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Pacific theater holds strong ties to Airman's family history

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sonya Padilla
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
"I was a military man doing a military mission," quoted Lt. Col. Elizabeth Sweeney, an Airmen deployed to Andersen in support of Valiant Shield, as she described her father's account of his actions during World War II.
For her, the story of events and unimaginable experiences of that day are just some of the lifelong memories that she will never forget.
Sixty-two years ago American aircrews released atomic bombs on two Japanese cities in an effort to draw WWII to a close. Among the personnel on the B-29 missions, was Colonel Sweeney's father, Brig. Gen. Charles W. Sweeney - the only man to fly as part of both missions.
On Aug. 6, 1945, then 25-year-old Major Sweeney, piloted a photographic and observer B-29 close beside the B-29 "Enola Gay" which dropped it's payload on Hiroshima.
According to General Sweeney's Air Force biography, the reluctance of the Japanese to surrender forced the military to conduct a second mission on Aug. 9, 1945. Major Sweeney piloted the B-29 bomber which droped its atomic payload over Nagasaki.
When Colonel Sweeney heard that she would have the opportunity to visit the Pacific, she didn't hesitate.
Colonel Sweeney is assigned to the 157th Air Refueling Wing, Logistics Readiness Squadron, at Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H. She deployed to Andersen for Valiant Shield to provide logistics support for the Airmen assigned to the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron.
She said life as the child of the man who dropped the bomb on Nagasaki was pretty interesting.
"I lived with somewhat of a fear that someone would try to end his life," she said.
"Growing up hearing people call my father a mass murderer was very difficult for my family, but I have no regret about my dad's actions," Colonel Sweeney added. "It ended the war. One more life being lost one more day is way too many."
She said her deployment to Guam added another dimension to her father's experiences.
"I immediately felt the presence of WWII coming to this island," said Colonel Sweeney.
While on temporary duty here, she had the opportunity to fly over Tinian, the island, located five miles southwest of Saipan, where the B-29 missions carrying the atomic bombs were launched.
"Having the opportunity to be that much closer to where history was made and the chance to fly over Tinian was a lifelong goal for me that I'll cherish forever," she said.
Colonel Sweeney said that people often ask her if she joined the Air Force because of the legacy her father carries.
She said she entered the Air Force for her own reasons.
"I joined so that others may live in freedom," said Colonel Sweeney.   "I've always had a passion and so much pride for the military.  When you're surrounded by that much love and that many people, you grow up pretty happy!"

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