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Old 10th January 2018, 02:54
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The Manhattan Project history with less emphasis on the 509th Composite Group

My objective here is to offer more of the story about early nuclear weapons development than has been offered in the past. Generally speaking from a weapons development standpoint the 509CG was the only narrative in town historically for decades. The reasons for this are many much initially and continuously related to the release of the Smyth Report soon after weapon combat use, see https://archive.org/details/atomicenergyform00smytrich for a digital copy.

The official title being “Atomic energy for military purposes; the official report on the development of the atomic bomb under the auspices of the United States Government, 1940-1945” by Henry De Wolf Smyth; there is little wonder why it was simply shortened to the “Smyth Report”. This report was a long time in the making with General Groves approval, support and insistence. Initially the report was most comprehensive documenting all aspects of weapons development including delivery, quite remarkable given the security surrounding the project at every level during development. At some point prior to combat use it was decided to “gut” the report with many in favor including Capt Parsons. This resulted in all weapon development and delivery detail being removed from the final report. In essence the Smyth Report when released only offered nuclear content already known to most of the worlds scientists and physicists.

However, please pay close attention to General Groves’ Forward to this publication. A rather chilling advisory that everything that could be released was contained in this report. And additionally if anyone sought out more information, or if anyone with more information provided anything not disclosed in the report could and would be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. This kept the lips of many sealed throughout the project locations such as Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Hanford for decades and particularly at Wendover Field, Utah. This location had several code names used in communications including “Kingman”, “W-47”, and sometimes just “W”. This base had become an extended laboratory of Los Alamos for weapons assembly and component testing in actual AAF aircraft conditions thru weapon drop testing (without fissile material) and other means of component testing outside the weapon. It was also a material collection packaging and distribution point for “Project” material headed for Tinian whether by aircraft directly or by rail to the San Francisco bay area for sea transport by cargo vessel. All under the command of Col Clifford J Heflin.

Right from the start the 509CG became the heroes of the day particularly with the radio and newspaper declaration by President Truman regarding Hiroshima being attacked with an atomic bomb; pretty sure that sent shivers up the spine of many project censors. This in fact was true and the 509CG mission was to deliver these weapons over Japan until surrender, not limited to two strikes, the Hanford pipeline of plutonium was full with a projected weapon inventory/delivery of four per month; horrific if one stops to think about the consequences but the Japanese continued to refuse to surrender unconditionally.

One would believe that once these “special” weapons were used over Japan the allied invasion of the Japanese home islands would be cancelled, however nothing could be further from the facts. The planned invasion of Kyushu “Operation Olympic” phase I of Operation Downfall was still a “GO” for 1 November 1945. Now frighteningly US war planners were considering using these "special" weapons in a tactical manner as a pre-invasion bombardment tool on or near the invasion beaches. Attached is a transcript of a conversation between Gen Hull and Col Seeman on this exact topic dated 13 Aug 1945. To help identify these officers without members needing to search too far, this is Lt. Gen. John Edwin Hull, Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations Division, 1944-46 calling Col. Lyle E Seeman “Special Assistant” (Liaison) for General Groves based at Los Alamos. Thankfully the Japs surrendered before invasion or we might have been “killing our own” landing troops on these irradiated beaches.

Sadly over the years once top secret classification had diminished many of those involved started publishing their memoirs / biography accounts including Gen. Groves “Now It Can Be Told: The Story Of The Manhattan Project”, and Col Paul W Tibbets, Jr in several biographies. Funny thing about biographies there is no source citing, it is their word take it or leave it. Well, Col Paul Tibbets, Jr., for one took liberties here claiming selfishly all development and delivery credit for himself and some for his 509th, completely and conveniently forgetting about the Col Heflin project support command at Wendover Field as a result of their silence due to the Smyth Report.

