216th Army Air Force Base Unit (Special) Second Air Force
216th Army Air Force Base Unit (Special) Second Air Force Edit 25Kingman49:
In further research the exception noted below by darrelld
Darrell Dvorak is extremely accurate and factual. The 216th
AAF Base Unit (Special) was never attached to the 509th
CG. This units reporting responsibility remained with the Second Air Force through CG Maj. Gen. Robert B. Williams with a dual and perhaps primary reporting responsibility to the Manhattan Project (MP) through CO Maj. Gen. Leslie Richard Groves, Jr. and Capt. William Sterling "Deak" Parsons USN. As a result I have edited the title of this thread to properly identify the 216th
AAFBU with the Second Air Force and not being attached to the 509th
CG. I have not edited the body of this thread as to continue to show my original misconceptions about the 216th
AAFBU being attached to the 509th
CG. I do this as these misconceptions may be common among MP researchers as so little record remains for the activities of the 216th
Darrell has provided invaluable evidence of these facts with documents from his Father-in Law Col. Clifford J. Heflin, CO 216th
AAF Base Unit (Special). With this new information in hand I filed three Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests two with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and one with the AFHRA, Maxwell, AFB. Due to the possible nuclear security sensitivity of this requested information the first FOIA was filed with NNSA, which lead to the filing of the Air Force FOIA and then back to the NNSA for the third FOIA. I hope the following information is useful to future researchers to show what ground has already been covered. The responses to these FOIA’s will be covered in a separate AAF forum thread titled “216th
AAFBU records purged from history”.
See: http://forum.armyairforces.com/216th-AAFBU-Special-Wendover-Field-records-purged-from-history-m225919.aspx Below is the list of FOIA’s filed in chronological order with filing and response dates, also including a description of what documents were requested:
1. NNSA FOIA request: 12-00256-H
, filed: 18 July 2012, response: 24 July 2012; requesting: GO’s and SO’s issued by or under Col. Clifford Heflin’s Command from 19 January 1945 – 22 October 1945 at Wendover Field.
2. USAF AFHRA FOIA request: 2012-05090-F, AFHRA Ref.# RFI # 2012-22105
, filed: 24 July 2012 and revised on 6 August 2012 to include a search for: a copy of all GO’s and SO’s signed by Col. Clifford Heflin while commander of the 216th
AAF Base Unit, at HQ Wendover Field, Utah during the period of 19 January through 22 October 1945. In the revision, I added a request for the Tables of Organization for the Flight Test Section and the Special Ordinance Detachment of the 216th
AAFBU. Response: 14 August 2012.
3. NNSA FOIA request: FOIA 12-00303-H
, filed 29 August 2012, response: 14 September 2012; requesting:
- All Table(s) of Organization “TO” for the Flight Test Section, 216th Base Unit (Special), Wendover Army Airfield, Utah, under the Command of Major Clyde S. Shields, for the calendar year 1945.
- Any and all Personnel Rosters for the 216th Base Unit (Special), Flight Test Section for the calendar year 1945.
- All Table(s) of Organization “TO” for the Special Ordinance Detachment, 216th Base Unit (Special), Wendover Army Airfield, Utah, under the Command of Capt. Henry Roerkohl, for the calendar year 1945.
- Any and all Personnel Rosters for the 216th Base Unit (Special), Special Ordinance Detachment for the calendar year 1945.
Army Air Force Base Unit was already in existence as it was originally affiliated with the original mission of Wendover Field as a training base for B-17 and B-24 bomber groups and even a wing of P-47 fighters. The P-47’s would be the last conventional unit to be trained at Wendover field, departing in August or September 1944. During this interim time period in August 1944 only the permanent cadre and a half dozen administrative aircraft remained. There was some confusion at Wendover as training operations were being suspended and there was some speculation among base personnel that the base might be closing. During this odd period at Wendover, a lone B-29 landed and the pilot came into headquarters declaring his desire to inspect the general facilities of the base. This pilot was at the time Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets on his mission to select a home for the 509th
CG, unknown to base personnel Wendover had already been placed on a very short list of possible homes for the 509th
CG. At the time of this visit the ranking headquarters officer was Captain Thomas L. Karnes who provided the tour of the base for Lt. Col. Tibbets.
Tibbets returned a few weeks later having made up his mind that Wendover was the perfect location to headquarter the 509th
CG. Tibbets again met with Karnes this time explaining he was organizing an unusual bomb group that would have a large number of men with rare qualification, but thought many of the base cadre could be utilized as the nucleus of the group and offered Captain Karnes the job of 509th
CG Headquarters Adjutant, which Karnes immediately accepted. This resulted in the genesis of the 509th
CG at Wendover before the official activation of the group. Upon activation on 17 December 1944 approximately 800 personnel from Wendover were immediately transfer into the 509th
CG. From this point forward crews and personnel started to flow into Wendover from all over the country after meeting the strict background security evaluations imposed on all new members. 216th Base Unit evolution:
Upon inclusion into the 509th
this base unit would take on a role unlike any other base unit in the USAAF. Although attached to the 509th
CG it acted in autonomy to the group it fell under the direction of the Los Alamos Weapon Development laboratory, as they were in charge of weapons development and set the test schedule for the unit. Although the unit had other Wendover Field responsibilities, from the weapons test aspect the unit was comprised of two elements.
