Frederick L. Ashworth, 93, Atomic Bomb Handler, Dies

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Vice Adm. Frederick L. Ashworth, a Navy weapons specialist who was the crewman in control of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in World War II's climactic strike, died Saturday at a hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 93 and lived in Santa Fe, N.M.

On the morning of Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the B-29 Superfortress named the Bockscar dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki, killing and wounding tens of thousands and leaving much of the city in ruin. Within days of those atomic strikes, Japan surrendered, ending World War II.

"My station was in the navigator's compartment, and I had a hole about eight inches in diameter to look out," he told Time magazine on the 60th anniversary of the atomic strikes. "I was the weaponeer - basically, I was in charge of the bomb. We flew to the rendezvous point, where we'd meet two other airplanes, one with instruments to measure the blast and another holding observers. The observer plane didn't show up. We circled, and after about 35 minutes I said to Sweeney, 'Damn it, proceed to the first target.'

"Kokura was the target, but the bombardier couldn't locate it because the area was clouded. So the navigator took us to Nagasaki. We had gotten a report that the area was clear, but we noticed undercast clouds. By this time, we'd used almost an hour's gas at the rendezvous point, and the engineer was really sweating it. It was going to be nip and tuck. I went up to Sweeney and said, 'We're going to be able to make one run on this target - if we're lucky.' I told him to be prepared to use radar. This was in contradiction with orders we'd received that prohibited us from bombing without a visual target sight."

"We were making our approach on radar and getting ready to drop when Beahan cries out, 'I've got the target,' " he recalled, referring to Kermit Beahan, the bombardier. "As we'd gotten over Nagasaki, Beahan had looked into the undercast and saw that it had holes in it. He synched the cross hairs of his bomb-sight telescope and released the bomb."

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