Thomas J. Morris, WWII Veteran, Age 91

Thomas J. Morris | Staff Sergeant, Engineer Gunner; Army Air Corps; 319th Bomb Group, 437th Squadron | Served in Japan, China and Korea | Received the following medals for his service: Three Air Medals (Okinawa, China and Japan) and The Distinguished Flying Cross

As an engineer gunner on a soaring A26 Invader, Mr. Morris witnessed the bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. He provides a truly unique perspective of the event that would lead to Japan’s surrender and, ultimately, bring an end to WWII.

July 26, 1945. President Truman, supported by Allied forces, issues the Potsdam Declaration, promising “prompt and utter destruction” if the Japanese refuse to surrender.

“We were briefed that night to bomb Nagasaki, and it was a target that wasn’t bombed before so they said “We’ll go in there with the A26s.” And what happened that night, they called us back again and we were re-briefed to bomb the alternate – we always have two targets – bomb the alternate target which was Kanoya. So I said “Why aren’t we going to bomb Nagasaki?” “Oh, they think, they said, it’s weather there. Not very good visibility there.” But we didn’t know that they were giving it to the B29s. And, uh, or the B29. And we bombed an alternate target which was a, which was a Japanese airfield. And then on the way back, I saw this huge thunderhead going up. And there was blue flashes going on in it. And we were out, we were out about 8,000 feet and it was passing us by.”

August 6, 1945.
The first atomic bomb devastates Hiroshima, eliminating 90 percent of the city, but Japan refuses to surrender. Three days later, a second bomb is released over Nagasaki.

“It was still going up and there was a cap falling on top of it. Like an ice cap, you know? And it just kept going up and going up. And every once in a while you’d see a flash – a blue flash. I said “Boy, that’s some thunderstorm.” I didn’t know about the atom bomb. But when we landed, the news was all around. Guys were passing out these little bulletins about the atom bomb. Then right after that, the Japanese surrendered.”

August 15, 1945.
Emperor Hirohito announces Japan’s unconditional surrender.

“So that saved our lives because we were scheduled to the invasion of Japan. And they said that the A26s, the low-level planes, would practically take a 50% loss. I says “Oh, that was lucky.” In fact, when we heard about the uh, the bombs at Nagasaki there, I had the feeling that it was like what they were dropping on Europe. The English were dropping those huge bombs. I thought it was one of those. That saved our lives – that bomb. Whatever they want to say about the bombs, they put the war – they ended the war and saved millions of lives. Because they say that the invasion of Japan would have been horrendous.”