Hiroshima 1945 - The British Atomic Attack

Discussion in 'War Against Japan' started by davidbfpo, Sep 23, 2020.

  1. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Watched an early August 2020 Mark Felton documentary last night; which is summarised as:

    I have never heard of 'black Lancasters', the name came from their colour scheme; nor such a possible deployment. Or the development of inflight refueling from January 1944, with test flights in November 1944; one photo shows one plane bears G-ARJW (no trace Google as used on a Lancaster), the other cannot be read. Range was increased to 2,530 miles.

    Mark Felton provides the historical background, including technology and refers to six bombers with no markings going in 1943 to RAF Enstone, a satellite field for Moreton-in-the-Marsh, where No. 21 OCU was based and the planes being kept in closed hangars, with the crews isolated. He claims:
    Background: Enstone Airfield — Classic Flight Ltd and Enstone Airfield - Wikipedia

    He also refers to Tiger Force, a RAF bomber command, being prepared and mentions the 'black bombers' would use an airfield in Burma, the name sounds like Kinion. If the RAF had been needed it is obvious they would have flown to a USAAF airfield, such as Tinian where the atomic bombs were delivered. See: Tinian - Wikipedia

    There are a mass of comments and some unverified information, such as:
    Interred? Confined to barracks better.

    I had forgotten over Hiroshima there were two British observers, the scientist William Penney and:
    I had a look last night for supporting information, to be fair there is very little. This 2014 website passage supports his account:
    Link: Project Silverplate

    Our part was small, but vital:
    Ironically I recalled this:
    Link: Boeing B-29 Superfortress - Wikipedia

    I would be interested in the Forum's thoughts and if any evidence exists that supports his story. Alas he provides no sources.
  2. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    I've heard of the Lancaster option but I don't think is was given serious consideration. The Lanc didn't have the range with that load. They theoretically had some type of air to air refueling worked out for the mission but I can't imagine they'd risk one of the only A-bombs in existence on an ad hoc rig like that. Too much empty ocean out there.
  3. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Without sources impossible to verify. In any case wasn't the back up for the B29 the B32 Dominator?
  4. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    With its high wing layout the B32 had a capacious bomb bay and would have easily accommodated the bomb. It also had the range. Why would the Lanc no matter how good need to be the stand by?
  5. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Not my area of interest, so I rely on Wikipedia in support.

    The B-29 Superfortress by 1945 was deployed in large numbers, first to Chengdu, China and later to the Marianas Islands (Saipan & Tinian) and its range was 3250 miles. Tokyo then was 1500 miles away.
    Link: Boeing B-29 Superfortress - Wikipedia

    The B-32 Dominator was deployed on active duty overflying Japan, it had its problems and was only there in small numbers. That might make it an unreliable plane for the atomic missions. Its range was 3800 miles.
    Link: Consolidated B-32 Dominator - Wikipedia

    The Avro Lancaster had a Tiger Force (Far East) variant, B1 (FE) and had a 400 gallon fuel tank added in the bomb bay (no idea how many miles that added to its range). This version's standard colour scheme, with a black underside, I assume led to them being called the 'Black Lancaster'. The (standard) Lancaster's range is shown as 2530 miles.
    Link: Avro Lancaster - Wikipedia

    Found help on the extra range:
    It cites "LANCASTER The Second World War's Greatest Bomber" by Leo McKinstry.
    See: Lancaster Bomber Air Refuelling? - Axis History Forum

    Note no Tiger Force were on Okinawa before VJ-Day and in-flight refueling was rejected as a usable option in WW2.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020
  6. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    The Aug edition of Aeroplane magazine contained an article by Grant Newman on the same theme under the title “Mission Improbable” without the bit about the 6 “black

    There are elements of truth in the story.

    Chadwick (the Lancaster designer) does seem to have met with physicist Dr Ramsey to discuss the Lancaster carrying the bomb. But not until Oct 1943, which seems to be after the period of the black Lancs claim.

    Also the details of the bomb discussed at that time and the Silverplate B-29s is incorrect. The bomb design in Oct 1943 was “Thin Man” a 17ft long Gun type Plutonium device. That was too long for either of the standard B-29 bomb bays but could be carried in a Lancaster bomb bay, hence the interest. Only the prototype Silverplate B-29 had it’s bomb bays merged into one to carry this weapon and flew in Feb 1944.

    In early 1944 the bomb design changed. Both Little Boy and Fat Man devices were short enough to be carried in a B-29 bomb bay, so modifications to production Silverplate aircraft did not need to be so extensive. A Lancaster could have carried Little Boy in its bomb bay with bulged doors, but Fat Man would have had to have been carried in the open like Grand Slam with consequent increase in drag and shortening of range. They were worried about the effects of the long flight on the electronics of these bombs which makes external carriage unlikely. Also they were not armed until after take off for obvious safety reasons, which involved someone physically entering the bomb bay. So a redesign would have been required for carrying by a Lanc.

    The bit about the use of the British designed bomb release is correct and well known for at least 30-40 years.

