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Charles W. Sweeney
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Aviator
    (December 27, 1919-July 16, 2004)
    Born in Lowell, Massachusetts
    Piloted the B-29 Bockscar that dropped the ‘Fat Boy’ atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan (August 9, 1945)
    Named commander of the 102nd Air Defense Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard (1956)
    Retired from the Air National Guard as a Major General (1976)
    Wrote the memoirs ‘War’s End: An Eyewitness Account of America’s Last Atomic Mission’ (1997)
    The atomic bomb he dropped killed 35,000 civilians immediately and thousands more over the years from the effects of radiation.
    Before the Nagasaki mission, he was warned that a faulty fuel pump would cost him 45 minutes of flying time and told not to wait for more than 15 minutes for two instrumental support planes to meet him at a rendezvous point over Yakushima Island.
    When one of the support planes failed to show up, he spent 45 minutes circling the island.
    He came alarmingly close to running out of fuel before returning to base at Okinawa, with Bockscar’s number two engine conking out from fuel starvation during the final landing approach.
    Coming in fast and hard, his plane almost plowed into a row of parked B-24 bombers before he and the co-pilot regained control.
    His account of events in his memoirs was vigorously disputed by survivors of the two atomic bombing missions, with Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets updating his autobiography to criticize Sweeney.
    Despite the near-disasters, the Nagasaki bombing was completed successfully.
    Six days after the bombing, Japan surrendered unconditionally, ending World War II.
    He said, ‘As the man who commanded the last atomic mission, I pray that I retain that singular distinction.’

Credit: C. Fishel


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