The world became a much scarier place in August 1945 when two nuclear bombs codenamed Little Boy and Fat Man were dropped on Japan ending World War II. Even though the decision to drop the bombs had been made, very little was understood about them except the degree of destruction they could cause so, in July 1946, the U.S. military decided to conduct four tests we remember as Operation Crossroads.
The series of tests were conducted at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Nuclear scientists and the military wanted to see how nuclear detonations behaved in the air, underwater, on the reef, and on the sea. A fleet of at least seventy surplus and captured ships were anchored in the lagoon and were used as targets. This fleet of test vessels included many famous Allied and Axis vessels such as the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, the battleships USS Nevada, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and New York; the German cruiser Prinz Eugen and Japanese battleship Nagato. During the detonations and for hours afterward still and motion pictures were taken, some from planes flying at a safe distance, and at least eight remote controlled B-17 Flying Fortresses flew in and out of the clouds with radiation detectors and devices to collect air samples.
The first test designated as "Able" took place on July 1, 1946. A nuclear bomb named "Gilda" was dropped from the B-29 Superfortress named "Dave's Dream." The bomb decorated with a picture of Rita Hayworth's character from the movie "Gilda." My research indicates Hayworth was not amused. The bomb was detonated 520 feet over the target fleet but missed its target by several hundred feet causing an investigation those military and government types like to conduct.
The second test designated "Baker" took place on at the end of July. The nuclear device was taken to the Bikini Atoll aboard a B-29 Superfortress atomic bomber that had been named "Luke the Spook" by its crew. The "Baker" test involved a nuclear bomb suspended under a barge to examine what would happen when a nuclear device detonated underwater. The bomb was nicknamed "Helen of Bikini," a play on the name "Helen of Troy" from Greek mythology. The explosion produced a Wilson Cloud (condensation) and contaminated the target ships. The blast also created a tsunami which reached the Bikini Island beach three and a half miles away with waves from nine to fifteen feet. The target ships were painted with radiation that could not be removed. Chemist Glenn T. Seaborg, the longest-serving chairman of Atomic Energy Commission called the "Baker" test the world's first nuclear disaster. The third test planned for later in 1947 was cancelled mainly due to the U.S. Navy's inability to decontaminate the target ships after the "Baker" test.
Two years following the testing at Bikini Atoll on June 25, 1948 folks in Douglasville were enthralled as "Luke the Spook" flew low overhead and circled the town several times before heading over to Marietta where it landed safely at Dobbins Air Force Base. The flyover was a big hello to family and friends of Lt. Claude Daniel Mozley, a hometown boy who had the honor of piloting "Luke the Spook" during Operation Crossroads.
Lt. Mozley's family figured way back in this area's history. His great grandfather was Glen Owen Mozley (1818-1907) who along with his father had large land holdings where most of Austell sits today. The homeplace still sits on Maxham Road where a historical marker is displayed. Mozley's grandfather was Raleigh Samuel Mozley and his parents were Claude Daniel (Sr.) and Edith Mozley who lived on East Strickland Street in downtown Douglasville.
Lt. Mozley attended Douglas County High School graduating in 1935. After attending the University of Georgia, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps at Fort McPherson on September 9, 1941.
Lt. Mozley continued to serve his country in the Air Force through the Korean and Vietnam war era retiring with the rank of colonel in 1973. Mozley died in 1997 and is buried in Chesapeake, Virginia where he made his home for many years.
Lisa Cooper writes the amazing stories of Douglas County each Sunday. You can find her new book "Every Now and Then: The Amazing Stories of Douglas County" online at Amazon, print and Kindle versions. Locally, her books can be found at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art, The Farmer's Table and Lithia Springs Pharmacy.