    Tiger Force was real with planning starting after the Quebec Quadrant Conference in Sept 1944. But only in its earliest planning days was Burma considered as a base. Later it was to be the Philippines before settling on Okinawa. The first two squadrons would have deployed in time for Operation Olympic and the necessary Airfield Construction Units had reached Eniwetok as the war ended.

    Aerial refuelling was considered and tests carried out. Two Lancasters were fitted with saddle tanks on the upper fuselage as part of this. You will find photos half way down this page.
    LancTest Beds

    The company involved was Alan Cobham’s Flight Refuelling Ltd, which went on postwar to develop aerial refuelling into what it is today. It is possible that G-ARJW is one of the Lancastrians or converted civilianised Lancasters used by the company for tests postwar.

    Never say never, but I’m struggling to believe the secret unit bit of this tale until I see some evidence of it. After all this time something should have emerged. For me the black Lancs bit is easily explained by normal bomber command Lancs being largely black when seen from the sides or below anyway. Plenty needed to be stored around the country. At the moment it seems to me a few facts and somebody’s embellished memory to create a good story.

    The B-32 entered service with a single squadron of the 5th AF 312th BG in July 1945 in the Philippines and then Okinawa. It, like the B-29 suffered its own development problems.
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  7. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    You miss my point - the B32 was intended as insurance if the B29 programme failed and was being developed in parallel during the period in which the story claims that the Lancasters were being set up for the mission. The B32 was not as sophisticated as the B29 but appears to have been reliable, a good weapons platform and comfortable to fly. It's low numbers were because the B29 programme did not fail. The point is the USAAF already had a backup plan for the B29 so why bring in the RAF and the Lanc?
  8. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    Take a look at the timing of these alleged events, second half of 1943, and then look at the development stage that the B-29 and B-32 had reached at that point.

    The first production B-29 flew in Sept 1943. It then took until the “Battle of Kansas” was won in early 1944 to make enough aircraft combat ready to deploy to India by the beginning of April.

    The B-32 was in many ways less sophisticated than the B-29 and, although it’s prototype beat that of the B-29 into the air and used the same engines, it was, as noted, very much considered as a back up aircraft. But in late 1943 it was very much an on again / off again programme, and in Dec 1943 it was considered by the USAAF to be obsolete by the then current standard. So more changes were needed before the first production aircraft flew in Sept 1944, a whole year behind the B-29. I believe it also suffered from similar bomb bay issues to the B-29 - not long enough for Thin Man without major structural modifications.

    So against that background, in late 1943, is it any wonder that some in the Manhattan Project began to look around for an alternative reliable carrier, especially when no one was quite sure how quickly the bomb would emerge from development. With its 33ft long uninterrupted bomb bay capable of carrying, at that time, the 12,000lb HC bomb is it any wonder that the Lancaster attracted some interest because it ticked at least one box.

    It was however a complete non starter in reality due to the politics of the USAAF being seen to using a British designed aircraft. The range issue could realistically have been overcome if bases closer to the Japanese targets had been considered. For example Iwo Jima to Hiroshima is about 850 miles, Okinawa to Nagasaki is about 470 miles. At one point plans for invading the Chinese coastal areas to provide air bases was under consideration. But in late 1943 all these options were well into the future and were trumped by the politics of the issue and the passage of time that saw the B-29 come good.
  9. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Ewen's post refers to cited in part:
    The USAAF did use British aircraft, only recently I read they had a good number of Spitfires on active duty, possibly in North Africa and I have a vague recollection Mosquitoes were also used.

    My opinion is that for the USAAF this world-changing attack did not want to use a British aircraft; even more so when the B-29 was operationally active - presumably all those working on the B-29 would ask too. I also expect the USAAF would crew any "borrowed" Lancaster (as the RAF did years later with U-2 spy plane), this would not be a "walk on and fly" step so a lot training would be needed.

    The more I read here the less I understand Felton's conclusion; yes, in 1943 a Lancaster might have been an option, by mid-1945 it was not. Unless a small detachment of "black" Lancaster bombers were deployed to USAAF bases as a 'last resort'.
  10. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    Sorry, I should have been more precise - a non-starter for the nuclear mission.

    You are correct that the USAAF used many British aircraft types, the Spitfire (used by 3 fighter groups in Britain and the Med from mid 1942 to mid 1944) and the Mosquito for photo and weather recce from Britain and Beaufighters as night fighters in the Med. A whole host of other types were supplied under reverse Lend lease for second line duties or for study at Wright Field.
  11. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    The USAAF used PR Spitfires over Northern Europe including flights over Berlin. Some Hurricanes were used during Torch
  12. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

  13. A-58

    A-58 Not so senior Member

    The three Eagle Squadron's took their Spitfires with them when they were transferred to the USAAF in 1942.
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  14. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    The B 32 Dominator assessed as a failed long range bomber aircraft,and too late for much,if any involvement in the war in the Pacific.

    Consolidated were given a contract to develop a four engine bomber in September 1940 which was anticipated initially as a replacement for the B 17 and B 24,then seen as a parallel project for the B 29.Three prototypes were ordered,the first flying on 7 September 1942,the second on 2 July 1943 and the final on 9 November 1943.It had a number of technical problems in its design and development,finally emerging with the third prototype as a single tailplane aircraft from the previous design of that of a twin tailplane.I t would appear that Consolidated started off preferring to adapt the tailplane design of that of the Liberator.

