War’s End, an Eyewitness Account of America’s Last Atomic Mission
Charles W. Sweeney loved to fly. Fortunately for him the hand of fate put him in a position where he could fly as much as he wanted and
the opportunity to fly just about every type of aircraft in the Army Air Force’s inventory – trainers, fighters and bombers. Then one day he
received word that a B-29 was coming in to land at his base.
He had never heard of a B-29 and neither had anyone else on the base. It was love at first sight and he knew he just had to fly that plane, which was larger, more powerful, than anything he had ever seen. This is his story that has something for every historian, whether insightful information about the B-29, insider information about Operation SILVERPLATE, or an eyewitness account of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that literally ended the war with Japan.
Sweeney flew The Great Artiste on Tibbets’ wing when he flew the Enola Gay on the mission to Hiroshima. Sweeney’s plane was loaded with instrumentation needed to measure the effects of the atomic (uranium) bomb named “Little Boy” that was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
Three days later Sweeney was mission commander flying Bock’s Car when he dropped the plutonium bomb “Fat Man” on Nagasaki. Unlike the first mission that went off exactly as planned, Sweeney’s flight was dogged by Murphy’s Law, which more than once almost ended the mission with the loss of the bomb, the plane and his crew. Thanks to his cool-headedness, his extensive experience with the B-29 and the grace of God, he managed to complete a successful mission.
In 1995 when the Smithsonian set up a display about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was warped by the views of history revisionists. Congress called on Maj. Gen. Sweeney to testify as to what he knew. As a result Sweeney knew that he had to document his experiences and involvement with the 509th Composite Group so that his first-hand knowledge of what took place would be recorded for posterity and not be lost with his passing. This book is his eyewitness account that is so necessary to counter today’s history revisionists who conveniently overlook the facts in order to present their distorted views that the United States was the aggressor and Japan the victim.
I found the narrative of the B-29 development program both informative and very interestingly written, thanks to the authors James and Marion Antonucci. Likewise, the creation and training of the 509th Composite Group also provided information that I have not found elsewhere, as well as intimate details of the missions against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But most of all, Sweeney presents the truth that many conveniently overlook today. Sweeney clearly points out that the use of atomic weapons was necessary then to end the war and that it was the correct decision. His hope then and now is that nuclear weapons will never have to be used again.
While this book should be mandatory reading for every History 101 class, it’s one that I believe every avid aviation history buff will also want to read.