The Brits Almost – Almost – Got to Drop The Bomb, But….

| August 8, 2020


The British Black Lancaster bomber might have been designated to carry the bomb to Hiroshima on 6th August 1945, but it was too slow and did not have the weight load capacity that our silver B-29 bombers had.

N.B.: The video of the nuke detonating at 1100 feet over Hiroshima looks distinctly like the ammonium nitrate explosion the other day in Beirut, except for the coloring of the explosion cloud column. The death toll from Beirut has not been completely counted yet. More to come on that.

Here’s the full story in the video at the link:

Category: Historical

Comments (17)

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  1. The Other Whitey says:

    With a few mods, the Lancaster could lift exceptionally large loads such as the Tallboy and Grand Slam. There was even discussion of borrowing* some Lancasters to equip the 509th Composite Group in 1943. The B-29 was still undergoing testing at the time and its capabilities were still being worked out. When it was determined that the B-29 would be able to carry an atomic bomb, it won out on the grounds that it was faster, flew higher, and had a longer range than the Lancaster. The Brits wound up buying the B-29 (as the Washington B. Mk I) to replace the Lancaster after the war.

    * There was already precedent for “reverse Lend-Lease,” as a half-dozen USAAF fighter groups in Europe and Italy spent the war flying Spitfires with stars on them.

  2. Nice post Ex, I just watched the video and didn’t know the whole story. While on the WW2 subject, I found out that those guards with the white helmet liners at the Nurenburg trials were ex SS Estonians fighting for Germany and in order for them not to go back home where they may have been shot by the Ruskies or their own peeps, they went over to the American side and were trained and sworn in to the US Army. They had a triangular arm patch which was their unit. SS Lats were in the same boat and ended up in the US Army where they were the security force for the housing where the trial people lived during the trials. And they were all armed with M-1 Carbines.

  3. David says:

    I believe air bursts appear lighter in color than ground bursts since they suck up less dirt/dust/crap into the cloud. Lebanon was at ground level, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were at about 2,000 feet when they detonated.

  4. SgtBob says:

    So the Lancaster “might” have carried the American bombs, but it was too slow and didn’t have the load capacity of a B-29. And why should the US have considered the Lancaster to carry the US bomb? Just a guess, but I would say the Brits would have found a reason not to drop the bomb.

    • The Other Whitey says:

      It wouldn’t have been the Brits dropping it. It would’ve been American crews in borrowed British aircraft. Besides that, Arthur Harris of RAF Bomber Command, the guy who orchestrated the firebombing of Hamburg and Dresden would have happily nuked Germany straight to hell.

    • Atlanticcoast63 says:

      …The problem was that Boeing had its head up its ass in trying to get the B-29 mission capable, and Hap Arnold – usually an extremely patient man – had quite enough and wanted to prove a point.

      In the early 90s – want to say 91 or 92 – I had the chance to meet ENOLA GAY’s command crew and chat with them for a few minutes, and THAT was what I asked BGEN Tibbets about. 😉 He said that they did actually test fly a Lancaster – he mentioned it was in natural metal with no markings – a couple times, and that more than anything else that was GEN Arnold’s way of letting Boeing know that there were other options, and he wasn’t afraid to hit them over the head with the fact. And unsaid – but implied – was that if this billion dollar superweapon ended up undelivered, Boeing would be holding the bag. BGen Tibbets said the Lanc was unsuited for the mission, and left it at that.

    • Hondo says:

      For what it’s worth: neither of the nuclear weapons used during World War II weighed over 10,300 lbs – Little Boy weighed approx 9,700 lbs, and Fat man weighed in at 10,300 lbs. During World War II, the Lancaster easily demonstrated the ability to carry that big a payload in combat. So it was indeed a viable “second option” if the B-29 couldn’t be made suitable for the mission.

  5. The US could have gotten the Lancaster bomber production rights from GB and built an airplane plant in Pennsylvania.

  6. Hondo says:

    If the B-29 hadn’t worked out, it’s possible the Lancaster might have been used for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki missions. However, IMO there is absolutely no way those missions would have been flown by anything but US crews. There is zero chance that either FDR or Truman would have agreed to having a non-US crew fly either of those missions.

    • The Other Whitey says:

      As stated above, there was no question that Paul Tibbets’s 509th would fly the mission. The only question was what aircraft they would fly it in. Besides the Lancaster, the other option being considered was the B-32 Dominator, which was behind schedule in development.

      • The reason the Lancaster was considered was the bomb bay, the B-29 had 2 bomb bays, but neither of them could fit either atomic weapon because the main wing spar split the bomb bays, But the Lanc bomb bay could, since the main spar was above the bay and it was capable of carrying the 20,000lb tall boy bomb, so they had to do a major modification on a number of B-29 airframes specific to that mission, plus the B-29 was preferred because it was faster and had longer range, these same airframes were later used as “trucks” for test aircraft, like Yeager’s 1st Mach flight, Enola Gay and Bocks Car became static displays

        • PJS says:

          Interesting thought, precision bombing USAAF’s height of design B29 with 2 bomb bays; Area bombing RAF height of wartime design, one single 33 ft bomb bay and 10k pounders. When technology diverts from doctrine.
          But one final point, the A bombs might have won the war, the the B29 crews with conventional weapons sure laid a beating on the home islands

  7. KoB says:

    If you want something done, and done right, then you must generally do it yourself. ‘Specially if you have the knowledge and equipment.

    American Bomb, American Crew, American Plane. Sorry old Chap, Cherio and all that. Maybe next time. Game…Set…and Match! USA USA USA USA

    Cool video and story, didn’t know the Lancaster was even considered.

  8. Slow Joe says:

    That was very interesting.
    Good find, Ex.

  9. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    Did the Lancaster use those innovative smoke-filled leaky wires often noted in British sports cars?