509th Operations Group509th Composite Group
509th Composite Group insignia patch Active December 17, 1944Country United StatesBranch United States Army Air ForcesType Composite bombardment group Role Nuclear Weapon Bombardment Size 1767 personnel, 15 B-29and 5 C-54aircraft Part of 313th Bomb Wing
Twentieth Air ForceGarrison/HQ North Field, Tinian, Mariana IslandsMotto Defensor Vindex- Defender Avenger (Approved 10 Jul 1952) Engagements Hiroshima
The 509th Composite Group was an air combat unit of the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War and as the 509th Operations Group, is a current unit of the United States Air Force. It was tasked with developing and employing a combat delivery system for the Atomic bomb and conducted the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.
The group later became a medium bombardment group of the Strategic Air Command, as the combat component of the 509th Bomb Wing, before being inactivated in 1952. Its lineage, honors, and history were also bestowed on the like-numbered wing in 1947.
After more than forty years of inactivation, the group was activated again as part of the 509th Bomb Wing and designated the 509th Operations Group, conducting the combat and training operations of the B-2 Spirit bomber.
- 1 Organization of the 509th Composite Group
- 2 History of the 509th Composite Group
- 3 History of the 509th Operations Group, USAF
- 4 References
- 5 See also
- 6 Additional Sources
Organization of the 509th Composite Group
Wartime command organizationPosition Name Dates of service Group Commander Col. Paul W. Tibbets, December 17, 1944—January 22, 1946Deputy Group Commander Lt.Col. Thomas J. Classen May 4, 1945— Group Operations Officer (S-3) Major James I. Hopkins, Jr. December 17, 1944— Group Executive OfficerLt.Col. Gerald E. Bean December 17, 1944— Group AdjutantCaptain Thomas L. Karnes December 17, 1944—
Squadron commanders393rd Bomb Squadron (Very Heavy) Wartime Commander Date of command Major Thomas J. Classen March 12, 1944¹ Lt.Col. Paul W. Tibbets September 14, 1944Lt.Col. Thomas J. Classen December 17, 1944Major Charles W. SweeneyMay 4, 1945Postwar Commander Date of command Lt.Col. Virgil M. Cloyd July 1, 1946Lt.Col. Phillip Y. Williams June 1, 1948Lt.Col. Robert B. Irwin September 3, 1948Lt.Col. Phillip Y. Williams October 15, 1948Lt.Col. James I. Hopkins January 3, 1949Lt.Col. Phillip Y. Williams January 20, 1949Lt.Col. Jack D. Nole May 3, 1949Lt.Col. Phillip Y. Williams June 13, 1949Lt.Col. William S. Martensen June 30, 1949
Component support organizationsUnit Commander # of personnel Headquarters and Base Services Squadron Major George W. Westcott 99 390th Air Service Group Lt.Col. John W. Porter 190 1027th Air Materiel Squadron Major Guy Geller 140 603rd Air Engineering Squadron Captain Earl O. Casey 225 1395th Military Police Company Captain Louis Schaffer 127 1st Ordinance Squadron (Special, Aviation) Major Charles F. Begg 298
History of the 509th Composite Group
Organization and training
The 509th Composite Group was constituted on December 9, 1944, and activated on December 17, 1944, at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah, commanded by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets.  Colonel Tibbets had been assigned to organize and command a combat group to develop the means of delivering an atomic weapon by airplane against targets in Germany and Japan. Because the flying squadrons of the group consisted of both bomber and transport aircraft, the group was designated as a "composite" rather than a "bombardment" unit.
Working with the Manhattan Engineering District at Site Y in Los Alamos, New Mexico, Tibbets had selected Wendover for his training base (over Great Bend, Kansas, and Mountain Home, Idaho) because of its remoteness. On September 10, 1944, the 393rd Bomb Squadron, a unit of B-29 Superfortresses, arrived at Wendover from the 504th Bomb Group (Very Heavy) at Fairmont Army Air Base, Nebraska, where it had been in group training since March 12. When its parent group deployed to the Marianas in early November 1944, the squadron was assigned directly to the Second Air Force until creation of the 509th CG. Originally consisting of twenty-one crews, fifteen were selected to continue training and were organized into three flights of five crews, lettered A, B, and C.
