Operation Crossroads .. crew member names of 509th Composite Group's "Hot" planes.

[ The following is a 1946 United Press dispatch telling of two "hot" sampler planes which passed through the mushroom clouds while taking air samples to measure radioactivity levels.]

Crew members Names:
Pilot: -------------- Major Claude R. Eatherly, (age 27) of Van Alstyne, Texas
Co-pilot: ---------- Lieutenant Robert L. Gungle, Maywood, Illinois
Navigator: --------- Captain Jack P. Richardson, Fort Worth, Texas
Radar Officer: ----- Captain Darwin E. Rasmussen, Muskegon, Michigan
Flight Engineer: ---- Lieutenant Robert E. Dove, Fairsbury, Nebraska
Radio Operator: --- Sergeant Morton Bimstein, Glendale, California
Scanner: ----------- Sergeant Andrew J. Steinman, Riverside, Pennsylvania
Scanner: ----------- Private Merl E. Brown Jr., Hollywood, California

Kwajalein, July 2.

Two B-29 Superfortresses stood on Kwajalein airstrip today under heavy guard....the "hottest" aircraft in the Pacific.

The two planes were placed out of bounds as the result of a midnight flight through the atomic cloud with full crews aboard.

Both aircraft were so radioactive when they landed after their dangerous flight that it was thought at first it might be necessary to destroy them. But now the 20th Air force feels certain they can be "washed down".

[ A 509er who had responsibilities for maintenance on this plane says that it was not returned to the states but was instead left there.]

The airplane left Kwajalein at 8:30 o'clock last night on a dramatic assignment to find the atomic storm cloud in the mid-Pacific darkness. They were to fly through it to collect samples in precipitrons carried by each plane.

One B-29 was commanded by Major Claude R. Eatherly, 27, Van Alstyne, Texas. The second plane was commanded by Major Allan B. Rowlett, 31, Chula Virginia.

The precipitrons are newly contrived devices for taking in samples of air in flight and retaining by precipitation all radioactive particles.

The hunt for the black cloud 200 miles away on a moonless night necessarily depended on flying by instruments.

Eatherly's plane found the cloud quickly at 25000 feet 13 hours after it formed by detonation over Bikini Atoll. Rapidly ticking Geiger counters told two specially trained monitors aboard that plane that the plane had entered the atomic cloud. Eatherly then radioed his position to Rowlett who also went in for his samples.

Eatherly was based on Kwajalein for six weeks and made seven B-29 flights from Kwajalein to Bikini during the atomic test. He carried scientist-observers and blast gauges, and there for the first time he witnessed an atomic explosion. But again he was only in support: the crew which made the aerial drop got most of the attention and publicity. Eatherly received the peace-time "Army Commendation Medal for Commanding BLAST GAUGE Aircraft during OPERATION CROSSROADS January-July 1946".

I asked Ken Wey: What did you do in those days and nights on Kwajalein? Did you notice any change in Eatherly? "No, he seemed the same," Wey replied. "Of course there isn't much to do on an atoll. You can swim or play volley ball or go to the movies or get drunk or play poker. Claude played poker--sometimes for two or three days and nights at a stretch. He and Roger Ramey (later a lieutenant general) played head-and-head for a long session. Ramey had just been paid $3000 by the Saturday Evening Post for some article. At the end of the session the whole Officer's Club witnessed Ramey endorsing his Post check over to Eatherly. So while Eatherly didn't make the bomb drop at Bikini, he sure as hell dropped a punkin on old Roger Ramey."

On August 3, 1946, Eatherly returned to Roswell, and Ken Wey left Roswell and the Air Force shortly thereafter......

[Major Claude R. Eatherly died of cancer "while quite young" and Lieutenant General Roger M. Ramey, Denton County, Texas, died March 4, 1963. Have no info on the other men named.]

HOME
Crossroads Test
Castle Test