509th Composite Group  
509th Composite Group












 
Remarks of Lt Gen R.H. Groves, USA (Ret)
509th Composite Group, USAAF
54th Anniversary Reunion Andrews AFB - 16 Oct 1999
 

It's always good to get together with old soldiers. I call you that, even though some here may not think it's politically correct but, after all, you do antedate the blue-suited variety of our species. Anyway, whatever we call them, I enjoy being with old soldiers, swapping tales of years gone by, some of them true, others a bit distorted by the passage of time. It's even better to be with those from really good outfits; the truth isn't so hard to come by with them.

But being here tonight brings me far more than simple pleasure; in fact, I'm honored indeed, humbled by your invitation to participate in this reunion. For the 509th Group was a singularly good outfit and the whole world still stands in awe of what you achieved fifty-four years ago.

Your chairman, Sylvia Beser, asked me to tell you about my father and his experiences with the 509th that is what I will try to do. She said that I'd be sounding the keynote for your reunion. Well, since you've already arrived at its conclusion, I probably ought to be delivering a valedictory, instead. But fear not; this won't be in Latin.

Let me begin by presenting my credentials. On August 6, 1945, every newspaper in the land gave over its entire front page to 6-inch block-letter headlines like:

ATOMIC BOMB ROCKS JAP CITY.

Those same papers sent out swarms of reporters, looking for related human interest stories. All too soon, they found my mother and my sister. Before they quit, they tracked me down too at Fort Belvoir, where I was stationed. The result was a column of puerile pap, appearing on the back pages, under the heading:

ATOM BOMB CHIEF MUM TO BELVOIR SON

That was the absolute truth at the time. As we are prone to say in the vernacular, I didn't know nuttin then. So help me I really didn't.

But over the ensuing years, my father often discussed his work with me. I also read many of the Manhattan District's files. Gradually I came to have a pretty good appreciation of what he did during that enigmatic three-year period, which began in September 1942. Besides that, I spent the better part of my forty years service in dealing with its consequences. So, on that basis, I proceed.

To understand my father's role in the project and his relationship to the 509th, you need to know two things: the man himself and what he was trying to accomplish. So let's step back and take a look at this man, to learn, if we can, what made him tick. This is no easy task for most people today, who know him only anecdotally from third party accounts - or, worse yet - from media portrayals of him. For the real General Groves bore no resemblance whatsoever to the ignorant, pompous, dogmatic martinet that carries his name in TV and movie versions of the Manhattan Project.

Walker Hancock a famous sculptor, who produced the MacArthur Statue at West Point, among other works knew him well in the `60's. He wrote of him:

"Although a large and imposing man, his manner was as gentle and reassuring as any I can remember having encountered."

Countless other acquaintances of his during that period, when he had decompressed after the war, would have employed similar terms to describe my father. But the man who brought the 509th into being was not like that.

Those who dealt with him in a business way as you did while he was in his prime, could have summed him up in a single word: DETERMINED. At that stage of his life, he was determination personified. He was a very determined man. But there was more to him than that much more.

Leslie Richard Groves was 46 years old when you had to deal with him. A self-starter, he possessed great initiative and drive. Aggressive, both mentally and physically, he allowed nothing to turn him from any goal he pursued. His manner was straightforward and direct. He was self-disciplined, with a very strong sense of duty; and always, he was intensely proud to be an American

Intelligent, enterprising, industrious these traits he possessed in full measure. He sought his own qualities in others and when he found them, he put them to work for him. He was not a popular figure and he knew it. The Army, as a whole, felt uneasy with the bomb and the man who brought it into being.

For the most part, scientists, especially the younger ones, disliked him intensely, resenting the forceful means he employed to keep them working at their tasks, so as to meet his schedule.

Even in industry, where compartmentalization and deadlines for delivering useful end-products are a way of life, his demands were often viewed as being unreasonable and unattainable. But other people's opinions mattered not a whit to him - so long as what had to be done was done and done on time.

