July 4, 1915 – March 21, 1993
From a contemporary news report:
“Woodrow Swancutt, a retired Air Force Major General who was a decorated World War II pilot and who later flew the plane that dropped a test atomic bomb on Bikini Atoll, died while walking near his home in San Antonio, Texas. He collapsed from cardiac failure.
“The Bikini detonation on July 1, 1946 was the fourth atomic explosion in history. But it was the first publicized in advance and subjected to careful scientific measurements. The secret Manhattan Project executed a hurried experimental explosion of the first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945. Later that year, the second bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, and the third was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9.
“In the war, he flew 49 combat missions in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations. He was among the pilots in the first daylight air attack on Japan and was also chosen to fly Lord Mountbatten, Allied Commander of Southeast Asia, to a conference in Washington. His war services earned him the Distinguished Service Medal, the Presidential Unit Award, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.
“He was later wing commander at Lockbourne Air Force Base; Deputy Director of Operations and Plans at the Strategic Air Command Headquarters; Division Commander at Turner Air Force Base and Director of Operations at Headquarters, U.S. Air Force. After retiring from the military in 1958, he became executive vice president of Executive Jet Aviation in Columbus, Ohio.
“Born at Edgar, Wisconsin, he attended the University of Wisconsin. He was National College Athletic Association's champion boxer in the 155-pound class in 1939 and was the only boxer to retain his title in 1940. That same year he interrupted his pre-medical studies to enlist in the Army Air Corps. His marriage to the former Kathleen Haza ended in divorce. Survivors include a son, two daughters, a brother, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.”
He died on March 21, 1993 and was buried in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery.
The first atomic bomb test done during peace time, and the fourth atomic explosion in history, was carried out by a B-29 Superfortress piloted by 1933 La Crosse Central High School graduate Woodrow “Woody” Swancutt. Major Swancutt was commander of a B-29 crew that beat out three other crack bomber crews in an intense competition to see whose plane would drop the bomb. The atomic test took place at Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific on July 1, 1946.
Swancutt, who was born July 4, 1915, in Edgar, Wisconsin, flew 49 combat missions in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations during World War II. He was a pilot on the first daylight B-29 mission to bomb Japan and was chosen to fly Lord Mountbatten, allied commander of Southeast Asia, to a conference in Washington, D.C. During the war, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the Presidential Unit Award, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.
After graduating from Central High School, Swancutt, whose nickname in high school was “Einstein,” enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study medicine. In 1939 and 1940, he was the NCAA boxing champion in the 155-pound class. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1940.
Swancutt retired from the Air Force as a major general. He died in San Antonio, Texas, in 1993 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard