|Navy Nuclear Weapons
"Keepers of the Dragon"©™
FIRST NUCLEAR WEAPON LAUNCH FROM AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER
FIRST NUCLEAR WEAPON LAUNCH FROM AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER:
APRIL 21, 1950
On NSWU #471 Operations
Roy A. Norman, USN (ret)
I was an Electronics Technician First Class
at the time and went aboard USS Coral Sea with the two parties involved in
the first launch. I was
responsible for the nuclear components we took, along with the required
test equipment and tools. The
section in the history (Keepers
of the Dragon, a History of the Nuclear Weapons Program; Henry
B. Smith, Lt. Cmdr., USN (ret) )
about storage of the nuclear weapon components is correct as I read it.
The USS CORAL SEA (CVB-43) was in the
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for, among other things, completion of the
Special Weapons spaces. On 15
March, 1950 some members of NSWU #471 took training weapons, tools, and
test equipment and flew to East Island Naval Air Station, Norfolk.
We left Albuquerque at 0430 and arrived at the air station at 1430
and were on board ship by 1600. We
spent the next day cleaning the spaces, then holding assembly drills.
Underway from the shipyard at 0730 on the
morning of the 17th, we spent that day and part of the 18th
holding more drills and getting acquainted with the ship. The ship anchored in Hampton Roads on the evening of 18 March
and moved to pier 5 Naval Operations Base, Norfolk on the 19th.
The Unit packed up and left the ship and was off the ground at
1430. We landed at Kirkland
AFB, Albuquerque, NM at 2215.
On 12 April, this same NSWU #471 team left
Kirkland at 0130, landed at Clarksville, Kentucky AFB (Site Charley) at
0730. While the plane was
being refueled the men were able to go to mess hall for chow.
We left at 0830 and landed at East Island Naval Air Station at
1250, 13 April 1950.
We had all of our equipment in our space on
board Coral Sea (CVB-43) by 1400. More
assembly exercises and cleaning the spaces followed. Liberty in Norfolk was not so good. The ship was berthed at Pier 7, NOB. We held more exercises over the next two days.
A P2V Neptune, a twin-engine, maritime patrol aircraft too large to
land on ship, was lifted aboard by crane.
We got underway at 0730 on the 17th.
Spent the next day at sea doing more exercises and cleaning spaces.
Coral Sea anchored in Hampton Roads at 1600
on 20 April where we took on several VIP's (senior military officers) and
returned to sea at 1800. During
the night we assembled a "Little Boy" and loaded it on the P2V
very early in the morning of 21 April.
The P2V took off at 0730. This
was the first "Atomic Bomb" launched from an aircraft carrier.
Following the launch we all went below where the reason for the
extensive field days was apparent. The VIP's came below for a
demonstration of an assembly and to review the various components.
I had a lot of questions thrown at me.
We anchored in Hampton Roads at 1500 on the
21st of April and started packing our equipment. The ship moved to Pier 5, NOB on 22 April.
NSWU #471 left the ship by 1230 and was off the ground by 1500.
We landed at Kirkland AFB by 2300.
In a part of Henry Smith’s account the
extreme secrecy of the Special Weapon Units early history is stressed.
I believe Richard Rhodes book "Dark Sun, Making Of The
Hydrogen Bomb”, pages 282 – 284 addresses the reasons for the secrecy.
This is a picture of a P2V twin engine bomber taking off from the USS CORAL SEA, JATO assisted, at 07:30 on 21 April 1950. The pilot was John T. Hayward. I was part of the team that assembled a "Little Boy" Atomic Bomb that is in this plane. The thing weighed 8,900 lbs and was the first Atomic Bomb flown off of an Air Craft carrier. - Roy Norman
August 01, 2014
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