathered and cheered to commemorate the peace for which we had prayed for four long years.  The famous photograph of a sailor spontaneously and joyously kissing a girl in New York City’s Times Square echoed the world’s elation.  The photo was widely circulated and reproduced.  Today a statue of this couple still stands in Sarasota, Florida; no doubt, other likenesses stand elsewhere in our nation.


On August 14, 2010, a reenactment of that scene will be held in Times Square to commemorate the surrender of Japan to the Allied Forces in the Pacific.


It was 65 years ago when that sailor kissed that girl.  As he was planting that kiss, I was sailing on a troopship in the Pacific Ocean, heading — literally — for a baptism by fire.  I was part of a massive armada sent to invade Japan.  But when the Captain of our ship announced Japan’s surrender, the invasion was no longer necessary.  Thus, I served my country in another capacity, by occupying Japan for a full year.  From October 1945 through September 1946, my fellow soldiers and I — Americans and European Allies — ensured the stabilization of Japan subsequent to its surrender.


I was recently interviewed by a reporter from The Courier Post, for an article that the newspaper is running with respect to VJ Day.  After she finished the formal interview, the reporter asked me, “As a veteran of that war, how do you feel about us no longer celebrating the days that finalized World War II — VE Day and VJ Day?”


I answered, “August 6th was not the official end of the war.  That took place in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.  That is another day that is not celebrated; another day that gets lost in the Labor Day weekend, like other holidays set aside to honor God and country.”


Maybe something that occurred 65 years ago has no meaning to those who weren’t there.  But it still means something to me.  Those who sacrificed themselves for that war did so to protect the lives and fundamental freedoms of Americans as well as all who were oppressed, tortured, and murdered by the Axis Forces.


It has been rightly said that “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  For that reason, the study of World War II is immensely important and the reason why Americans and, for that matter, all inhabitants of this planet should both remember and commemorate events like VJ Day.


Related Post:  VJ Day: August 14th

The Mystery of Hiroshima and the Fourth B-29

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The history surrounding the conclusion of World War II centers on the atomic bomb, a weapon that brought the war to a screeching halt.  In the 65 years succeeding the end of the war, all records of that fateful day — August 6, 1945 — have stated that three, repeat, three B-29’s set out to deliver the first atomic bomb to the islands of Japan.


Bearing a single nuclear bomb code-named Little Boy, a B-29 bomber took off from the island of Tinian in the Pacific. Christened the Enola Gay in honor of Commander Colonel Paul Tibbets’ mother, the Enola Gay was accompanied by two more B-29s.   The Great Artiste conveyed instrumentation and was commanded by Major Charles W. Sweeney, and The Necessary Evil, which carried photography equipment, was commanded by Captain George Marquardt. Leaving Tinian separately, the three planes rendezvoused over Iwo Jima; from there, they began their irrevocable six-hour flight to Japan.


As a safety precaution, the bomb was armed en route to Japan and the safety devices removed thirty minutes before reaching primary target, Hiroshima.  Kokura and Nagasaki were the secondary targets.  When the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, those aboard the B-29s described the event as a giant fireball and a mushroom cloud that completely destroyed the city.


Now, 65 years after Hiroshima was leveled, comes a strange tale that surfaced in the Raleigh News & Observer.  It concerns a North Carolina World War II veteran who photographed the A-Bomb as it exploded over that Japanese city.


Like all stories, this one has a beginning and an end, so let’s start in the beginning.


In June of 1941, John McGlohon, who was then 18 years old, joined U.S. military.  Assigned a desk job, he was attached to the 3rd Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron at Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama, where he was trained in photography.  John enhanced skills during an assignment in Brazil, in 1942, when he was ordered to replace one of the aerial photographers who had taken ill.


As the war progressed, John’s squadron was sent to Smoky Hills Air Force Base at Salina, Kansas, to learn to fly the new B-29 bomber.  His tour of duty found him photographing missions in China, the Korean peninsula, and Japan.


In the spring of 1945, John’s squadron was assigned to the 20th Air Force Command at Harmon Airbase on Guam.  Later, they would be assigned to the 8th Air Force Command.  Flying missions over Japan, the squadron recorded possible targets and damage resulting from bombing runs.


When the order was given to bomb Hiroshima, the 20th Air Force Command issued an order forbidding all aircraft from flying within 50 miles of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.  Somehow, this order never filtered down to John’s group.  Therefore, a B-29 piloted by Jack Economos left Guam in the early morning hours on the day in question to reconnoiter at Hiroshima and points north.


As the plane approached Hiroshima, one of the gun crew announced over the intercom that he saw another B-29 headed in the opposite direction.  At that point, John said that a brilliant flash of light appeared under the plane like a giant flash bulb going off; this was followed by a large cloud rising into the air. John immediately switched on his cameras to record the devastation.  Unaware of the order not to fly within 50 miles of Hiroshima, John assumed that the B-29 he saw leaving the area had dropped its load not on a heavily populated city, but on an ammunition dump.


Returning to Guam late in the day, John delivered his photographs to be developed.  While in the developing room, he saw shots taken by the photographic crew that had accompanied the Enola Gay.  “What’s that?” he asked.  The reply was, “It’s an atomic bomb.”  “Well,” John retorted, “if it is, we took pictures of it this morning!”  No one believed him until they saw his photographic evidence.  For decades, that  was the last time that John ever saw those photos.


With the second attack on Nagasaki, Japan surrendered, thus bringing the World War II to an end after four long, bloody years.  John returned home to Asheboro, North Carolina.  He shared his story with his wife, family, and friends and then went on with his life to become a city councilman and the town’s fire chief.


During a reunion of his war buddies in 1995, John’s old photographic lab chief, Elmer Dixon, brought a file marked Secret that contained the photographs of Hiroshima.  While the docks on the south side of the city were visible in the photos, the  mushroom cloud obscured everything else.


“That’s just the way I saw it!” John McGlohon excitedly told his wife.  Sure enough, the photos were stamped with the date that went down in history: August 6, 1945.


Over the years, John’s story found it’s way into an Internet forum discussion.  Some claimed that it was fabricated as a ploy to achieve greatness.  At a subsequent reunion, in 1998, John McGlohon met up with Ken Samuelson.  Ken believed John’s story and set out to verify it.


His hunt for corroborating evidence led him to Air Force museums, conversations with curators and veterans, and examinations of flight logs of the 3rd Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron. The logs carried the path of John’s flight that day as well as a flight mission report.  Ken Samuelson then contacted 91-year-old Clarence Becker, who had served as Operations Officer for the 3rd Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron.  Becker confirmed, “I sent them [the squadron] out that day.”


Samuelson also tracked down the photos that Elmer Dixon had had in his possession, which he had subsequently donated to the Historic Aviation Museum in Tyler, Texas.  When informed of the McGlohon photographs, the museum’s curator, Mike Burke, stated, “It’s the only photo looking down on the cloud, and the story makes it more interesting and unique.”


The evidence uncovered by Samuelson supports John McGlohon’s story.  He and his crew did indeed comprise the fourth B-29 contingent that flew over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.  Why did it take so long for this story to surface? Will historians of World War II correct the number of B-29s over Hiroshima that day?  Or will this be written off as just another war story?


If this story exists, surely there must be other tales stockpiled in the minds of veterans who witnessed or participated in events that occurred while serving their country.   If these stories remain untold, they will be carried to the grave to be buried forever.


Let’s rectify this, please.  The Veterans Corner of Write On New Jersey extends an invitation to veterans to share your stories here.  If not here, please pass your stories on to your families and friends, before they are lost for all time. 

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