320th Troop Carrier Squadron, 2nd AF/ 509th CG, 2nd AF (In CONUS)/ 216th AAFBU (Sp), 2nd AF
Troop Carrier Squadron mission history has already been provided by The Manhattan Project Heritage Preservation Association, Inc. This organization has now been encompassed into the The Atomic Heritage Foundation (AHF), founded by Cynthia Kelly in 2002. Through Cynthia Kelly’s efforts the heritage of the previous MPHPA continues to this day. Cynthia Kelly is perhaps the most steadfast supporter of Manhattan Project sites across the United States and including Tinian, her effort in preserving the Archaeological and historical preservation of these sites are unprecedented. Much of the MPHPA record can be viewed here: http://www.mphpa.org/classic/CG/509th-Yearbook/Pages-2/CGP-509YB-185.htm
A crucial record that Cynthia and her foundation continue to maintain as they incorporate this data into their AHF website: http://www.atomicheritage.org/index.php
320th TCS roster photos with names can be found here: http://www.mphpa.org/classic/CG/509th-Yearbook/Pages-2/CGP-509YB-186.htm
These links will lead you to many more photos of the of the squadron in day to day life at Wendover and on Tinian.
The only missing link from this story is the connection to the 216th AAFBU (Sp). With the records of the 216th (Sp) perhaps being purged details covered here http://forum.armyairforces.com/FindPost/225919
it is possible that members of the 320th TCS were not aware of the change in command to the 216th (Sp) or it was easier/convenient to remain historically connected to the 509th CG for recognition, as the 216th AAFBU (Sp) vertually ceased to exist after the war with very little record remaining of their existance or contribution.
Below are details of the five aircraft assigned to the 320th
Troop Carrier Squadron provided by John Wassell and c/n’s provided by me: 320th Troop Carrier Squadron
’s primary responsibility was to see that Project Alberta military, civilian, and scientific personnel, as well as priority freight were flown efficiently to Tinian from the United States and inside CONUS; Most flight and ground members of the 320th
were previously B-29 trained. The Five C-54 Skymaster’s Attached to the 320th Troop Carrier Squadron: Aircraft Model Construction No
. Serial Number 320th No. Date into Service
C-54B-20-DO 27228 44-9002 1 November 11, 1944
C-54B-20-DO 27245 44-9019 2 December 29, 1944
C-54D-5-DC 10710 42-72605 3 May 5, 1945
C-54B-20-DO 27233 44-9007 4 October 12, 1944
C-54D-5-DC 10699 42-72594 5 January 5, 1945 All aircraft were manufactured by Douglas Aircraft; in the Model identifier DO = Douglas Santa Monica and DC = Douglas Chicago
The history and importance of the 320th Troop Carrier Squadron cannot be understated as a rapid supply line support squadron. I believe it is an under told story of Project Alberta and the Army Air Forces in general. The 320th TCS was originally attached to the 509th CG, on Monday 14 May 1945 an important change in command occured. The 320th TCS was transfered and attached to the 216th AAFBU (Sp), 2nd Air Force, Wendover Field, Utah under the command of Col. Clifford J. Heflin with the Squadron reporting directly to Major Clyde S. Shields CO Flight Test Section, 216th
(Sp). This change in command and supporting documents are covered in this AAF forum post http://forum.armyairforces.com/FindPost/232025
Therefore, all personnel and material movements after 14 May 1945 were under the direction of Col. Heflin thru Maj. Shields and the command structure of the 216th AAFBU (Sp), 2nd Air Force, Wendover Field, Utah. As a result the 320th TCS did not deploy to Tinian with the 509th CG, but rather remained Headquartered at Wendover Field with the 216th (Sp) for the duration of the war. Extensive missions were flown to Tinian, but under the command/direction of the Headquarters Operations at Wendnover Field, Utah.