His wartime duties demanded stamina, fortitude and personal courage; they acquainted him like nothing else possible could, with the loneliness of command. Operating in a completely uncharted area with only a minuscule staff to assist him receiving conflicting advice from highly-qualified experts - he had to make decision after decision - many of them capable of changing the course of history, most of them irrevocable.

His success in picking his way through this maze moved Ernest Lawrence to remark that Groves was either the smartest or the luckiest man he had ever known. But whatever the basis for his judgement may have been, when a decision was needed, he neither hesitated nor equivocated and when he reached a decision, he enforced it.

Gradually, others came to share his determination and the confidence it bred and it spread through the entire project. Those with whom he dealt directly, came to rely upon him. For, to a most unusual degree, he had integrity. As Sir James Chadwick said of him:

"He was a man of his word. He could be trusted. When he said he would do something, it would be done."

Now let's turn to what he was trying to do; let's look at the mission he was given on 17 August 1942 - while he was still a week away from being promoted BG. His orders began by saying:

"Colonel Groves duty will be to take complete charge of the entire atomic project."

A few specific items followed - known needs or problems that must be dealt with immediately. Then, peering ahead into the murky future, the guidance became more general and considerably more vague as it dealt with how the project should be organized and run. It concluded with one of the broadest, most elastic clauses that military writing has ever produced:

"Take the necessary steps to put it into effect."

As the project unfolded, his attention turned increasingly toward that last all-encompassing phrase - take necessary steps to put IT (whatever IT turned out to be) into effect: Which is where the 509th came in but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Perspectives differ from person to person. In many regards, your perspective of the Manhattan Project was quite different from my father's. For what we see is in the eye of the beholder - and it varies according to where the beholder stands.

It occurs to me that even without the security measures to which you were subject - you couldn't possibly have understood what General Groves was up to, as you labored in his vineyard so long ago.

Perspectives change with time. Thus, my father's view of the project evolved in the course of his tenure. It went from being concerned primarily with:

Designing and constructing industrial facilities
to - Producing materials
to - Designing and manufacturing weapons
to - Employing those weapons against an enemy in combat
Finally - We should never forget
to - Preserving this newly-developed capability for the United States after the war was over

Again, it was at the penultimate stage - employing weapons in combat - that the 509th entered the picture.

But the time available for this evolutionary process was incredibly short - in less than six years, a notional possibility was brought to fruition; a few scientists conjectures were transformed into the bombs you dropped on Japan.

Starting as it did, while the necessary basic research was still far from completed, the life of the Manhattan Project spanned only the last three of those six years.

Compare that with the way we develop major weapons systems today - programmed to be fielded some twenty years hence. These are far from notional possibilities; we already have a good idea of the general characteristics we want them to have and we're quite sure they are attainable.

But in 1939, nobody had the foggiest notion of what you'd be doing in August 1945 - and three years later, in September 1942, only a very few dared even to dream about it. By then, it had come to be generally accepted, the project's objective was a bomb - yet, when my father asked how much fissionable material would be needed for that bomb, nobody was able to estimate the amount within a factor of ten. It might take a hundred pounds, perhaps only ten, or maybe a thousand. So, from that ill-defined point of departure, he set out to accomplish his mission which in his words was:

"To develop an Atomic Bomb of such power it would bring the war
to an end at the earliest possible date."

In March 1943, six months into the project, he estimated this date would probably fall sometime in 1945.

The five evolutionary stages I've just mentioned were not distinguishable at the time. By compressing into three years what we now take longer than twenty to accomplish, my father had to carry them forward pretty much concurrently - and do so in the midst of myriad other activities like security, intelligence, counter-intelligence, safety, international negotiations - not to mention a very large, diverse research effort.

In going about his work, he made one fundamental assumption: That everything would turn out right in the end - that the bomb could be used in time to affect the war's outcome. That assumption ran through every element of this huge undertaking - always. It was the thread that bound the Manhattan Project together. As he put it:

"Always we assumed success long before there was any real basis for the assumption; in no other way could we telescope the time required for the over-all project. We could never afford the luxury of awaiting proof of one step before proceeding with the next."

