"War's End" by Major Gen. Charles W. Sweeney

I just finished reading "War's End" by Major Gen. Charles W. Sweeney.

It is an excellent book, beautifully written, and I am surprised that it has not received more attention than it has.

I have some questions which were raised in this book but not answered.

From this book, it seems that the villain of the Nagasaki mission was Group Operations Officer Colonel James Hopkins. Hopkins did many things wrong which nearly resulted in the failure of the mission.

Hopkins was to fly a photo aircraft named "Big Stink", which, according to the book, was aptly named because of the problems caused by Hopkins.

1. Prior to flying on the mission, Chuck Sweeney tried to discuss a plan for making a rendezvous with Hopkins. Hopkins replied, "Look Major, I know all about that. I know how to make a rendezvous. You don't have to tell me how to make a rendezvous." The conversation ended there.

2. While taxiing to takeoff, Hopkins discovered that the scientist who had been brought on board to take photographs of the A-Bomb being dropped had neglected to bring a parachute. Hopkins therefore ordered the scientist off the plane. However, the scientist was the only one who knew how to operate the highly advanced photographic equipment, so, by ordering him off, Hopkins defeated the entire purpose of his mission, which was to take pictures.

3. Hopkins flew at 39,000 feet. However, he was supposed to fly at 30,000 feet, the altitude at which the other B-29s were flying. Therefore, they never saw each other. As a result, the rendezvous which Hopkins had stated that he knew all about never took place.

4. Chuck Sweeney and Fred Bock arrived at the rendezvous point, but no Hopkins. They flew in circles for 40 minutes waiting for Hopkins, but he never arrived. Therefore, they decided to go off and drop the A-Bomb without him. This nearly had disastrous consequences, because later Chuck Sweeney's aircraft nearly ran out of fuel, landing in Okinawa with only seven gallons left. They almost had to ditch in the ocean, all because of the time lost waiting for Hopkins to arrive.

5. While looking for Sweeney and unable to find him, Hopkins radioed back to Tinian, "Has Sweeney aborted?" This led those on Tinian to believe that Sweeney had aborted. As a result, there were no rescue ships waiting to pick up Sweeney and his crew if he had to ditch in the ocean, which almost happened.

6. There was supposed to be absolute radio silence during this flight, even during takeoff. However, while Sweeney was flying over Kukora looking for a good place to drop the A-Bomb and while dodging enemy flack and enemy fighters, Hopkins called out on the radio, "Where are you, Chuck." The Japanese, of course, could hear this too. Was Charles Sweeney supposed to respond by telling both Hopkins and the Japanese his exact location?

This is the last mention in the book of Hopkins. I assume that Hopkins made it back to base. Does anybody know? Also, was Hopkins reprimanded for his misconduct later on? Did he receive a medal?

My own uncle, Alden Jacobson, was also flying that day, but he was flying Super Dumbo and he was, he said, 80 miles away when the A-Bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. According to page 154-155 of Sweeney's book, a Dumbo is a Navy flying boat. However, a Superdumbo is a B-29 prepared to drop a life raft and survival equipment. It seems that any B-29 could fly as a Superdumbo as long as it carried survival equipment which could be dropped to downed airmen.

Charles Sweeney who dropped the A-Bomb on Nagasaki, and Paul Tibbets, who dropped the A-Bomb on Hiroshima, were very experienced pilots and probably had more hours flying the B-29 than anyone in the Air Force. However, prior to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they had never flown a bombing mission over Japan. This is because first they had been involved in the early training and testing of B-29 pilots and later they had been deeply involved in the top-secret A-Bomb project. Paul Tibbets had flown combat missions over Germany, but that was before the B-29 had been developed. Charles Sweeney had never flown any combat missions at all anywhere.

My uncle, Alden "Jake" Jacobson, flew "Jake's Jalopy, an airplane named after him. Few airplanes were named after their commanders, but another one that was was "Bock's Car" which was commanded by Fred Bock. Bock's Car dropped the A-Bomb on Nagasaki, but Fred Bock was not flying it that day. Fred Bock was flying "The Great Artiste" which was Charles Sweeney's airplane, whereas Sweeney was flying Bock's airplane. The reason for this switch is that Sweeney's airplane had been flown when the A-Bomb was dropped Hiroshima and contained all the scientific instruments needed to measure the blast. When, only three days later, it came time to drop the A-Bomb on Nagasaki, rather than move all the scientific instruments from "The Great Artiste" to Bock's Car, it was easier for the pilots just to switch aircraft.

The "Enola Gay", which dropped the A-Bomb on Hiroshima, was named after the mother of Paul Tibbits, the Commander. Enola Gay was her maiden name.

Another interesting fact from Sweeney's book is that while getting ready to drop the A-Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they did some practice test drops. They bombed the islands of Rota, Guguan, Turk and Marcus. These were islands still occupied by the Japanese, but the US forces had decided to pass them by and not to bother with them. These islands had anti-aircraft batteries, but so limited as to have no effect on the high altitude drops by the B-29s.

So, just for target practice and for no other reason, the US bombers stationed on Tinian Island in the Mariana Islands would drop bombs on Rota, Guguan, Turk and Marcus.

What I wonder is: How the Japanese defenders of those islands must have felt when they later on found out that they had been bombed just for target practice?

Sam Sloan

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