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Dick Jeppson, who armed first atomic bomb, dies

Emma Brown

On Aug. 6, 1945, 12 Americans flying aboard the Enola Gay B-29 bomber changed the course of World War II (and the future of global geopolitics) when they dropped the "Little Boy" atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

One of them was Dick Jeppson, then a 23-year-old second lieutenant in the Army Air Forces who was charged with arming the bomb's electrical system during flight while en route to Hiroshima.

Mr. Jeppson died March 30 at a hospital in Las Vegas. His wife, Molly Jeppson, said he died in his sleep after being hospitalized with a violent headache.

That August day in 1945, the Enola Gay took off from Tinian Island in the Pacific at 2:45 in the morning. Lt. Jeppson and his boss, Navy Capt. William "Deak" Parsons, crawled into the bomb bay and armed the bomb, with Lt. Jeppson completing the weapon's electrical circuit by pulling out three green safety plugs and replacing them wtih three red firing plugs.

"Little Boy" killed more than 100,000 Japanese. Eight days later, the Japanese agreed to surrender to the Allies, ending World War II. Lt. Jeppson said he never regretted his role in dropping the atomic warhead. conventional war could have led to more carnage.

"It's not a proud thing, it's a devastating thing," he told the Associated Press in 2003. "It's unfortunate, but it probably saved hundreds of thousands of American lives and many more Japanese lives."

He received the Silver Star and went on to a civilian career in electronics and applied radiation.

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By Emma Brown  |  April 6, 2010; 5:09 PM ET
Categories:  Emma Brown , Military  | Tags: Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Dick Jeppson died, Enola Gay, History, Japan, Little Boy, Nuclear weapon, Twentieth Century, World War II  
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