That was the basis for all scheduling, including the 509ths activation, training, deployment and dropping that first, as yet untested gun-type bomb.

Since my father believed, as an article of faith, that schedules once established, must be met, it was the cause of much inconvenience, even hardship - of anguish, discontent and criticism within the project, especially among the scientists.

Scheduling, coordinating and executing very large complex operations had been his way-of-life ever since the summer of 1940, when newly promoted Major Groves was detailed to be trouble-shooter for the Army's construction effort - then staggering under the burden suddenly imposed upon it after the fall of France, when America began to mobilize. Already, its incipient failure was causing acute embarrassment for Gen Marshall who, having finally gotten the Draft Act through Congress, had to tell President Roosevelt the first call-ups must be delayed three months because he had nowhere to put the draftees. Needless to say, this became an issue in the 1940 presidential campaign.

By the summer of 1942 two years after that crisis - Groves, serving as chief of construction operations, had brought order out of chaos. At the time he took over the atomic project, work under his supervision was being placed at the almost unimaginable rate of nearly $800 million per month - 1942 dollars, that is - the equivalent of some fifteen pentagons completed in a single month's time. Groves had become a major figure in the American construction industry - widely recognized as a leader in his field.

In the course of those two years, he had learned how to run really big jobs - lots of them, all together at the same time. He had developed an MO - tho he wouldn't have called it that - which brought him success. In essence, he decentralized and delegated; he farmed out his work and kept close track of those doing it to ensure that they performed. When problems >occurred, he intervened - swiftly and decisively. When people didn't pan out, he got rid of them promptly; and when things were going well, he let them run - all the time following their progress closely.

So, how did his system apply to you? Well, be assured Gen Groves knew you. The 509th was created because he needed you - he knew where you were and what you were supposed to be doing and what you actually were doing - always. He could never forget that everything he was trying to accomplish would come together in the 509th Group - that one of your aircraft would be carrying the bomb that hundreds of thousands of Americans had labored so hard to produce. If anything went wrong at that point - if you screwed up the operation - he fully expected to be held accountable for an extremely expensive, probably catastrophic, failure. Indeed, Gen Somervell and he sometimes talked - not entirely in jest - of purchasing homes on Capitol Hill, where they would be accessible to congressional investigating committees after the war.

So, the fact you didn't see him, or hear much from him, is proof you were doing your job in a way that lived up to his expectations. The ultimate proof of the pudding can be found in the comment he made about the bomb's being dropped at 0915 and a halfTinian time - and I quote:

"The original scheduled time was 0915. Thus, in a flight of some seventeen hundred miles taking six hours and a half, Colonel Tibbets had arrived on target only one half a minute off schedule."

I can attest, as one who knew him very well, that nobody else - least of all yours truly - ever came that close to getting anything completely right for him and winning his unqualified approval.

Now, let's see how you fit into the big picture. You already know what you were doing, so let's get to the rest of your story, as Paul Harvey would say. I'll touch upon a few of my father's actions while you were taking the last of "the necessary steps to put (the project) into effect - and bringing the war to an end at the earliest possible date" as he put it.

Remember, as we proceed, two things:

1st - The Atomic Bomb Project came to the Army by a direct contact between Dr Bush and Gen Marshall, made with the President's approval. Only a very few individuals in the Army knew about it; it was conducted by Groves on a personal contact basis - outside of normal command and staff channels.

2nd - My father had a very full plate; he dealt with the 509th's problems episodically, intermittently - only when necessary.

Hitting the highlights, in chronological order - In the fall of 1942, at the very outset of the Manhattan Project, Groves approached Gen Arnold to gain his support for an attack on the Norwegian heavy-water plant. He told Arnold about the project in a very general way - that it would produce a bomb, presumably delivered by aircraft. But, as we have seen, nobody then could say how big the bomb would be - or what kind of aircraft would carry it.

