Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rochester On The Road: Bockscar

(National Museum of the Air Force, Dayton OH)
This installment of Rochester on the Road takes us to the National Museum of the Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.  One of the historic aircraft on display there is this B-29 Superfortress, nicknamed Bockscar. The airplane is well known as the one used in the atomic bomb strike on Nagasaki, Japan in August 1945, and it has a connection to Rochester, Michigan through one of its crew members.

In August of 1945, a Rochester man named Roderick F. Arnold was serving in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a B-29 flight engineer, and was stationed on the Pacific island of Tinian where preparations were underway for the atomic strikes against Japan. Rod Arnold was assigned as a crew member aboard this aircraft, which had been named Bockscar for its pilot, Capt. Fred Bock. When the Hiroshima raid failed to force the immediate surrender of Japan and a second raid was ordered a few days later, it was determined that the Great Artiste, the airplane normally assigned to the second strike commander, Maj. Charles Sweeney, could not be made ready to carry a weapon in time for the second mission because the bomber was still fitted out with the scientific monitoring instruments it had carried on the Hiroshima mission.  The problem was solved by switching aircraft: Maj. Sweeney and his crew would fly Bockscar as the bomber and Capt. Bock and his crew would fly the Great Artiste with the monitoring instrumentation.  That decision placed Rod Arnold on the Great Artiste, flying a chase mission behind Bockscar as the other airplane dropped the Nagasaki bomb.

Mercifully, the Nagasaki mission was the last atomic bomb strike by Allied forces; only a handful of men were eyewitnesses to this terrifying moment in history, and Rochester's Rod Arnold was one of them.

1 comment:

  1. Very well done. Uncle Rod was a great man. Again well done.