- 216th Base Unit, Flight Test Section
As indicated by its name the function of this section was to drop test prototype bomb shapes, as the designs evolved for both Little Boy and Fat Man up to the final nuclear weapon designs as well as pumpkin bombs, the non-nuclear variant of Fat Man. In CONUS there were three bomb assembly locations; Los Alamos, Wendover and Inyokern; the latter two had their own bomb loading pits; The loading of Los Alamos assemblies were performed at Kirtland Field near Albuquerque with its own loading pit. Test drops were performed in a number of locations including the west desert near Wendover, Sandy Beach-(Salton Sea), Inyokern as well as early tests at Muroc Army Air Field.
- 216th Base Unit, Special Ordnance Detachment
This Detachment had the duty of assembling test units at Wendover under the stick guidance of the Los Alamos Ordnance Group designated as Z-Division by July of 1945. As changes in design evolved Z-Division would evaluate drop test data adjust designs again and instruct the Wendover Special
Ordnance Detachment about what change to incorporate in the next test units and provided the test schedule which was generally updated weekly and near the end, close to combat use the schedule was beyond hectic as answers were needed before combat use. The 216th initially assembled inert bombs or "shapes" which were dropped by B-29s to furnish information on ballistics, electrical fusing and detonators, release mechanisms, and flying characteristics of the aircraft. As the design progressed, personnel assembled more and more complex versions of the "Little Boy" and the "Fat Man" bombs. The 216th base unit at Wendover also continued to improve the assembly procedures and techniques on the "Fat Man". Pits were constructed with hydraulic lifts to hoist the huge bombs into the bomb bay and between October 1944 and August 1945, 155 test units were dropped.
Security and secrecy were paramount with fraternization between the bomb assembly teams and the flight test crews being strongly discouraged. The 216th
Base Unit was never deployed to Tinian as test drops continued right up to combat use. After the 509th
CG was deployed to Tinian the majority of the Wendover Special
Ordnance Detachment was transferred to the 1st
Ordnance Squadron Special (Aviation) and depoyed to Tinian. This resulted in an influx of new personnel in the SOD to replace them at Wendover. It would appear that the majority of the Flight Test Section remained behind in Wendover continuing their flight test duties.
is one of two attached unit to the 509th
CG where there appears to be no complete roster or roster photo of personnel assigned to these units, the other being the 1395th
Military Police Company (Aviation). There are some names mentioned with some photos in published works, but this is primarily of the personnel that moved into this role at Wendover after the 509th
CG was deployed to Tinian. If anyone has knowledge of such an overall roster and or roster photo please post it here.
This is a very limited history of the 216th
Army Air Force Base Unit (Special), for more detail I highly recommend cited sources 1, 2, 3 and 4 below
Photos attached:  Little Boy test unit loaded in bomb bay  Fat Man test unit being loaded at Wendover  Fat Man test unit loaded in the bomb bay
Video: Fat Man drop test (unknown date) http://www.airspacemag.com/multimedia/videos/Pumpkin-Practice.html
Sources: 1) http://www.afhra.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-080128-037.pdf
2) “Atomic Bombs The Top Secret Inside Story of Little Boy and Fat Man
”, by John Coster-Mullen 3) “The Silverplate Bombers
”, by Richard H. Campbell 4) “The 509th Remembered
” Edited by Robert and Amelia Krauss 4) “Sandia National Laboratories The Post War Decade
” by Necah Stewart Furman
The book: “Project W-47”, by James Les Rowe, (JA A RO Publishing, Livermore, CA, 1978 ISBN-0-9605562-0-6) covers in amazing detail the assembly of test units at Wendover after the 509th deployed to Tinian. According to Rowe, he was “the Project Officer of the military detachment responsible for the modification and assembly of the flight test units and the final assembly of the A-bomb during the last 107 days of the war”. The problem with this work is Rowe’s assertion that his group at Wendover assembled both the Little Boy and Fat Man combat weapons at Wendover and then shipped them to Tinian ready for combat use. There has now to date been enough documentation released on this subject to render this assertion ridiculous and completely false. One Los Alamos source refers to the book as “seriously flawed” The information contained in this book should therefore be viewed with caution by researchers. There is a much more elaborate description of the pros and cons of Rowe’s book in John Coster-Mullen’s book: “Atomic Bombs The Top Secret Inside Story of Little Boy and Fat Man
”, end note 45 on page 385.
post edited by 25Kingman49 - 2012/10/21 21:52:09