The 320th Troop Carrier Squadron, the other flying unit of the 509th, came into being because of the highly secret work of the group. The organization that was to become the 509th required its own transports for the movement of both personnel and materiel, resulting in creation of an ad hoc unit nicknamed "The Green Hornet Line". Crews for this unit were acquired from the six 393rd crews not selected to continue B-29 training, some of whom chose to remain with the 509th rather than be assigned to a replacement pool of the Second Air Force. They began using Curtiss C-46 Commandos and C-47 Skytrains already at Wendover and after November 1944 flew five acquired C-54 Skymasters. The 320th TCS was formally activated at the same time as the group.
Other support units were activated at Wendover from personnel already present and working with its Project W-47 (superseded by Project Alberta) or in the 216th Base Unit, both affiliated with the Site Y project. The 390th Air Service Group was created as the command echelon for the 603rd Air Engineering Squadron, the 1027th Air Material squadron, and its own Air Base Support Squadron, but as these units became independent operationally, acted as the basic support unit for the entire 509th Group in providing quarters, rations, medical care, postal service and other basic support functions. The 603rd AES was unique in that it provided depot-level B-29 maintenance in the field, obviating the necessity of sending aircraft back to the United States for major repairs. The 603rd made a number of modifications to the first contract order of Silverplate B-29s that were later incorporated as specifications for the combat models.
The 393rd Bomb Squadron began replacement of its original B-29s with modified Silverplate airplanes with the delivery of three in mid-October 1944. These aircraft had extensive bomb bay modifications and a "weaponeer" station installed, but initial training operations identified numerous other modifications necessary to the mission, particularly in reducing the overall weight of the airplane to offset the heavy loads it would be required to carry. Five more Silverplates were delivered in November and six in December, giving the group 14 for its training operations. In January and February 1945, 10 of the 15 crews under the command of the Group S-3 (operations officer) were assigned temporary duty at Batista Field, San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba, where they trained in long-range over-water navigation.
On March 6, 1945, the 1st Ordnance Squadron (Special, Aviation) was activated at Wendover, again from Army Air Forces personnel on hand or already at Los Alamos, and concurrent with the activation of Project Alberta. Its purpose was to provide trained personnel and special equipment to the group to enable it to assemble atomic weapons at its operating base, thereby allowing the weapons to be transported more safely in their component parts. A rigorous candidate selection process was used to recruit personnel, with reportedly an 80% "washout" rate, and those made a part of the unit were not permitted transfer until the end of the war, nor were they allowed to travel without escorts from Military Intelligence units. En route to Tinian at Mather Air Force Base in California, the commanding general of the base was told at gunpoint  he was not allowed on board The Great Artiste.
With the addition of the 1st Ordnance Squadron to its roster, the 509th CG had an authorized strength of 225 officers and 1,542 enlisted men, almost all of whom deployed to Tinian. The 320th TCS did not officially deploy but kept its base of operations at Wendover. In addition to its authorized strength, the 509th had attached to it on Tinian 51 civilian and military personnel of Project Alberta, and two representatives from Washington, D.C., Brigadier Thomas Farrell (General Leslie Groves' executive officer) and Rear Admiral William R. Purnell of the Military Policy Committee.
The 509th began replacement of its 14 training Silverplates in February 1945 by transferring four to the 216th Base Unit. In April they began receiving Silverplates of the third modification increment and the remaining ten training B-29s were placed in storage. Each bombardier completed at least 50 practice drops of inert pumpkin bombs and Col. Tibbets declared his group combat-ready. Preparation for Overseas Movement (POM) began in April.
Equipment and crews
- B-29, "ENOLA GAY", 44-86292. Dropped "LITTLE BOY", August 6, 1945, on Hiroshima
- B-29, "BOCKSCAR", 44-27297. Dropped "FAT MAN", August 9, 1945, on Nagasaki
- Combat B-29's of the 393rd Bomb Squadron
Source:Richard H. Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, ISBN 0-7864-2139-8
Although all of the B-29's were named as shown, the only nose art applied to the aircraft before the atomic bomb missions was that of Enola Gay.  With the exceptions of victors 71 and 94, the others were applied some time in August 1945. Luke the Spook was not named until November 1945, and it is not known if nose art was ever applied to Jabit III, although the version shown at the 509th Yearbook gallery was first shown in 1997.
The ground support echelon of the 509th CG received movement orders in April 1945 and moved by rail to its port of embarkation at Seattle, Washington. On May 6 the support elements sailed on the SS Cape Victory for the Marianas. An advance party of the air echelon flew to North Field, Tinian, on May 18, where it was joined by the ground echelon on May 29, 1945, marking the group's official change of station. Project Alberta's "Destination Team" also sent most of its members to Tinian to supervise the assembly, loading, and dropping of the bombs under the administrative title of 1st Technical Services Detachment.