By the spring of 1944 - a year and a half later - the project had reached a point where it seemed likely the bomb could be airlifted; so, Groves called on Arnold and went over the situation with him in detail. Groves told him the bomb might not fit in a B29, and he was thinking about using the British Lancaster. Arnold rose to the bait and said - as Groves hoped he would - he'd do everything necessary to ensure an American plane delivered the bomb. They agreed then the Army Air Force was going to do three things to support the project:

(1) Provide planes with sufficient range, lift and bomb bay capacity.

(2) Organize, equip and train a highly competent tactical unit in time to deliver the bomb.

(3) Deliver the bomb - on the target - without fail.

Also, the Air Force would assist the Manhattan District in ballistic tests of the various types of bombs. MG Echols would be responsible for carrying out these commitments; his deputy, Col Roscoe Wilson would be the Air Force Point-of-Contact with MED.

In August 1944, Groves notified Wilson the Air Force should plan according to the following schedule:

The first Thin Man - now known as Little Boy - gun-type bomb would be ready in June 1945; the first Fat Man implosion bomb could be ready as early as January of that year.

During the period Sep 1944 - Feb 1945, the IVIED would provide for training purposes - HE Bombs having ballistic characteristics similar to the Fat Man's. At about the same time, Groves initiated planning for a field force that would assemble and check out the bomb.

By the end of the summer 1944, the division of labor was settled; Arnold would be responsible for organizing, manning, equipping and training the AAF Unit; Groves was to make certain the unit was properly prepared and had everything it needed for carrying out its mission.

On that basis, Wilson developed the AAF plan to support the project.

One very heavy bomber squadron with attached special units would be assigned to support the IVIED ASAP.

Personnel for these units would be selected ASAP.

The units would be assembled for special training at a base in the Southwestern United States.

Aircraft would be modified in time to deliver 3 B29s by the end of Sep 1944, with a total of 14 modified B29s on hand at years end.

Flight testing of the Fat Man would continue through the last three months of 1944; training would be conducted using the HE training bomb, with particular emphasis on ground and air techniques for handling Atomic Bombs.

IVIED and Air Force specialists would be present at all times to supervise technical aspects of the training.

During the training period, all equipment would be thoroughly tested and ballistic data for the bomb would be assembled.

At the end of 1944, a field party would visit the area from which the bomb would be delivered against the enemy, to make all necessary arrangements.

When some on the Air Staff demurred on furnishing the B29s, Groves complained and Arnold reacted vigorously, putting an end to that kind of foolishness - and execution of Wilson's plan went forward.

The first step was to choose the unit's leader. Col Paul W Tibbets, all agreed, was best qualified for the job and he was selected to be CO.

Wendover was designated the unit's home station because:

1. It was close enough to Los Alamos for proper liaison

2. It was close to Salton Sea, where the ballistic testing would be done as it was in a sparsely populated area, making security simpler.

3. There were sufficient existing facilities - no new construction was needed.

In Sep 1944, IVIED froze the design of external shapes of Little Boy and the two versions of Fat Man, enabling modification of the B29s to proceed to completion. That same month, chosen on account of its fine training record, the 393rd Heavy Bombardment Squadron was detached from the 504th Group to form the nucleus of the Atomic Bomb Unit - to be known as the 509th Composite Group.

General Arnold wanted the group to be self-sustaining - capable of operating on its own - so other units were added as necessary to achieve that end.

320th Troop Carrier Squadron
603rd Air Engineering Squadron
1027th Air Material Squadron
1395th Military Police Company
1st Ordnance Squadron
603rd Squadron - made up of specialists hand-picked from the entire Army Air Force, with a few essential skills brought in from the ground forces.

In Oct 1944, the first B29s were delivered to Wendover and training - along with ballistic testing began.

