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    Saturday, August 26, 2006

    Atomic Bomb Survivor - and a little known secret message to Japan from American nuclear scientists

    Today I met (see pic) the only survivor of the bombing mission that dropped the 2nd Atomic Bomb , "Fat Boy" (a plutonium weapon unlike the uranium bomb droped on Hiroshima) on Nagasaki on August 9th 1945.

    Bill Barney was a young radar operator on the crew of Fred Bock's C-13 crew. Their plane "Bockscar" V - 77 was used to drop the bomb and was flown by Charles Sweeney and Fred Bock's crew flew Sweeney's "Great Artiste" V - 89 to monitor the explosion. I met him today. A clear eyed , deeply nice guy - proud that he did the job he was assigned ,which was to drop three instrument carrying canisters with pressure gauges and radio transmitters deployed with parachutes to be dropped at the same time as "Fat Boy". Operating on three different frequencies these would display shockwave profiles on cathode ray tube oscilloscopes and photograsphic records made. This was Bill's task.

    Luis Alvarez had designed the testing equipment as he had invented the concept of measuring the atomic blast in kilotons of TNT. Using a linear microphone from Caltech and FM telemetering transmitter and receiver this was first tried out on the Fat Man test at Alomagordo and also used to monitor the Hiroshima bomb using the same observation plane but with a different crew.

    The scientists Robert Serber , Luis Alvarez and Phil Morrison had inserted a letter to Professor Ryokichi Sagane of Tokyo University (who had once met them at Berkeley) warning of the dire consequences for Japan if they did not surrender and asking him to convey this message to the Japanese General Staff. Alvarez drafted the letter and three copies in his handwriting were attached to the three canisters.The canisters miraculously were recovered and the letter can be seen in the Nagasaki International Culture.

    The letter reads ..
    ..9th August 1945
    Professor Sagane

    From 3 of your former scientific colleagues during your stay in the United States.

    We are sending this as a personal message to urge that you you use your influence as a reputable nuclear scientist , to convince the Japanese General Staff of the terrible
    consequences which will be suffered by your people if you continue this war.

    You have known for several years that an atomic bomb could be built if a
    nation were willing to pay the enormous cost of preparing the necessary
    material. Now that you have seen we have constrcuted the the production plants,
    there can be no doubt in your mind, all the output of these factories working 24
    hours a day will be exploded on your homeland.

    Within the space of 3 weeks we have proof fired one bomb in the American desert, exploded one in Hiroshima and fired the 3rd this morning.

    We implore you to confirm these facts to your leaders and to do your utmost to stop the destruction and waste of life which can only result in the total annihilation of
    all your cities if continued. As scientists we deplore the use to which
    a beautiful discovery has been put
    , but we can assure you that unless
    Japan surreenders at once, this rain of atomic bombs will increase manyfold in

    Of course "Fat Boy" being a plutonium bomb was less costly and easier to manufacture than the uranium "Little Boy" and this last remark may well have been true. No further Unranium bombs were made in the US. The letter is a remarkable and to Lord Patel a previously unknown part of the fascinating history of the bombing of Japan as it included material of the utmost secrecy - which it is impossible to believe could have been sanctioned officially.

    On the plane with Bill and his crew were Lawrence "Larry" Johnston (designer of the essential exploding bridgwire detonato and the only person to see all three atomic weapons explode) and Walter Goodman of Project Alberta to help monitor the blast recording equipment. William Laurence of the New York Times was also on board - who was to tell his readers that "Great Artiste " had dropped the Nagasaki bomb.

    The original target was Kokura the site of Japan's greatest weapons dump, but due to bad weather the went to the second target , Nagasaki, site of the Mitsubishi Steel and Arms workls and at 11.58 local time dropped the "bomb. Bill didn't see it as he had to run the radarscopes and only saw the photgraphs later.

    Later photo reconaissance showed 4% of the city was destroyed.

    The day following the bombing the Japanese started making arrangements to surrender.

    A recent and very readable history was recently published " Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshima" by Stephen Walker Publisher: HarperCollins (July 26, 2005) ISBN: 0060742844

    "The 509th Remembered" is a an illustrated history of the 509th Composite GRoup who dropped the 2 Atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945.Compiled by Robert and Amelia Krauss (who I met with Bill) with over 350 photographs (many never seen before) for the 59th Re-union in Wichita Kansas in October 2004. You can buy a copy here Posted by Picasa


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