The air echelon began deploying from Wendover June 4, 1945, with the first B-29 arriving at North Field on June 11. The group was assigned to the 313th Bomb Wing, whose four groups had been flying missions against Japan since mid-February, but because of security considerations was given a base area near the airfield on the north tip of Tinian, several miles from the main installations in the center part of the island. Two of the group's bombers were not delivered by Martin-Omaha until early July and remained at Wendover until July 27 to act as transports to Tinian for two of the Fat Man atomic bomb assemblies.Enola Gay taxiing at North Field, Tinian
The group was assigned tail markings of a circle outline around an arrowhead pointing forward, but at the beginning of August, after it began flying combat missions, its fifteen B-29's were given the tail markings of other XXI Bomber Command groups as a security measure. The victor numbers previously assigned the aircraft were changed to avoid confusion with B-29s of the groups from whom the tail identifiers were borrowed.
Victor numbers 82, 89, 90, and 91 (including the Enola Gay) carried the markings of the 6th Bomb Group (Circle R); victors 71, 72, 73, and 84 those of the 497th Bomb Group (large "A"); victors 77, 85, 86, and 88 those of the 444th Bomb Group (triangle N); and victors 83, 94, and 95 those of the 39th Bomb Group (square P).
After ground training for the combat crews, the 509th began operations on June 30, 1945, with a calibration flight involving nine of the B-29s on hand. During the month of July and the first eight days of August the thirteen bombers of the 393rd BS flew an intensive training and mission rehearsal program that consisted of:
- 17 individual training sorties without ordnance
- 15 practice bombing missions against Japanese-held Truk, Marcus, Rota, and Guguan, between July 1 and July 22 with 90 B-29s using 500- and 1000-pound bombs to practice mission procedures
- 12 combat missions against targets in Japan using high-explosive "pumpkin bombs", with 37 B-29s dropping conventional-bomb replications of the Fat Man between July 20 and July 29
- 8 component-tests and rehearsal drops of five inert Little Boy and three Fat Man assemblies between July 23 and August 8
- a practise mission to Iwo Jima on July 29 in which an inert Little Boy was unloaded and then reloaded to rehearse the contingency plan for using a back-up bomber in an emergency.
While this training was taking place, the disassembled components of the first two atomic bombs were transshipped to Tinian by various means. For the uranium bomb code-named Little Boy, the U-235 projectile and bomb pre-assemblies left Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, California, on July 16 aboard the cruiser USS Indianapolis, arriving July 26. That same day three C-54s of the 320th TCS left Kirtland Army Air Field each with one of the U-235 target rings and landed at North Field on July 28.
The components for the bomb code-named Fat Man all arrived by air. On July 26 the bomb's plutonium core (encased in its insertion capsule) and the beryllium-polonium initiator were transported from Kirtland by C-54 in the custody of Project Alberta couriers, also arriving July 28. The pre-assemblies of Fat Man F-31 were picked up by B-29 at Kirtland on July 28 and reached North Field on August 2.
The final item of preparation for the operation came on July 29, 1945. General Carl Spaatz, commanding all strategic bombers in the Pacific, arrived at Tinian with the order for the attack. Drafted by Brig.Gen. Leslie Groves and sent by Gen. George C. Marshall from Potsdam on July 25, the order designated four targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki, and ordered the attack to be made "as soon as weather will permit after about 3 August."
Atomic Bomb Missions
- See Main Article: Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
The mission profile for both atomic missions called for weather scouts to precede the strike force by an hour, reporting weather conditions in code over each proposed target. The strike force consisted of a bombing aircraft, with the aircraft commander responsible for all decisions in reaching the target and the bomb commander (weaponeer) responsible for all decisions regarding dropping of the bomb; a blast instrumentation aircraft which would fly the wing of the strike aircraft and drop instruments by parachute into the target area; and a camera ship, which would also carry scientific observers. Each mission would have one "spare" aircraft accompanying it as far as Iwo Jima to take over carrying the bomb if the strike aircraft encountered mechanical problems.
The Hiroshima mission was flown as planned and executed without significant problems or diversion from plan. The Nagasaki mission, however, originally targeted Kokura and encountered numerous problems which resulted in the bombing of the secondary target, a delay in bombing of almost two hours, detonation of the bomb some distance from the designated aiming point, and a diversion of the strike force to emergency landings on Okinawa because of a lack of fuel. However the basic objectives of the mission were met despite the problems.
