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The Commander's Voice

 

Here is a link to the documentary in three parts on YouTube.

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I present "Nagasaki: The Commander's Voice," broken down into eleven chapters. The entire documentary runs just under a half hour. I encoded the files in WMV format that will open using Windows Media Player.  
 
 

  

1. Introduction

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Click Here (5.4 MB)

 
 
 
 
 
2. Basing

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Click Here (4.5 MB)

 
 
 
 
 
3. Firebombing

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Click Here (6.1 MB)

 
 
 
 
 
4. Fighter Threat

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Click Here (7.8 MB)

 
 
 
 
 
5. New Planes & Fat Men

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Click Here (5.9 MB)

 
 
 
 
 
6. One-Two Punch

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Click Here (4.4 MB)

 
 
 
 
 
7. August 9, 1945

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Click Here (9.2 MB)

 
 
 
 
 
8. Nagasaki Drop

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Click Here (6.5 MB)

 
 
 
 
 
9. Agnus Dei Part 1: The Bombing

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Click Here (7.4 MB)

 
 
 
 
 
10. Agnus Dei Part 2: Pacific War Coda

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Click Here (8.7 MB)

 
 
 
 
 
11. Credits

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Click Here (5.0 MB)

 
 
 
 
 
In January 2002, I had the privilege of interviewing Maj. Gen. Charles Sweeney, USAF (ret.), commander of the Nagasaki atom bomb mission on August 9, 1945. General Sweeney, who passed away in 2004, was the father-in-law of JED and eDefense Online publisher Charles Boyd, who arranged what was for me a historic opportunity. JED has a section called "First Person...Singular" where veterans describe their experiences in their own words. My job was to get General Sweeney's recollections from almost 60 years pervious, when he was a 25-year-old major leading one of the most important missions in US history. From the roughly hour-and-a-half of audio tape, I assembled a narrative of the preparations for and conduct of the atomic bomb attacks on Japan that contributed greatly, if not definitively, to the end of the Pacific War. The article was published in JED in March 2002.
 
Some time later, it occurred to me that an audio recording of General Sweeney, the last made before his death, would be of historical interest. At the time, I had been dabbling in home video editing, as many new fathers are wont to do, and had really taken a shine to it. I thought that I might be able to integrate selections of General Sweeney's account with appropriate imagery to produce a short documentary feature on the Nagasaki mission. I contacted Los Alamos National Labs (LANL), and Broadcast Media Specialist John Bass of LANL public affairs provided me with footage of the Nagasaki attack as well as footage of flight tests of the modified Boeing B-29 Superfortresses that would be used on the atomic bomb missions. I also collected digital photographs from the US National Archives, US Air Force, Boeing, and other sources. Since I wasn't able to get out to the US Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, to film "Bock's Car," the B-29 that flew the Nagasaki mission, I used the opportunity of a trip to Washington, DC, to shoot some video at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum Annex of the "Enola Gay," which flew the Hiroshima mission.
 
The sound track bears mentioning, particularly the choral pieces "Coventry Carol" and "Agnus Dei" performed by the Santa Barbara Quire of Voyces. I have to admit that I became acquainted with the Quire while playing the computer space strategy game "Homeworld," published by Sierra Entertainment in 1999. One of the game's chapters featured the survivors a world-destroying attack coming to grips with their plight, and the background score was the sad/beautiful "Agnus Dei," which is a choral arrangement of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings." I could think of no better piece of music for the coda of my documentary, and Nathan J. Kreitzer, founder and artistic director of the Santa Barbara Quire of Voyces, graciously gave me permission to use the piece, as well as "Coventry Carol." The latter is a beautiful work in its own right, a mournful lullaby about the slaughter of the innocents by Herod, and in my mind it evoked the bombing of that English city by the German Luftwaffe in November 1940, the first time a city was devastated by incendiaries.
 
Both "Agnus Dei" and "Coventry Carol" are from the album "Illuminations." You can buy the album here, as well as read the liner notes. You can find out more about the Santa Barbara Quire of Voices here.
 
I had wanted to have the documentary finished for the 60th anniversary of the Nagasaki mission, but alas, the learning curve was steeper than I had imagined. I finally took a rough cut of my film down to my public-access TV station in Franklin, MA, which aired it throughout the month of November 2005. Steve Russo, the station's coordinator, suggested I submit the work for the 27th Telly Awards, an industry competition for film and video. I am happy to report that my freshman documentary effort was selected for a Bronze award in the Documentary category.
 
UPDATE: 11/22/06: My film also won a "Best Documentary -- Non-Professional" award from the Northeast Chapter of the Alliance for Community Media. Here I am with my award at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA.
 

UPDATE: 8/29/06: Nagasaki Revisited. Historian and author John Coster-Mullen offers his take on the Nagasaki mission based on his interviews and original research. Go here to read the account, and to learn more about the controversy surrounding the conduct of the Nagasaki mission.
 

UPDATE: 2/7/11: Feedback.
"I was on the island of Tinian In 2005 with my father (a B-29 pilot) for the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the Atomic bombs. This is a shot of all the Veterans who were there on Tinian for the 60th Anniversary. There were people who worked on the bombs, 509th people, and crews form regular B-29 groups. And there were two bomb survivors, two Japanese soldiers who were captured on Tinian, and two crew members/survivors of the USS Indianapolis."

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