Sweeny, Charles William

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Charles Sweeney, born 27-12-1919 in Lowell, Massachusetts began flying while attending North Quincy High School. After graduation in 1937, he attended classes at Boston University and Purdue University, then joined the U.S. Army Air Corps  on 28-04-1941, as an aviation cadet. After receiving his pilot wings and a commission as a second lieutenant, Sweeney trained for two years at the Jefferson Proving Ground in Indiana. On 04-05-1945, Sweeney became commander of the 393rd Bombardment Squadron , Heavy, the combat element of the 509th in charge of 15 Silverplate B-29s and their flight and ground crews, 535 men in all. In June and July Sweeney moved his unit to North Field on the island of Tinian in the Marianas. On 09-08-1945, Major Sweeney commanded Bockscar , which carried the atomic bomb Fat Man from the island of Tinian to Nagasaki. In addition to Bockscar, the mission included two observation and instrumentation support B-29s, The Great Artiste and The Big Stink, who would rendezvous with Bockscar over Yakushima Iland. At the mission prebriefing, the three planes were ordered to make their rendezvous over Yakushima at 30.000 feet due to weather conditions over Iwo Jima (the Hiroshima mission rendezvous). That same morning, on the day of the mission, the ground crew notified Sweeney that a faulty fuel transfer pump made it impossible to utilize some 625 gallons of fuel in the tail, but Sweeney, as aircraft commander, elected to proceed with the mission. Before takeoff, Colonel Paul Tibbets

  he died old age 92, of a stroke and heart failure, on 01-11-2007, Paul Warfierd Tibbets warned Sweeney that he had lost at least 45 minutes of flying time because of the fuel pump problem, and to take no more than fifteen minutes at the rendezvous before proceeding directly to the primary target. Poor bombing visibility and an increasingly critical fuel shortage eventually forced Bockscar to divert from Kokura and attack the secondary target, Nagasaki. As they approached Nagasaki, the heart of the city’s downtown was covered by dense cloud, and Sweeney and the plane’s weaponeer, Commander Frederick Ashworth , initially decided to bomb Nagasaki using radar. However, a small opening in the clouds allowed Bockscar‘s bombardier to verify the target as Nagasaki. As the crew had been ordered to drop the bomb visually if possible, Sweeney decided to proceed with a visual bomb run. Bockscar then dropped Fat Man, with a blast yield equivalent to 21 kilotons of TNT. It exploded 43 seconds later at 469 meters (1.540 ft) above the ground, at least 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) northwest of the planned aim point. The failure to drop Fat Man at the precise bomb aim point caused the atomic blast to be confined to the Urakami Valley. As a consequence, a major portion of the city was protected by the intervening hills, and only 60% of Nagasaki was destroyed, with approximately 70.000 people killed in the initial explosion. Low on fuel, Bockscar barely made it to the runway on Okinawa. With only enough fuel for one landing attempt, Sweeney brought Bockscar in fast and hard, ordering every available distress flare on board to be fired as he did so. The number two engine died from fuel starvation as Bockscar began its final approach. Touching the runway hard, the heavy B-29 slewed left and towards a row of parked B-24 bombers before the pilots managed to regain control. With both pilots standing on the brake, Sweeney made a swerving 90-degree turn at the end of the runway to avoid going over the cliff into the ocean, 2nd Lieutenant. Jacob Beser, he died age 71, on 16-06-1992,

 Sweeny, Charles William recalled that at this point, two engines had died from fuel exhaustion, while “the centrifugal force resulting from the turn was almost enough to put us through the side of the airplane.” Japan surrendered six days later. After Bockscar returned to Tinian, Colonel Tibbets recorded that he was faced with the dilemma of considering “if any action should be taken against the airplane commander, Charles Sweeney, for failure to command.” After meeting on Guam with Colonel Tibbets and Major Sweeney, General Curtis LeMay, Chief of Staff for the Strategic Air Forces, confronted Sweeney, stating You fucked up, didn’t you, Chuck?”, to which Sweeney made no reply. LeMay then turned to Tibbets and told him that an investigation into Sweeney’s conduct of the mission would serve no useful purpose. In November 1945, Sweeney returned with the 509th Composite Group  to Roswell Army Air Base in New Mexico to train aircrews for the atomic testing mission, Operation Crossroads. In his later years Charles Sweeney performed in various air shows doing many maneuvers to awe crowds.

Death and burial ground of Sweeny, Charles William.

 Sweeney died at age 84 on 16-07-2004 of heart failure and a stroke, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and is buried on the Massachusetts National Cemetery.

 

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