320th Troop Carrier Squadron

The 320th Troop Carrier Squadron (320th TCS) is a former United States Air Force (USAF) unit designation. It was constituted on 17 December 1944, and later inactivated on 19 August 1946 at Roswell Army Airfield, New Mexico. The squadron was later consolidated with the 302d Transport Squadron and 302d Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron by the Air Force Historical Research Agency. It was last inactivated in on 20 June 1959 at Laon-Couvron Air Base, France.

The 320th TCS is notable as a support squadron for the 509th Composite Group during World War II. It was formed as the transport unit for the 509th, and due to the highly secret nature of the group, carried all supplies and equipment for Project Silverplate Atomic Bomb activities. It also functioned as a special air transport squadron for high-ranking officers, nuclear scientists and for the group's commander, Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets to meetings concerning Silverplate. The squadron later served as a transport squadron for atomic tests in the Marshall Islands in 1946.

320th Troop Carrier Squadron
320th Troop Carrier Squadron C-54 Color
C-54 Skymaster of the 320th Troop Carrier Squadron, likely taken at North Field, Tinian in 1945
Country United States
BranchUS Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg  United States Army Air Forces
Part of509th Composite Group
Garrison/HQWendover Army Airfield, Utah
North Field, Tinian
Roswell Army Airfield, New Mexico
Asiatic-Pacific Streamer

World War II Asiatic-Pacific Streamer
Major Charles W. Sweeney
Emblem of the 320th Troop Carrier Squadron[1]
320th Troop Carrier Squadron Emblem



The squadron was organized at Wendover Field, Utah on 9 December 1944, and activated on the 17th under the temporary command of Major Hubert J. Konopacki.[2] However, before its official organization, its parent 509th Composite Group had operated a transport flight of C-47 Skytrains, carrying freight and other personnel in connection with the Silverplate Atomic Bomb project.[3][4]

On 6 January 1945, Major Charles W. Sweeney was placed in command of the squadron. Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets, Commander of the 509th CG arranged using his Silverplate priority to supplement the C-47s with larger, 4-engine C-54 Skymasters normally assigned to Air Transport Command. Over the next several months, frequent flights were made in support of the 509th and its training at Wendover. This included flying to bases in the United States and the Caribbean. Batista Field, Cuba was a training area for the 509th to practice long-distance cross-country flying and the 320th would fly there carrying personnel and specialized equipment as part of the squadron training.[3]

Operations on Tinian

In early 1945, the massive American base being constructed at North Field, Tinian, was selected to be the operational base for the 509th.[5] Subsequently many of the group's pilots flew to Tinian on ATC planes to familiarize themselves with the routes to be flown by the units B-29s and C-54s. The short-legged C-47s would remain at Wendover.[6]

320th Troop Carrier Squadron - Group Photo 2
Group photo of squadron members, North Field, Tinian, 1945

All through April 1945, the group's Ground Echelon was processed for overseas deployment. It got off to a smooth start on 26 April when a troop train departed with 40 enlisted men and 2 officers, arriving at the Seattle, Washington Port of Debarkation on the 28th. The Ground Echelon gathered in Seattle and deployed on 6 May aboard the SS Cape Victory. At Wendover, Major Sweeney was transferred to be the commander of the 393d Bombardment Squadron and he was replaced by Captain John J. Casey, Jr.[6][3]

In May 1945 the squadron moved to North Field, Tinian,[2] transporting men and materiel of the 509th group as the group moved to its operational base.[7] For the reason that freight took priority over passengers, the Rear Air Element of the 320th remained at Wendover, and flew the squadron's C-47s to ferry necessary equipment to the base, which would be transshipped to Tinian on the C-54s.[3] Meanwhile on Tinian, the flying crews of the 320th were making continual round-trip flights to and from the States, as well as flights to Okinawa and Iwo Jima, carrying civilian technicians and their equipment. Five C-54s made the deployment to Tinian, and the planes were indispensable in the perpetration of the 509th for its combat missions.[3]

After the 393d Bomb Squadron two Atomic Bomb combat missions to Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan in early August, the 320th on Tinian was engaged in carrying military and civilian experts to Japan after its subsequent surrender.[3]

Operation Crossroads

Finally in November with the mission on Tinian completed, the squadron moved to Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico in the fall of 1945. Although it remained active, demobilization resulted in the loss of almost all squadron personnel. The unit was, however, manned and equipped to enable it to participate in atomic testing.[8][9]

During Operation Crossroads the squadron operated as Air Transport Unit 1.54 (Provisional).[10] Prior to the weapons drop, it transported personnel and material (including radiological test samples) to support the testing. When special observation aircraft failed to arrive in the Kwajalein Atoll test area seven days before the test, the squadron substituted for them. On the first and second day after testing, the 320th flew scientists and high-ranking personnel on low-level observation flights over the test area.[11]


The 320th Troop Carrier Squadron was inactivated on 19 August 1946 at Roswell AAF.[1] The mission, however remained and its equipment and personnel were re-designated as the 1st Air Transport Unit. which was organized on 10 July at Roswell. Assigned to the SAC Fifteenth Air Force, the 1st ATU continued the mission of the inactivated 320th TCS.[12]


  • Constituted 320th Troop Carrier Squadron on 9 December 1944
Activated on 17 December 1944
Inactivated on 19 August 1946[1]




See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  1. ^ a b c d e f Approved 27 June 1945. Maurer Combat Squadrons, p. 393
  2. ^ a b Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) [1969]. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. p. 393. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. LCCN 70605402. OCLC 72556.
  3. ^ a b c d e f History of the 320th Troop Carrier Squadron
  4. ^ Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1983) [1961]. Air Force Combat Units of World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. p. 371. ISBN 0-912799-02-1. LCCN 61060979.
  5. ^ Abstract, History 509 Composite Group Dec 1944 – Aug 1945 Retrieved December 28, 2013
  6. ^ a b Ossip, Jerome J., ed. (1946). 509th Pictorial Album. Chicago, Illinois: Rogers Printing Co.
  7. ^ Abstract, History 1 Strategic Support Squadron Jan–Jun 1950 Retrieved December 28, 2013
  8. ^ Abstract, History 509 Composite Group Dec 1944 – Jun 1947 Retrieved December 28, 2013
  9. ^ Abstract, History 1 Strategic Support Squadron Aug 1946 – Jun 1947 Retrieved December 28, 2013
  10. ^ Abstract, History Air Transport Unit (1.54) Provisional Jan–May 1946 Retrieved December 28, 2013
  11. ^ Abstract, History 320 Troop Carrier Squadron May–Jul 1946 Retrieved December 28, 2013
  12. ^ AFHRA Document 00068962 1st Strategic Support Squadron

External links

302d Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron

The 302d Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron was formed in September 1985 by the consolidation of three units which had served in the Army Air Forces or United States Air Force during World War II and the Cold War.

The 302d Transport Squadron was assigned to the 30th Transport Group and flew missions over the Hump in 1943, until Air Transport Command reorganized its foreign units on a station basis in late 1943.

The 320th Troop Carrier Squadron was assigned to the 509th Composite Group and was tasked with supporting the group's strike squadron, the 393d Bombardment Squadron through the transport of materials, including weapons components, in preparation for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was inactivated in 1946 after supporting Operation Crossroads.

The 302d Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron was assigned to the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, After equipping at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina it served with United States Air Forces Europe at Sembach Air Base, Germany and at Laon-Couvron Air Base, France. It was inactivated in 1959 and replaced by a unit flying more advanced aircraft.

509th Composite Group

The 509th Composite Group (509 CG) was a unit of the United States Army Air Forces created during World War II and tasked with the operational deployment of nuclear weapons. It conducted the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.

The group was activated on 17 December 1944 at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah. It was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Paul W. Tibbets. Because it contained flying squadrons equipped with Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers, C-47 Skytrain, and C-54 Skymaster transport aircraft, the group was designated as a "composite", rather than a "bombardment" formation. It operated Silverplate B-29s, which were specially configured to enable them to carry nuclear weapons.

The 509th Composite Group began deploying to North Field on Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands, in May 1945. In addition to the two nuclear bombing raids, it carried out 15 practice missions against Japanese-held islands, and 12 combat missions against targets in Japan dropping high-explosive pumpkin bombs.

In the postwar era, the 509th Composite Group was one of the original ten bombardment groups assigned to Strategic Air Command on 21 March 1946 and the only one equipped with Silverplate B-29 Superfortress aircraft capable of delivering atomic bombs. It was standardized as a bombardment group and redesignated the 509th Bombardment Group, Very Heavy, on 10 July 1946.

509th Operations Group

The 509th Operations Group (509 OG) is the flying component of the United States Air Force 509th Bomb Wing (509 BW), assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. It is equipped with all 20 of the USAF's B-2 Spirit stealth bombers. Its 13 BS also uses T-38 Talon trainers.

The 509 OG traces its history to the World War II 509th Composite Group (509 CG), which conducted the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.

Redesignated the 509th Bombardment Group, Very Heavy in 1946, the group was one of the original ten bombardment groups of Strategic Air Command. The unit was also the host organization at Roswell Army Airfield, New Mexico in July 1947 during the alleged Roswell UFO Incident.

The 509th Bombardment Group was deactivated in 1952. In 1993, the unit was reactivated as the 509 OG, as part of the Objective Wing organization implementation of the 509th Bomb Wing.

971st Airborne Warning and Control Squadron

The 971st Airborne Warning and Control Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit designation. It was designated on 15 January 1985 by the consolidation of the World War II 1st Troop Carrier Squadron, which was inactivated on 18 December 1945 at Fort Lawton, Washington; the 1st Strategic Support Squadron, which was inactivated on 15 January 1959 at Biggs Air Force Base, Texas, and the 1st Air Transport Squadron, which was inactivated on 20 June 1971 at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.

The 1st TCS was a transport squadron which served primarily in the China-Burma-India Theater. It participated in the airborne invasion of Myitkyina, Burma and other combat cargo operations in both Burma and China.

The 1st SSS was a Strategic Air Command transport squadron providing a limited air transport capability to supplement that of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS).

The 1st ATS was a Headquarters Command VIP transport squadron that replaced the 1001st Air Transport Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base.

Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

During the final stage of World War II, the United States detonated two nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively. The United States dropped the bombs after obtaining the consent of the United Kingdom, as required by the Quebec Agreement. The two bombings killed 129,000–226,000 people, most of whom were civilians. They remain the only use of nuclear weapons in the history of armed conflict.

In the final year of the war, the Allies prepared for what was anticipated to be a very costly invasion of the Japanese mainland. This undertaking was preceded by a conventional and firebombing campaign that destroyed 67 Japanese cities. The war in Europe had concluded when Germany signed its instrument of surrender on May 8, 1945. As the Allies turned their full attention to the Pacific War, the Japanese faced the same fate. The Allies called for the unconditional surrender of the Imperial Japanese armed forces in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945—the alternative being "prompt and utter destruction". The Japanese rejected the ultimatum and the war continued.

By August 1945, the Allies' Manhattan Project had produced two types of atomic bombs, and the 509th Composite Group of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) was equipped with the specialized Silverplate version of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress that could deliver them from Tinian in the Mariana Islands. Orders for atomic bombs to be used on four Japanese cities were issued on July 25. On August 6, one of the modified B-29s dropped a uranium gun-type bomb codenamed "Little Boy" on Hiroshima. Three days later, on August 9, a plutonium implosion-type bomb codenamed "Fat Man" was dropped by another B-29 on Nagasaki. The bombs immediately devastated their targets. Over the next two to four months, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed 90,000–146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 people in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. Large numbers of people continued to die from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition, for many months afterward. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison.

Japan announced its surrender to the Allies on August 15, six days after the bombing of Nagasaki and the Soviet Union's declaration of war. On September 2, the Japanese government signed the instrument of surrender, effectively ending World War II. The effects of the bombings on the social and political character of subsequent world history and popular culture has been studied extensively, and the ethical and legal justification for the bombings is still debated to this day.

Charles Sweeney

Charles W. Sweeney (December 27, 1919 – July 16, 2004) was an officer in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II and the pilot who flew Bockscar carrying the Fat Man atomic bomb to the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Separating from active duty at the end of World War II, he later became an officer in the Massachusetts Air National Guard as the Army Air Forces transitioned to an independent U.S. Air Force, eventually rising to the rank of major general.

Fat Man

"Fat Man" was the codename for the nuclear bomb that was detonated over the Japanese city of Nagasaki by the United States on 9 August 1945. It was the second of the only two nuclear weapons ever used in warfare, the first being Little Boy, and its detonation marked the third nuclear explosion in history. It was built by scientists and engineers at Los Alamos Laboratory using plutonium from the Hanford Site, and it was dropped from the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Bockscar piloted by Major Charles Sweeney.

The name Fat Man refers to the early design of the bomb because it had a wide, round shape; it was also known as the Mark III. Fat Man was an implosion-type nuclear weapon with a solid plutonium core. The first of that type to be detonated was the Gadget in the Trinity nuclear test less than a month earlier on 16 July at the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range in New Mexico. Two more were detonated during the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946, and some 120 were produced between 1947 and 1949, when it was superseded by the Mark 4 nuclear bomb. The Fat Man was retired in 1950.

Jacob Beser

Jacob Beser (May 15, 1921 – June 16, 1992) was a lieutenant in the United States Army Air Forces who served during World War II. Beser was the radar specialist aboard the Enola Gay on August 6, 1945, when it dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later, Beser was a crewmember aboard Bockscar when the Fat Man bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. He was the only person to have served as a strike crew member of both of the 1945 atomic bomb missions.

Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project was a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer was the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory that designed the actual bombs. The Army component of the project was designated the Manhattan District; Manhattan gradually superseded the official codename, Development of Substitute Materials, for the entire project. Along the way, the project absorbed its earlier British counterpart, Tube Alloys. The Manhattan Project began modestly in 1939, but grew to employ more than 130,000 people and cost nearly US$2 billion (about $22 billion in 2016 dollars). Over 90% of the cost was for building factories and to produce fissile material, with less than 10% for development and production of the weapons. Research and production took place at more than 30 sites across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

Two types of atomic bombs were developed concurrently during the war: a relatively simple gun-type fission weapon and a more complex implosion-type nuclear weapon. The Thin Man gun-type design proved impractical to use with plutonium, and therefore a simpler gun-type called Little Boy was developed that used uranium-235, an isotope that makes up only 0.7 percent of natural uranium. Chemically identical to the most common isotope, uranium-238, and with almost the same mass, it proved difficult to separate the two. Three methods were employed for uranium enrichment: electromagnetic, gaseous and thermal. Most of this work was performed at the Clinton Engineer Works at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

In parallel with the work on uranium was an effort to produce plutonium. After the feasibility of the world's first artificial nuclear reactor was demonstrated in Chicago at the Metallurgical Laboratory, it designed the X-10 Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge and the production reactors in Hanford, Washington, in which uranium was irradiated and transmuted into plutonium. The plutonium was then chemically separated from the uranium, using the bismuth phosphate process. The Fat Man plutonium implosion-type weapon was developed in a concerted design and development effort by the Los Alamos Laboratory.

The project was also charged with gathering intelligence on the German nuclear weapon project. Through Operation Alsos, Manhattan Project personnel served in Europe, sometimes behind enemy lines, where they gathered nuclear materials and documents, and rounded up German scientists. Despite the Manhattan Project's tight security, Soviet atomic spies successfully penetrated the program.

The first nuclear device ever detonated was an implosion-type bomb at the Trinity test, conducted at New Mexico's Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range on 16 July 1945. Little Boy and Fat Man bombs were used a month later in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. In the immediate postwar years, the Manhattan Project conducted weapons testing at Bikini Atoll as part of Operation Crossroads, developed new weapons, promoted the development of the network of national laboratories, supported medical research into radiology and laid the foundations for the nuclear navy. It maintained control over American atomic weapons research and production until the formation of the United States Atomic Energy Commission in January 1947.

Paul Tibbets

Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. (23 February 1915 – 1 November 2007) was a brigadier general in the United States Air Force. He is best known as the pilot who flew the B-29 Superfortress known as the Enola Gay (named after his mother) when it dropped Little Boy, the first of two atomic bombs used in warfare, on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

Tibbets enlisted in the United States Army in 1937 and qualified as a pilot in 1938. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he flew anti-submarine patrols over the Atlantic. In February 1942, he became the commanding officer of the 340th Bombardment Squadron of the 97th Bombardment Group, which was equipped with the Boeing B-17. In July 1942, the 97th became the first heavy bombardment group to be deployed as part of the Eighth Air Force, and Tibbets became deputy group commander. He flew the lead plane in the first American daylight heavy bomber mission against Occupied Europe on 17 August 1942, and the first American raid of more than 100 bombers in Europe on 9 October 1942. Tibbets was chosen to fly Major General Mark W. Clark and Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower to Gibraltar. After flying 43 combat missions, he became the assistant for bomber operations on the staff of the Twelfth Air Force.

Tibbets returned to the United States in February 1943 to help with the development of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. In September 1944, he was appointed the commander of the 509th Composite Group, which would conduct the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war, he participated in the Operation Crossroads nuclear weapon tests at Bikini Atoll in mid-1946, and was involved in the development of the Boeing B-47 Stratojet in the early 1950s. He commanded the 308th Bombardment Wing and 6th Air Division in the late 1950s, and was military attaché in India from 1964 to 1966. After leaving the Air Force in 1966, he worked for Executive Jet Aviation, serving on the founding board and as its president from 1976 until his retirement in 1987.

Project Alberta

Project Alberta, also known as Project A, was a section of the Manhattan Project which assisted in delivering the first nuclear weapons in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

Project Alberta was formed in March 1945, and consisted of 51 United States Army, Navy, and civilian personnel, including one British scientist. Its mission was three-fold. It first had to design a bomb shape for delivery by air, then procure and assemble it. It supported the ballistic testing work at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah, conducted by the 216th Army Air Forces Base Unit (Project W-47), and the modification of B-29s to carry the bombs (Project Silverplate). After completion of its development and training missions, Project Alberta was attached to the 509th Composite Group at North Field, Tinian, where it prepared facilities, assembled and loaded the weapons, and participated in their use.

United States Army Air Forces in the Central Pacific Area

During World War II, the United States Army Air Forces engaged in combat against the Empire of Japan in the Central Pacific Area. As defined by the War Department, this consisted of most of the Pacific Ocean and its islands, excluding the Philippines, Australia, the Netherlands East Indies, the Territory of New Guinea (including the Bismarck Archipelago) the Solomon Islands and areas to the south and east of the Solomons.

The initial USAAF combat organization in the region was Seventh Air Force, which was originally formed in Hawaii as the Army Air defense command for the islands. After the Pearl Harbor Attack on 7 December 1941, Seventh Air Force retained the mission of its predecessor of the defense of the Hawaiian Islands and until the closing months of the war it maintained its headquarters at Hickam Field. The command however, deployed most of its combat units to the Central Pacific.

As the war progressed, some Seventh Air Force units moved into the South West Pacific theatre and coordinated their activities with Fifth and Thirteenth Air Force units in New Guinea, Netherlands East Indies and Philippines during 1944 and 1945.

In 1944, Twentieth Air Force was reassigned from the China Burma India Theater to bases in the Marianas chain of islands, consisting primarily of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. The Marianas airfields were considered as being ideal bases from which to launch B-29 Superfortress operations against Japan. The islands were about 1500 miles from Tokyo, a range which the B-29s could just about manage. Most important of all, they could be put on a direct supply line from western United States ports by ship.

In September 1945, just after the Surrender of Japan, a few advance elements of Eighth Air Force arrived on Tinian and Guam. Eighth Air Force was transferred from England to be a second strategic air force in the Pacific War, with a mission to carry out B-29 attacks on the Japanese Home Islands during the planned Invasion of Japan beginning in November 1945. These advance units were reassigned to other stations in December 1945.

Seventh Air Force operations focused on supporting Army and Naval forces in the tactical campaigns against Japanese forces in the Central Pacific, while Twentieth Air Force performed strategic bombing missions directly against the Japanese home islands.

Wendover Air Force Base

Wendover Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force base in Utah now known as Wendover Airport. During World War II, it was a training base for B-17 and B-24 bomber crews. It was the training site of the 509th Composite Group, the B-29 unit that carried out the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the war, Wendover was used for training exercises, gunnery range and as a research facility. It was closed by the Air Force in 1969, and the base was given to Wendover City in 1977. Tooele County, Utah, assumed ownership of the airport and base buildings in 1998, and the County continues to operate the airfield as a public airport. A portion of the original bombing range is now the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) which is used extensively by the Air Force with live fire targets on the range.

William L. Uanna

William Lewis "Bud" Uanna (May 13, 1909 – December 22, 1961) was an American security expert, who gained prominence as a security officer with the Manhattan Project, which built the first atomic bomb during World War II.

Uanna was in charge of security at the project's facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and later at the 509th Composite Group, which dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the war, he headed the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) program to provide security clearances to its personnel, and developed the top-secret Q clearance. He later served as chief of physical security at the State Department.

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