    The Dominator technical problems delayed its operational service until 1945 and then only 15 B 32s saw service against Japan.Assessed as an unsuccessful bomber aircraft compared with the B 29,production was abandoned but 40 B 32s entered service converted as trainers.The rest of the contract was cancelled amounting to 1588 aircraft.
  15. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Both the Lancaster and the Lincoln which came into service after the defeat of Germany would have to be modified to carry atomic bombs.Both aircraft were inferior to the B 29 as a high altitude,long range pressurised bomber which the atomic bomb load was carried internally.An important point since both free fall atomic bombs for safety had their firing circuits enabled in the air, having internal access to the weapon.For the British aircraft this would be impracticable without extensive modifications.

    Certainly there was talk of the Lincoln B2 (Lancaster Mark V) delivering a bomb to Russia early postwar as a one way op but that option was recognised as redundant with the news that the Russians had exploded an atomic bomb in September 1949.By 1950,the British government decided that leased B 29s named by the Air Ministry as Washingtons was the solution until a nuclear deterrent would be become deliverable by a new high attitude,high speed, jet propelled fast nuclear bomber,the V Bomber force.In the meantime the first Washingtons were delivered in the spring of 1950 as the last two Lancaster squadrons were planned to re-equip with Washingtons.

    To conclude the stop gap service of 88 B 29 Washingtons with the RAF which resulted from the implementation of the Mutual Defence Assistance Programme.supporting NATO.The RAF at the time could only muster 20 Lincoln squadrons equipped with H2S4A bombing radar and two Lancaster squadrons,Nos 49 and 214 which which would be equipped with the final wartime bombing radar,H2S3G.

    Aircrews found that the B 29 Washington brought a new standard of comfort from the pressurised aircraft,however it's availability was subject to snags making the engines unreliable.Further there was some difficulty in obtaining spares, making one observer describe that the aircraft was technically, a nightmare.By 1953,the Air Ministry decided to convert as many Washington and Lincoln squadrons as possible with the large scale numbers of Canberras now becoming available and by the end of 1954,most of the B 29 Washingtons had been returned to the US government .The other point was that the B 29 was still fitted with the APQ-13 bombing radar,a derivative of H2X which had been developed from the British H2S. The US bombing gear required additional training for radar technicians which was carried out on the squadron's station.This training commitment followed the lengthy radar training done at RAF Yatesbury.

    For a British aircraft capable of delivering a nuclear weapon,this would after wait until the Vulcan entered operation service at Waddington in July 1957 although as the home Canberra squadrons were phased out.they were deployed in a tactical nuclear role as a commitment to CENTO in the Near East Air Force and Far East Air Force.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
  16. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Still missing the point and applying 20 20 hindsight. In 1943/4 the B32 was still a perfectly viable alternative/back up for the B29 so why mess about with the Lanc? Especially as at this date the latter had not yet proven itself with 6 ton bombs like the Tallboy.
  17. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    I do not recognise the validity of your comment.

    I have not said the Lancaster was a viable delivery platform for an atomic bomb during the war. If it was chosen then its disadvantages would outweigh vastly its advantages compared to the B 29.I am sure that the Air Ministry would have discounted this notion even if it was considered.

    The B 29 was selected for the role with the formation of the 509th Composite Group in December 1944.Training started immediately dropping dummy 10000 bombs to simulate the Fat Man bomb with flying training on the type to execute a quick exit from the target area involving a steep 158 degree turn to outrun the shock wave.

    There was no likelihood of the B 32 being chosen to deliver atomic bombs.The progress of the B 32 project progress was set by technical problems and a change of tailplane design.Had the B 32 been selected,then Tibbets's training programme would have to been tagged on the 1945 date by a period of at least 8 months if the B 29 atomic bomb delivery training is anything to go by. As it was, the 509th Composite Group did not receive their nine specially modified B 29s until the end of May 1945 .(Tibbets had his Group training at Wendover and then at Tinian from 17 December 1944 to the execution of the first atomic op against Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.)

    The fact is that in 1943/1944 the B 32 design and anticipated production was inferior to the progress of the B 29 even with the B 29 project attendant problems....and again I did not advocate the use of the Lancaster to deliver an atomic bomb.
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  18. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    True but they didn't keep them very long before going to P-47s
  19. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    But the 31st and 52nd FG did. Converted to Spitfire V on arrival in Britain in June to August 1942. Moved to the Med after Operation Torch. Began receiving Spitfire VIII & IX from mid-1943. Finally gave them up for P-51B/C in April 1944 when transferred to the 15th AF and their role changed to long range bomber escort.
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  20. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    I really don’t know how you can maintain that view of the B-32 in late 1943 when the USAAF were prepared to cancel the whole programme as I indicated in my post #8 above. Time for a more detailed delve into its development history.

    The history of the B-32 and its trials and tribulations can be found here.
    Consolidated B-32 Dominator
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