This historic deception by Tibbets, Groves, and others came to a screeching halt with the well cited publications by Darrell F. Dvorak son-in-law to Col Clifford J Heflin in two Air Power History Magazine articles “The Other Atomic Bomb Commander: Colonel Cliff Heflin and his “Special” 216th AAF Base Unit”, Winter 2012. Rapidly followed in the Winter 2013 edition with the follow-on article “The first atomic bomb mission: Trinity B-29 missions three weeks before Hiroshima", most interestingly now supported online via AFHSD as follows:

“The Other Atomic Bomb Commander: Colonel Cliff Heflin and his “Special” 216th AAF Base Unit”

https://media.defense.gov/2015/Jun/2...ter%202012.pdf

“The first atomic bomb mission: Trinity B-29 missions three weeks before Hiroshima”

https://media.defense.gov/2015/Jun/2...int%202013.pdf

Darrell has done a marvelous service with these two works correcting the Manhattan Project narrative to include the contributions of Col Heflin and units at Wendover, Field. I was in communication with Darrel prior to and during publication of these articles. It was my pleasure to aid in a small way seeking out the records of the Flight Test Section, and Special Ordnance Detachment, of the 216th AAF Base Unit (Special), Wendover Field which had gone missing via FOIA requests with both DoE/NNSA, USAF, and NARA College Park.

The DoE/NNSA continually pleaded ignorance suggesting contact with the USAF as possible custodian of these documents. The NARA also came up empty handed in a supplemental request after contact with the USAF. The final response by the USAF via the Maxwell AFB, AFHRA archive was most telling. In brief: “For some reason, the histories for the 216th AAFBU goes to September 1944 then does not pick up again until January 1946. I have expanded the search to other histories such as those of Headquarters, Wendover Army Air Field and histories of 2nd Air Force. I also requested assistance from other archivists here and they could not find any of the requested documents. Due to the nuclear undertone of these documents, I also consulted with our chief of Safepaper (classification)” (document attached slightly name redacted).

Perhaps obvious to most this period from September 1944 to January 1946 is during the period when Manhattan Project elements were active at Wendover Field. To this day these USAAF records have still never been found or recovered.

That having been said, one very special document had been recovered much earlier from the Los Alamos archive by Richard “Dick” H Campbell while researching his book “The Silverplate Bomber….” (2005). At the time Dick still held his “Q” security clearance with access to still classified documents. Dick’s discovery was the Major Shields Daily Diary of the Flight Test Section, 216th AAF BU (Sp), Wendover Field recording drop testing of prototype weapons, and other “daily” activities.

Here is my Dropbox link to the Shields Daily Diary (5 MB) The first 8 pages are Dick Campbell’s study preface getting his ducks in a row as to who is who and other factors related to this document. Simply put, Dick Campbell was a genius and worse a humble man.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/pnhatjvtl4...20%20.pdf?dl=0

Recommended reading for those interested in this subject matter. The Amazon links are merely to insure the proper book selection, not an advertisement for this method of book purchase, there are other selling sources.

“The Silverplate Bombers:…” by Richard H Campbell (2005) https://www.amazon.com/Silverplate-B.../dp/0786421398 (a must have for the planes)
“Atom Bombs: The Top Secret Inside Story of Little Boy and Fat Man” by John Coster-Mullen https://www.amazon.com/Atom-Bombs-Se.../dp/B0006S2AJ0 (a must have for the weapons). More from John C-M video interview here https://www.manhattanprojectvoices.o...lens-interview
“The 509th Remembered:…” edited by Robert and Amelia Krauss https://www.amazon.com/509th-Remembe.../dp/0923568662 (a must have for the weapon and strike force deployment)
“Project W-47” paperback by James Les Rowe (1978) https://www.amazon.com/Project-W-47-.../dp/0960556206 (CAUSION!) Capt. Rowe erroneously believed the Hiroshima and Nagasaki combat weapons were assembled at Wendover then shipped to Tinian ready for combat use. This is categorically NOT CORRECT, however much of Rowe’s Wendover content is accurate making his book a useful tool as long as the limitations are understood as described.

