– June 16
), was a lieutenant in the United States Army Air Forces
who served during World War II
. Beser was the radar specialist aboard the Enola Gay
on Aug. 6, 1945, when it dropped the "Little Boy
" atomic bomb on Hiroshima
. Three days later, Beser was aboard Bock's Car
when "Fat Man
" was dropped on Nagasaki
. He was the only person to have crewed the attack aircraft of both missions.
Jacob Beser grew up in Baltimore
where he attended the Baltimore City College
high school graduating in 1938. Beser then studied mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins University
but dropped out the day after Pearl Harbor
to enlist in the Army Air Forces. He was Jewish and extremely restless to get into the fight against Hitler. Because of his training and educational background Beser was sent to Los Alamos
and worked on the Manhattan Project
in the area of weapons firing and fusing.
The unit that dropped the atomic bombs, 509th Composite Group
, was activated at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah, December 17, 1944
. The crews trained with practice bombs called “pumpkins” because of their size and shape, which was the same as “Fat Man” atomic bomb. The 509th deployed to Tinian
in the Marianas
in May 1945. It was a self-contained unit, with personnel strength of about 1,770 soldiers, mechanics, specialists and aviators. It consisted of the 393rd Bomber Squadron, the 320th Troop Carrier Squadron, the 390th Air Service Group, the 603rd Air Engineering Squadron, the 1027th Air Materiel Squadron, the 1395th Military Police Company, and the First Ordnance Squadron (in charge of handling the atomic bombs).
On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare was dropped over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, instantly killing 90,000 civilians and military personnel. The thirteen-hour mission to Hiroshima began at 0245 Tinian time. By the time the Enola Gay rendezvoused with its accompanying B-29s at 0607 over Iwo Jima, the group was three hours from the target area. Little Boy was to detonate over the city triggered by radar calculations that measured the bomb's distance from the ground as it fell. Beser's job was to monitor those calculations and also to ensure that no other radars interfered with the Little Boy's radar frequency. Such interference could have caused a premature detonation. The bomb fell away from the aircraft at 0915:17 Tinian time. Beser never saw the real-time detonation of the bomb but did observe the explosion on radar and witnessed the intense light generated by its detonation.
He is survived by his wife Sylvia, their four sons, and nine grandchildren.
Also see: The Enola Gay: the Men, the Mission, the Atomic Bomb
Hiroshima: Hubertus Hoffmann meets the only U.S. Officer on both A-Missions and one of his Victims