Los Alamos National LaboratoryBradbury Science Museum
Your Window into Los Alamos National Laboratory is currently closed.
Bradbury Science Museum

Why didn't Bock get to fly his own bomber, Bockscar?

Our question of the month relates to the Nagasaki mission
August 1, 2016
The plane above flew the second atomic bomb mission that went to Nagasaki

The plane above flew the second atomic bomb mission that went to Nagasaki

Many people have heard of the "Enola Gay," which delivered the atomic bomb to Hiroshima. Far fewer have heard of "Bockscar."

First, a little background.

Most people are aware that the bomber Enola Gay delivered the first atomic weapon to Hiroshima. Fewer people are aware that Bockscar (sometimes called Bock’s Car) delivered the second nuclear weapon, Fat Man, to Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

The question relates to why didn’t Captain Frederick Bock fly his own plane (Bockscar) during the second run.

The answer relates to the purposes of the planes for each occasion.

Major Charles W. Sweeney had used Bockscar for more than 10 training and practice missions (it wasn’t Bock’s airplane after all, just named after him).

Normally, Sweeney and his crew piloted an aircraft called The Great Artiste, and this plane provided the instrumentation and observation support for the drop on Hiroshima.

For the second mission to Japan, Sweeny and his crew were chosen to deliver Fat Man while Bock and crew were chosen to provide observation support. Weather considerations caused the fight to be moved from August 11 to August 9. This didn’t leave enough time to move the complex instrumentation equipment from The Great Artiste to Bockscar, so the two crews traded planes with each other for the historic flight.

The Bockscar plane is preserved at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.