Background literature:
“Critical Assembly:…” by Hoddeson, et al https://www.amazon.com/Critical-Asse...oding=UTF8&me= (some content is now outdated but still a good source)
“Manhattan, the Army and the Atomic Bomb” by Vincent C. Jones (1985) https://www.amazon.com/Manhattan-Ato.../dp/0160019397 (if you must have paper) if not, available for free PDF download here https://history.army.mil/html/books/...-10/index.html (again a bit outdated but worth the background content)

And finally for those “use” questionnaires or historical revisionists “Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire” by Richard B Frank https://www.amazon.com/Downfall-End-...oding=UTF8&me= (absolutely critical book for your library in understanding the lead up to ending the Pacific War; in my opinion). The 20th AF Association (2003-4) seems to concur http://www.20thaf.org/newsletter/2003%20newsletter.pdf And for those many Alex Wellerstein fans there is this page http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/2013/...onsensus-view/ and the John Coster-Mullen “Enough!” presentation at Wright Patterson August 14, 2004 (attached)

There are a plethora of other works by many authors on this subject with value but these noted above have been core for me. There are many biographies by many authors on this topic which are interesting but in my view lack any citing as is customary in biographies. These then rely on the authors memory and credibility of events portrayed as fact, which can be problematic by author.

Hopefully this post will aid those interested in this topic with more information particularly for the Wendover Field, Utah weapons development and testing aspect.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Trans. Gen. Hull with Col. Seeman tactical use.pdf (122.6 KB, 4 views)
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Last edited by 25Kingman49; 14th January 2018 at 01:28.
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Old 10th January 2018, 04:24
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Re: The Manhattan Project history with less emphasis on the 509th Composite Group

Fascinating post, many thanks.
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Old 10th January 2018, 04:51
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Re: The Manhattan Project history with less emphasis on the 509th Composite Group

Scott,


Thank you for this information. While reviewing other sources related to the topic, the picture becomes quite large. I have read other Air Force related books which do not contain citations but did provide important clues for further research. And to point out inconsistencies.

A memorandum from James F. Byrnes dated March 2, 1945 was sent to President Roosevelt. It indicated the amount of money spent on the Manhattan project and added ... "with no definite assurance yet of production." He suggested a project review. FDR Library, Hyde Park, New York.

Other information without citations was published by others. I generally put such information aside but keep it in mind in case a missing piece appears. The Atomic Bombs were a mechanical engineering and chemical engineering problem. The US chose DuPont de Nemours to handle the plutonium side of things.

I suggest those interested try the Defense Technical Information Center. Sometimes, certain documents ended up in logical places to look while others ended up in, let's say, out of the way places.

http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/about/about.html


For the most part, the invasion commanders knew little about atomic bombs. They were part of the planning under the category of very powerful bombs that would be used just behind the enemy beaches to kill troops and destroy supplies, or damage one or more specific targets. The February 1951 issue of Popular Science introduced the public to Radiological Weapons like "Death Sand." Troops running through it would be poisoned. Our troops as well as the Japanese. The article cites a 12 page report produced by the Department of the Army and "recently" published in Officers' Call, an official, monthly Army publication.





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Ed
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Old 10th January 2018, 05:17
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Re: The Manhattan Project history with less emphasis on the 509th Composite Group

Quote:
Originally Posted by edwest2 View Post
I suggest those interested try the Defense Technical Information Center. Sometimes, certain documents ended up in logical places to look while others ended up in, let's say, out of the way places.

http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/about/about.html

Best,
Ed
Thank you, Ed.
Another great source of documents for this topic can be found/retrieved thru DoE OpenNet. Here are two different access points leading to documents but with a different introductory message.

https://www.osti.gov/opennet/manhattan_resources.jsp

and

https://www.osti.gov/opennet/forms.j...t/handout.html

A most useful tool. Test it out by typing in the name of someone say Groves for instance in the search window. Many documents are already available in PDF format. Those that are not can be easily requested from the holding archive, by following the instruction provided.
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