At the end of 1944, Wilson's Field reconnaissance got underway, causing Adm Nimitz to ask what was going on in his theater.

In Jan 1945, Groves arranged for Cdr Ashworth to brief him.

By then, the 393rd Squadron had gone off to Cuba, for 2 months of special training in long over-water flights, with emphasis on unescorted single plane operations and developing navigator proficiency. Upon its return to Wendover, ballistic testing was resumed at Salton Sea - with dummy bombs - first inert, then heavy explosive.

At that time, Capt Parsons reported some of the B29s weren't in the best possible operating condition and said they should be replaced by new ones. A check showed Parsons was right. Groves appealed to Arnold, who asked him how many were needed. Groves replied one for the bomb was essential and he thought several more for instruments were desirable. Immediately Arnold ordered 14 brand-new planes to go to the project and 14 more to be placed in reserve to meet emergencies.

Meanwhile, after seeing Nimitz, Ashworth checked out Guam - which BG Norstadt (C/S Strategic AF) favored for the operational base - and then he went on to look at Tinian. Upon his return to the States, Groves decided, with Norstadt concurring, to pick Tinian because:

Construction could go faster there than at Guam
It was 100 miles closer than Guam to Tokyo and
A suitable (with some modifications) airfield was already available immediately, work began at Tinian, employing a Seabee Battallion that was stationed there - supervised by Col Kirkpatrick, sent out by Groves to be his personal representative on the site.

Back at Los Alamos, Cdr Ashworth was conducting tests to determine the best procedures for dropping the bomb. Concurrently, the Ballistics Group was studying shock pressure, flight maneuvers and other safety measures to protect the plane and its crew. At about the same time, the Fat Man's design was frozen. Although improved models were being developed at Los Alamos, Groves decided what the scientists already had achieved was good enough,

So Project Alberta - Project A, you called it - was established to take charge of everything involved in preparing and delivering the bomb.

April 1945 was a very busy month. New B29s were delivered to the 393rd Squadron - better, more rugged aircraft than their predecessors.

Groves and Norstadt agreed emergency landing facilities should be prepared at Iwo Jima, so Kirkpatrick visited the site and arranged for the necessary work to be done no later than 1 July.

On April 12, President Roosevelt died. Whatever doubts about the project may have been engendered by his passing, were soon dispelled when Secretary Stimson and Groves briefed President Truman and the project continued without change.

(Concurrently, the JCS reviewed and reaffirmed its previous concept of invading Japan in November 1945. Use of the Atomic Bomb was not a consideration in that plan.)

Now as the end seemed to be approaching, Groves asked Gen Marshall for a Point of Contact in OPD - the Operations Division of the General Staff - with whom he could deal with for operational planning. To my father's great surprise, the Chief of Staff told him to do it himself; Marshall didn't want to bring others into the project. Groves contacted Arnold and together they discussed selecting the targets.

Target criteria had been discussed from time to time in the Military Policy Committee; now they would be established by Groves, based upon recommendations from Gen Farrell - recently brought in to be his deputy for military operations - and Gen Norstadt. The target selection criteria they recommended and Groves approved were:

Maximum adverse impact on the Japanese people's will to continue the war military in nature - HQ troop concentration or major industrial facilities Not previously damaged - so IVIED could assess the bomb's effects and for the same reason, big enough to contain the bomb's effects.

At the end of April, the 509th began to deploy - its first contingent sailed early in May. At Los Alamos, meanwhile, the First Technical Service Detachment was formed and sent out to Tinian along with elements of Project Alberta.

The Target Selection Committee was meeting in Washington under Farrell (USAAF HQ, IVIED and British representatives), applying the approved criteria. The committee had to guess the bomb's size - hence its effects - in determining such factors as the height or burst.

Then came VE Day, and the winds of change began to blow. Germany was out of the war and Undersecretary Patterson asked whether our plans to use the bomb against Japan shouldn't be modified. Groves said no. The German surrender in no way altered Japan's activities against the US. But some of the European-born scientists were losing interest in the project. Debate over how to demonstrate the bomb's capability without actually using it began and eventually reached President Truman's ears.