It is already common knowledge of the four critical delivery missions of the 320th TCS Starting on 27 July 1945 three C-54 aircraft of the 320th
Troop Carrier Squadron “The Green Hornets” departed Kirtland field. Each aircraft carried only two  of the precious U-235 target discs. Although I have no verifiable record, this decision was most likely a directive from Gen Groves as a precautionary move. In the event an aircraft was lost for any reason only 1/3 of this precious and hard to produce U-235 would be lost. This precaution was prudent, but unnecessary as all three aircraft proceeded to Tinian without incident. The first C-54 carrying two  of the target discs arriving Tinian 28 July 1945 and the remaining two C-54’s carrying the final four  target discs arrived Tinian the next day on 29 July 1945. With all the necessary components delivered to Tinian, bomb unit L11 was chosen, and the final Little Boy weapon was assembled and ready by 1 August 1945. More details on this delivery can be seen here: http://forum.armyairforces.com/Transport-of-Little-Boy-unit-L11-components-to-Tinian-for-use-by-the-m217998.aspx
The second critical delivery was that of the first PU-239 core and initiators for F-31 what would become the Fat Man Nagasaki assembly; being transported via two C-54’s of the 320th
TCS. One a/c carried the small box containing the Core escorted by military couriers OIC: Lt.Col. Peer de Silva, USA Military Intelligence, Commander, 1st Technical Service Detachment, and pit courier and Raemer Schreiber Project Alberta technical pit courier and member of the Tinian pit team. The second A/C was to accompany as a backup a/c should the need arise 2nd
Lt. Robert E. Taylor pit courier; was to ride in the second A/C, both a/c to depart Kirtland field 26 July 1945, arrived Tinian 28 July 1945. The assignment of a second aircraft may seem to be an over redundant measure, but as events would have it this became a critically wise decision. The intended transport route for the 320th
TCS’s two C-54’s was to be Kirtland AFB, to Hamilton AFB, to Hickam AFB, to Kwajalein, and on to Tinian. According to Raemer Schreiber; “we lost an engine departing Hamilton and had to return and transfer to the spare aircraft. Somebody else, probably Major de Silva, was in charge. I was just the passive custodian of my little magnesium carrying case”. More details on this delivery can be seen here: http://forum.armyairforces.com/Transport-of-the-1st-PU239-core-and-initiator-and-three-FM-units-to-T-m217600.aspx
These three C-54's along with the forth aircraft noted above carrying the PU-239 core and initiator for Fat Man all arrived at Tinian within hours of one another, meaning that all five of the 320th TCS aircraft were involved in these critical deliveries to Tinian as one aircraft with engine problems remained at Hamilton. To date I have been unable to identify which aircraft was carrying what cargo for these support missions.
Beyond these critical and other deliveries to Tinian, the 320th
TCS also provided rapid transport of military and scientific personnel as well as components across CONUS, below is a list of possible destinations inside and outside of CONUS for the 320th
TCS and this is perhaps far too limited in its scope:
- Hanford to Kirtland AAFB: refined PU-239 for Los Alamos core fabrication and “other scientific & military personnel transport” - [“OSMPT”]
- Oak Ridge to Kirtland AAFB: refined U-235 for Los Alamos ring & disc fabrication [OSMPT]
- Wendover to Omaha: investigation and modification of Silver Plates
- Wendover to Kirtland back and forth: bomb development: shape, drop, fusing, [OSMPT] etc.
- Wendover to Inyokern [OSMPT]
- Kirtland to Inyokern [OSMPT]
- Wendover to Washington D.C. [OSMPT]
- Wendover to Tinian [OSMPT]
- Kirtland to Tinian [OSMPT]
- Wendover to Batista Cuba [OSMPT]
- Tinian to Japan: BDA at Hiroshima & Nagasaki and Japanese atomic knowledge & research evaluation [OSMPT]
- Various missions to laboratory sites across the United States [OSMPT]
In my opinion these five Douglas C-54 Skymaster’s should take a more prominent place in Army Air Force history as without their support missions and critical component deliveries Manhattan may have fallen short or been delayed causing the war in the Pacific to drag on, or worse may have resulted in the need for the full scale invasion of the Japanese mainland as previously planned. The overall history of the 320th TCS I believe to be another missing segment to the Wendover Field history as this squadron continued to be based and headquartered at Wendover throughout the war and beyond until the 509th CG returned to the States in November 1945 and reformed at Roswell AAF and the 320th TCS relocated there as well and was transformed into the 1st Air Transport Unit.
Quite frankly with the clandestine mission of the 320th
Troop Carrier Squadron, these Skymaster’s with their “Green Hornet” paint scheme had to be some of the most gorgeous C-54’s in the USAAF and must have drawn attention wherever they landed.
Photos attached:  320th TCS C-54 nose on photo  320th TCS C-54 being fueled on Tinian  320th TCS roster photo with aircraft. Special note: on the nose of the aircraft just ahead of the round group emblem you’ll see five small winged donkey figures, each of these represent a round trip between the States and Tinian.
For more roster photos see this forum link: http://forum.armyairforces.com/320th-TCS-reply-to-old-thread-m219103.aspx
Resources: Perhaps the best published work covering all units of the 509th
CG is “The 509th Remembered
” Edited by Robert and Amelia Krauss i.e. best source for overall 320th TCS / 509th
CG with great details, photos and individual short member memoirs including photos of Wendover Field, although there is little detail here about the 216th AAFBU (Sp) it is still “Highly Recommended”.
Edited by 25Kingman49: 7 April 2013 added content regarding change of command to 216th (Sp)