The troubled Nagasaki bombing mission

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From the diary of Fred Olivi, who was a member of Bockscar's crew: 'It was bright bluish color. It took about 45 or 50 seconds to get up to our altitude and then continued on up. ...Somebody hollered in the back: 'The mushroom cloud is coming toward us.' This is where Sweeney took the aircraft and dove it down to the right, full throttle, and I remember looking at the damn thing on our left and I couldn't tell for a while whether it was gaining on us or we were gaining on it.' They were still 457 miles from the nearest landing strip, on Okinawa, and sent out a May Day. The plane did make it, gliding much of the way, although one engine died and the plane bounced 25 feet in the air before settling down. It barely missed hitting a row of parked planes that were fully loaded with incendiary bombs and fueled up. Bockscar had made it. Just barely.

Dan Drollette | July 24, 2015

The Hiroshima atomic bomb mission was a milk run. But on the Nagasaki mission, everything seemed to go wrong, possibly because the entire schedule was rushed: The fuel pump failed, crew members had to switch planes, their delivery package was wired incorrectly, the various planes involved in the mission missed their pre-bombing rendezvous point, the pilots couldn’t see their primary target because of clouds, and the plane that carried the bomb ran out of gas on the way home and had to crash-land.

But the worst part was when the Fat Man atomic bomb started to arm itself mid-flight...

(All images courtesy of Los Alamos National Laboratory)