The Target Committee decided the bombing must be visual so as to maximize chances of hitting the target. In that connection, the committee estimated there was only a 2% chance the operation might be delayed for as long as 2 weeks while awaiting good weather. To improve upon those chances, the committee recommended having spotter aircraft over three alternative targets so the final choice of target could be made in flight. After weighing the risks involved in landing with a bomb against the dangers of jettisoning it, the committee concluded if visual bombing was not possible, the bomb should be brought back - radar and navigational developments would be followed closely, in hopes of changing this judgement. The committee also determined it was unwise for any plane to be closer than 2 1/2 miles from the burst - 5 miles separation was advisable.

Disturbed by the attitudes of Air Force members of the Target Committee, who seemed to think the Atomic bomb was just another new weapon for the commander in the field to use as he saw fit, Arnold and Groves decided that control over employing the bomb should reside in Washington. Besides, Arnold wanted to keep the Strategic Air Force under his personal control - which was why he kept its C/S, Norstadt, here.

In the end, the Target Committee selected, and Groves approved, four targets:

1. Kokura Arsenal

2. Hiroshima

3. Niigata

4. Kyoto

At that, Groves drew up the plan of operations for Marshall's approval. Secretary Stimson insisted Kyoto be deleted from the list of targets; so, later, Nagasaki was substituted for it; then, all the targets were reserved from other bombing.

At month's end, elements of the 509th were arriving at Tinian and the group was placed under OPCON of the 21 st Bomber Commander (LeMay) of 20th Air Force.

In June 45, Gen LeMay came to Washington conferred with Groves and Farrell. Groves and LeMay got along very well together - they were kindred spirits, quite alike in many respects and had complete confidence in each other. They had no trouble in agreeing on how to proceed. Groves explained the roles of the weaponeers and his need to talk to Parsons, whether the operation was successful or not; also, his need to have observers and instrumentation at the bombing. Subject to those limitations, LeMay would have complete charge of operations.

(Before departing for the Potsdam Conference, President Truman Okd the JCS concept for invading Kyushu.)

On 16 July 45 the Trinity Test proved Fat Man worked; Little Boy wasn't tested because of the scarcity of U-235, but it was generally considered to have a very high assurance of working.

President Truman - at Potsdam - was notified of the successful Trinity Test and the news encouraged him to issue a very forceful Potsdam Declaration.

After Trinity, Groves briefed Gen Spaatz, who confirmed the arrangements previously made with LeMay. The Pumpkins were arriving at Tinian then, so you began to use them.

On 23 July 45, Groves prepared the final directive - from Handy (Acting CSA) to Spaatz - for operations out of Tinian. It started with these words:

"509th Group, 20th Air Force, will deliver the first special bomb as soon as weather permits visual bombing after 3 Aug 45 on one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Nagasaki."

Additional aircraft will accompany the plane delivering the bomb, carrying War Dept military and scientific observers. Additional bombs will be delivered on the above targets as soon as made ready by the project staff. Further instructions will be issued concerning other targets.

Dissemination of all info concerning use of the weapon against Japan is reserved to Sec War and President; no communiques or release of info will be issued by commanders in the field w/o specific prior authority; any news stories will be sent to the War Dept for special clearance. This directive is issued by direction and with the approval of the Sec War and CSA; furnish one copy each to Gen MacArthur and Adm Nimitz.

The next day. 24 July 45 - Groves sent a memo to Marshall at Potsdam, describing the targets, along with the draft directive to Spaatz. The first bombing would be as soon as Little Boy could be assembled and weather permitted - estimated to be 1-10 Aug; he also provided estimated bombing schedules for the first Fat Man and for the follow-up bombs. He described how the operation was organized:

Maj Gen Groves has overall direction of the atomic fission bomb project, Brig Gen Farrell and Rear Adm Purnell will be at the base to coordinate the project w/Army and Navy Cmdrs in theater. AF ops are under command of Gen Spaatz, Composite Group Strat Air Forces; 20th Air Force under Maj Gen LeMay, 509th Group under Col Tibbets.