Lieutenant Jacob Beser flew on both attack aircraft (the only man to do so), although Maj. Charles W. Sweeney and crew observed Hiroshima from The Great Artiste and dropped the bomb on Nagasaki from Bockscar. Lawrence H. Johnston of Project Alberta observed all three nuclear explosions, including the Trinity test.
Mission compositionsSpecial Mission 13, Primary target Hiroshima, August 6, 1945 Aircraft Pilot Call Sign Mission role Straight FlushMaj. Claude R. EatherlyDimples 85 Weather reconnaissance (Hiroshima) Jabit IIIMaj. John A. Wilson Dimples 71 Weather reconnaissance (Kokura) Full HouseMaj. Ralph R. Taylor Dimples 83 Weather reconnaissance (Nagasaki) Enola GayCol. Paul W. TibbetsDimples 82 Weapon Delivery The Great ArtisteMaj. Charles W. SweeneyDimples 89 Blast measurement instrumentation Necessary EvilCapt. George W. Marquardt Dimples 91 Strike observation and photography Top SecretCapt. Charles F. McKnight Dimples 72 Strike spare—did not complete mission
While the Nagasaki mission was in progress, two B-29's of the 509th took off from Tinian to return to Wendover. Lt.Col. Classen, the deputy group commander, in the unnamed victor 94 and crew B-6 in Jabit III, together with their ground crews, were sent back to stage for the possibility of transporting further bomb assemblies to Tinian. However the plutonium cores were still at Site Y, and on August 13 Gen. Groves ordered that all shipments of material be stopped. His order reached Los Alamos in time to keep the third bomb from being shipped. The first Atomic War lasted 9 days, August 6 through August 15, 1945.
After the Nagasaki mission the group continued combat operations, making another series of pumpkin bomb attacks (12 dropped) on August 14. With the announcement of the Japanese surrender, however, the 509th CG flew three further training missions involving 31 sorties on August 18, 20, and 22, then stood down from operations. The group flew a total of 210 operational sorties from June 30 to August 22, and aborted four additional flights, with only one aircraft failure to take off. 140 involved the dropping of live ordnance. 62 sorties received combat credits for missions flown (49 pumpkin bomb and 13 atomic bomb sorties).
Post-World War II history
In November 1945 the 509th Composite Group left Tinian and relocated to Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico. The eight Silverplate bombers that had been delivered to Wendover in August also joined the group. Col. William H. Blanchard replaced Col. Tibbets as group commander on January 22, 1946, and also became the first commander of the 509th Bomb Wing.
The Group was assigned to Strategic Air Command on March 21, 1946, bring one of the first eleven organizations assigned to SAC. At the time SAC was formed, the 509th Composite Group was the only unit to have experience with nuclear weapons and thus is regarded by many historians as the foundation on which SAC was built. In April 1946 many of the group's aircraft deployed to Kwajalein as part of Operation Crossroads, a series of atomic bomb tests. The remainder became the core of two new squadrons activated as part of the group, the 715th Bomb Squadron and the 830th Bomb Squadron.
On July 10, 1946, the group was renamed the 509th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) and the 320th TCS was disbanded. With the creation of the United States Air Force as a separate service, the group became the combat component of the 509th Bomb Wing on November 17, 1947, although it was not operational until September 14, 1948, when Col. John D. Ryan was named commander.
The group was redesignated as a medium bomb group in 1948 as part of the Strategic Air Command, and acquired an aerial refueling mission with the assignment of KB-29s. Its 27 operational Silverplate B-29s (the 309th had ultimately received 53 of the 65 produced) were transferred in 1949 to the 97th Bomb Wing at Biggs Air Force Base, El Paso, Texas, when the group converted to B-50 Superfortresses.
Its squadrons were removed on February 1, 1951, and assigned directly to the wing, effectively ending its operations. The 509th was inactivated on June 16, 1952 as part of a SAC (and later Air Force-wide) phase-out of groups.
World War II:
- Air Offensive, Japan
- Eastern Mandates
- Western Pacific
Department of the Air Force Special Order GB-294, dated 2 September 1999, awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (with Valor) to the 509th Composite Group for outstanding achievement in combat for the period 1 July 1945 to 14 August 1945.
In addition to the official insignia the 509th Bomb Wing for B-2 stealth bomber test flights, based in Roswell, New Mexico, sported an informal insignia involving an alien, the legend "To Serve Man" (referring to a famous Twilight Zone episode) and the legend "Gustatus Similis Pullus" or "Tastes Like Chicken" (referring to the possible taste of long pig).
