New York City Vintage Photographs Part V – Color Photos

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) arrives in New York Harbor to celebrate Navy Day at the end of WWII, 27OCT45. Enterprise was one of three Yorktown-class aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the only one to survive the first year of the war. For a time she was the only U.S. fleet carrier in the Pacific, leading some to comment that it was the Enterprise vs. the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Three Naval Aircraft Factory N3N primary trainers fly over Manhattan in February 1941. The N3N was one of the primary flight trainers in U.S. Navy service, pilots referred to it as the “Canary” or the “Yellow Peril” due to its high-visibility paint scheme. (NASM Rudy Arnold collection)
A beautiful portrait of the Manhattan skyline taken from Jersey City by Charles Cushman in 1941, showing the ever-present ferry and barge traffic in the harbor. Coupled with the ocean going shipping it was a very busy port.
USS Franklin (CV-13) arrives in New York on 28APR45. On 19MAR45 she was on the other side of the world, just fifty miles off the coast of Japan when she was hit by two 550 pound bombs which engulfed the after portion of the ship in raging fires. Over 800 of her crew were killed, but she managed to steam home under her own power.
A view aft from the Franklin’s island in the East River showing the devastation on the flight deck. The bombs landed among fueled and armed aircraft preparing for a strike, the numerous holes visible in the deck were caused by the planes own bombs detonating in the fire. Franklin was the most severely damaged aircraft carrier to survive. While she was fully repaired, she never went to sea again and was decommissioned on 17FEB47.
The Fletcher-class destroyer USS Renshaw (DD-499) alongside the USS Missouri (BB-63) for Navy Day celebrations, October 1945. Missouri was the site of the Japanese surrender ending WWII on 02SEP45 in Tokyo Bay, having been selected for the honor by President Truman who was from the state of Missouri.
President Truman departs the Missouri aboard the destroyer USS Renshaw. Flying above are formations of Navy aircraft.
The USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42) commissioning at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, 28OCT45, dwarfed by the monstrous hammerhead crane. In the background the USS Franklin (CV-13) is undergoing repair.
USS West Point (AP-23) enters New York Harbor with the Statue of Liberty in the background, returning U.S. troops from Europe in July 1945. She was the former liner SS America, converted into a troopship for the war. She set a record for the largest total of troops transported during the war at 350,000.
NYC_50_color French ocean liner SS Normandie (USS Lafayette) lies capsized
Salvage operations on the USS Lafayette, the former French liner Normandie which sank at her moorings after a fire at Pier 88. Although she was refloated, she never returned to service.

Countdown 1945 Book Review



Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the World

By Chris Wallace with Mitch Weiss

Hardcover in dustjacket, 320 pages

Published by Avid Reader Press June 2020

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1982143347

ISBN-13: 978-1982143343

Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches

Countdown 1945 is the story of the final efforts in the deployment of the atomic bomb at the end of the Second World War.  The chapters are arranged chronologically counting down from 116 days before the Little Boy Device was dropped over Hiroshima.  The 116 day point is the day that President Roosevelt died, and the day that President Truman was sworn in and first learned of the American effort to develop nuclear weaponry – a good place to start the narrative.

The Manhattan Project was an enormous undertaking and was conducted in great secrecy.  It employed over 130,000 workers in various capacities, many of whom had no idea what they were working on until after the Japanese surrender.  The project started with a letter from Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt in August 1939, advising of the theoretical possibility of developing nuclear weapons and warning of German interest in doing so.  The obstacles standing between that letter and a deployable weapon were considerable:  America did not possess the high-grade Uranium ore required for a device (that would come from Canada); the equipment to purify the Uranium did not exist; while the device was theoretically possible none of the scientific or engineering work required to make a physical device had been started; the aircraft which would ultimately be capable of delivering the atomic bomb, the B-29 Superfortress, had not yet been designed; the base needed to support the B-29s had not been built – in fact the location for the base, Tinian in the Marshal Islands, was in Japanese hands.  All of these obstacles would be overcome in the next six years.

The organization of the book in a countdown format allows the authors to focus on the most important events while also facilitating shifts in perspective.  One of the most important and interesting perspectives is that of President Truman himself.  Initially surprised by the existence of the program, the decision to use or not use the weapon was his.  In addition, he had to decide how much information to share with Stalin and whether to warn the Japanese before the device was used.  The lead scientist, Robert Oppenheimer, struggled with scientific and later moral questions.  Major General Leslie Groves had the herculean task of keeping all the various efforts scattered across the country secret and producing results.  Colonel Paul Tibbits led and trained the bomber crews who would ultimately deliver the weapons.

There are also some narratives introduced to represent the common man and put the story into a more personal perspective.  Ruth Sisson operated a calutron machine which was used to purify the Uranium.  She knew her job was part of the war effort but had no idea what the machine she was operating did – her concern was the safe return of her fiancé who was a medic with the Army in Europe.  Draper Kaufman was a U.S. Navy Commander and leader of a UDT unit which would go in before the amphibious assault on Japanese island of Kyūshū to clear beach obstacles.  The invasion was scheduled for November 1945.  American casualties were expected to surpass the total losses already experienced in the war to that point, Japanese casualties were expected to number in the millions.  Hideko Tamura was a Japanese schoolgirl who survived the bombing of Hiroshima, studied in the United States after the war and married an American.

There were a few minor errors which distracted from an otherwise excellent effort.  One caption describes Colonel Tibbits standing in front of his B-17 in Europe but the aircraft is clearly a B-29.  Another passage indicates that a Kamikaze strike on the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Callaghan (DD-792) killed all 47 members of her crew.  The Callaghan was sunk on 29JUL45 and was the last U.S. ship to be lost to a Kamikaze attack.  47 crewmembers were killed, but 282 of her total complement of 329 survived.  Minor errors, but easily fact-checked and avoided.

Overall, I did enjoy the book and the presentation.  I can recommend it, I found the insights into Truman’s roles in both the Manhattan Project and the diplomatic efforts at the end of the war particularly fascinating.  This week marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the first uses of atomic weapons in warfare.  Given humanity’s propensity for destruction it is remarkable that the atomic bombings of Japan remain unique events, we can all hope that always remains the case.