Gen Marshall - with Stimson's and Truman's concurrence - approved it and the plan went into operation.

On 31 July 1945 - Farrell cabled LeMay and he agreed the operation could start on 1 Aug; the bomb could be ready at 2300 EWT, 31 July; LeMay needed 11 hrs more, which would make readiness at 1000 Eastern War Time on 1 Aug.

On 4 Aug 1945 - Farrell cabled the weather prediction was favorable; if it remained so, the bomb would take off on Sunday, 5 Aug (Washington time).

The 5th of August was a very trying day in Washington; no news of the operation came in from Tinian until 6:45pm - then only a report the bomb had left 6 hours earlier. There were lots of high-level inquiries made as tension grew; Marshall didn't want to bother Groves; but he bugged MG Ingles, Chief Signal Officer, unmercifully - Finally at 11:15pm a brief message came from Parsons:

"Results clearcut, successful in all respects. Visible effects greater than New Mexico tests"

At 4:30am on 6 Auq 1945, a longer message arrived from Farrell; so, Groves wrote out his report to Marshall. At 7am, Groves saw Gen Marshall; the CSA notified Secretary Stimson. Groves then turned to working on the press release - not an easy task, since the only information he had concerning the bomb's effects was Parson's very cryptic visual estimate. Asst Secy for Air Lovett warned against claiming too much, reminding Groves of the repeated reports of the destruction of Berlin; as Lovett said, "It becomes rather embarrassing after about the third time." Finally at 10am, Groves established contact with LeMay and Farrell, and was able to confirm and enlarge upon Parson's report. At that, he decided to release the President's and Secretary of War's statements - which was done at 11 am.

And the rest, as they say, is history. But, like everything else, history changes through time. Immediately, the bomb and those who made it and used it were praised for having ended the war - for having saved countless American lives. But, before long, doubters emerged, professing to be appalled by the Japanese casualties and fearful of future atomic conflicts. Throughout the subsequent half-century, the argument between those factions has waxed and waned - ultimately convincing most reasonable people that we are still too close to the event to make a fair overall judgment.

Still, some aspects of the matter are clear beyond all doubt and foremost among them are the accomplishments of the 509th. You ended the war. Whether or not Japan's military apparatus was crumbling; whether or not the Russians were coming; whether or not the Japanese government was considering suing for peace - all such considerations are irrelevant. For you struck the decisive blow - the final blow - the blow that kicked the beam towards surrender. You proved beyond all doubt that America could and would use nuclear weapons. What you did was no experiment, no scientific demonstration, no war game - it was done for one purpose only: to inflict maximum damage upon an enemy of the United States.

You put our potential future enemies on notice. Your showing that America had the ability and the will to inflict massive damage upon them when it became necessary to do so, served as the ultimate deterrent to overt Soviet aggression throughout the Cold War; in the end, when we took the Warsaw Pact to the mat during the 1980s, it caved -just as the Japanese had done in 1945.

The 509th established new, unprecedentedly-high standards of disciplined military proficiency and technical skill - you set an example which those who have followed in your footsteps have striven always to emulate.

My father reserved a very warm spot in his heart for the 509th. Looking back on your service, some fifteen years later, he wrote:

"Faced as we were with innumerable uncertainties in our operations against Japan, it had always been comforting to know the 509th Group was willing and able to perform any task that was humanly capable of achievement Tibbets and) his men went about their work with quiet competence and accomplished their mission in the face of greater unknowns than had ever confronted a military organization."

So there you have it. Through your hard work, the 509th became a superlative outfit; when you were sent out to accomplish an extremely difficult mission, you did so with distinction.

I know that, wherever he may be, Leslie Groves is proud of you tonight.

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