History of the 509th Operations Group, USAF509th Operations Group
509th Operations Group Active July 15, 1993Country United StatesBranch United States Air ForceType Wing Operations Group Role B-2 Combat and Training Operations Size 4 squadrons Part of Air Combat CommandGarrison/HQ Whiteman Air Force Base, MissouriMotto Defensor Vindex
The group was redesignated 509th Operations Group on March 12, 1993, and activated on July 15 as the flying component of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. The 509th is equipped with all 20 of the USAF's B-2 Spirit bombers and its 394th CTS also uses T-38 Talon trainers.
The 509th OG consists of four component squadrons:
- The 393rd BS ("Tigers"), a traditional squadron of the 509th, was activated as a B-2 squadron on August 27, 1993.
- Activated as the 325th Bomb Squadron on January 6, 1998, the squadron was re-designated the 13th BS by Air Combat Command on September 23, 2005. The 13th BS ("Grim Reapers") had previously been a squadron of the 7th Operations Group, flying B-1B Lancers.
- 394th Combat Training Squadron
- A Flying Training Unit (FTU), the 394th CTS conducts all flying training connected with the B-2.
- 509th Operations Support Squadron
- A non-flying squadron, the 509th OSS ("Hawks") controls all airfield activities at Whiteman.
- ^ 509 CG Pictorial Album Commanding Officers. The Atomic Heritage Foundation. Retrieved on 5 May 2007.
- ^ a b 509th CG Official History. Air Force Historical Studies Office. Retrieved on 25 Jul 2006.
- ^ Hiroshima 60 Years Later. Review Journal Aug 6 2005. Retrieved on 26 Jul 2006.
- ^ 393rd Bomb Squadron. Air Force Historical Studies Office. Retrieved on 29 Jul 2006.
- ^ a b Silverplate: the Aircraft of the Manhattan Project. Cybermodeler.com. Retrieved on 29 Jul 2006.
- ^ a b c 509th Timeline: Inception to Hiroshima. The Atomic Heritage Foundation. Retrieved on 5 May 2007.
- ^ (2005) "Introduction: Organization of the 509th", in Robert & Amelia Krauss: The 509th Remembered: A History of the 509th Composite Group as Told by the Veterans Themselves. 509th Press. ISBN 0-923568-66-2. , 1.
- ^ Krauss and Krauss, The 509th Remembered.
- ^ Reflections From Above: An American pilot's perspective on the mission which dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. University of Washington. Retrieved on 30 Jul 2006.
- ^ Krauss and Krauss, The 509th Remembered.
- ^ Richard H. Campbell (2005). The Silverplate Bombers: A History and Registry of the Enola Gay and Other B-29s Configured to Carry Atomic Bombs. McFarland & Company, Inc.. ISBN 0-7864-2139-8. , 25.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 100.
- ^ Minutes of 3rd Target Committee Meeting 28 May 45. National Archives. Retrieved on 9 Aug 2006.
- ^ Richard H. Campbell (2005). "Chapter 2: Development and Production", The Silverplate Bombers. , 18.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 195.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 222 note 17.
- ^ 509th CG Activation and Organization. The Atomic Heritage Foundation. Retrieved on 5 May 2007.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 194,196.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 219, Chapter 3, note 6. It was feared that Japanese survivors on Tinian were reporting the 509th's activities to Tokyo by clandestine radio.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 19.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 71.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 27.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 46.
- ^ Spitzer Personal Diary Page 10 (CGP-ASPI-010). The Atomic Heritage Foundation. Retrieved on 9 May 2007.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 46.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 40.
- ^ Little Boy. The Atomic Heritage Foundation. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 40. The War Department memo "Transportation of Critical Shipments" listing all the movements is reproduced.
- ^ Richard Rhodes (1986). The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Simon & Schuster, p.691. ISBN 0-684-81378-5.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 41 reproduces the text of the order.
- ^ Timeline #2- the 509th; The Hiroshima Mission. Atomic Heritage Foundation. Retrieved on 4 May 2007.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 32.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 195.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 39.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 26.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 104.
- ^ Campbell, The Silverplate Bombers, 221, Chapter 8 note 8.
- ^ Esprit de Corps, New York Times, April 2, 2008
- ^ "509th Bomb Wing Insignia", by Dennis G. Balthaser, February 2, 2004
- ^ 509 Bomb Wing Organization. 509th Bomb Wing. Retrieved on 28 Jul 2006.
- 509th Operations Group Official Site
- The Atomic Heritage Foundation The former Children of the Manhattan Project site apparently is defunct, and its data can be found at the "MPHPA Classic" menu button.
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