Frederick Lincoln “Dick” Ashworth was born January 24, 1912 in Massachusetts.
Dick went on to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1933.
Dick became commander of Torpedo Squadron Eleven (VT-11), a Grumman TBF Avenger unit based on Guadalcanal at the start of World War II. He then served aboard the USS Hornet.
Dick, along with Captain William Parsons, were assigned to Project Alberta, the portion of the Manhattan Project tasked with dropping the atomic weapons on Japan.
Parsons acted as weaponeer on the Enola Gay for the first atomic mission August 6th when Hiroshima was bombed.
Three days later, Commander Dick Ashworth served as weaponeer on the B-29 Superfortress Bockscar that dropped the atomic bomb “Fat Man” on Nagasaki August 9, 1945.
A few minutes into the flight, Dick replaced the plutonium green testing plugs with red firing plugs, completing its arming.
“My station was in the navigator’s compartment, and I had a hole about eight inches in diameter to look out,” he told Time magazine on the 60th anniversary of the atomic strikes. “I was the weaponeer – basically, I was in charge of the bomb. We flew to the rendezvous point, where we’d meet two other airplanes, one with instruments to measure the blast and another holding observers. The observer plane didn’t show up. We circled, and after about 35 minutes I said to pilot Sweeney, ‘Damn it, proceed to the first target.’
“Kokura was the target, but the bombardier couldn’t locate it because the area was clouded. So the navigator took us to Nagasaki. We had gotten a report that the area was clear, but we noticed undercast clouds. By this time, we’d used almost an hour’s gas at the rendezvous point, and the engineer was really sweating it. It was going to be nip and tuck. I went up to Sweeney and said, ‘We’re going to be able to make one run on this target – if we’re lucky.’ I told him to be prepared to use radar. This was in contradiction with orders we’d received that prohibited us from bombing without a visual target sight.”
“We were making our approach on radar and getting ready to drop when Beahan cries out, ‘I’ve got the target,’ ” he recalled, referring to Kermit Beahan, the bombardier. “As we’d gotten over Nagasaki, Beahan had looked into the undercast and saw that it had holes in it. He synched the cross hairs of his bomb-sight telescope and released the bomb.”
Frederick “Dick” Ashworth was awarded the Legion of Merit in 1946 for his work on the atomic bomb project.
Dick went on to command the aircraft carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1950’s and served as commander of the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean in the 1960’s.
Dick Ashworth also became the Commandant of Midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy.
Dick was promoted to vice admiral and served as commander of the United States Sixth Fleet from 1966 until his retirement from the Navy in 1968.
Dick retired and lived quietly for over three decades in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Dick Ashworth passed away in Phoenix, Arizona December 3, 2005 at the age of 93.
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