The Flight of the Hog Wild
Bill Streifer -- Irek Sabitov
A Preview
David Snell was a newspaperman, a radio commentator, a cartoonist and eventually Senior Editor of LIFE Magazine. But he is best remembered for a story about Japan's wartime nuclear weapons program that he submitted to the Atlanta Constitution upon his return from military service in Korea.
David Snell just prior to joining the ArmyIn a front-page headline story entitled "Japan Developed Atom Bomb; Russia Grabbed Scientists," Snell described the Japanese Navy's test of a nuclear weapon only three days before Japan's eventual surrender; a weapon, Snell said, which Japanese scientists had secretly developed in a chemical laboratory at Konan, now Hungnam, North Korea. After the test, "with the advance units of the Russian Army only hours away," Snell wrote, "the final scene of this gotterdammerung began…scientists and engineers smashed machines, and destroyed partially completed genzai bakudans," Japanese for "atomic bomb.
Upon publication, Dr. Yoshio Nishina, the world-renown Japanese physicist, called Snell a liar, the Russians called him a provocateur, and the Secretary of War categorically denied the story. And yet, for months prior to publication of Snell's story in the Atlanta Constitution, U.S. Army Intelligence in Seoul had heard consistent reports of nuclear activities at the Chosen Nitrogen Fertilizer Plant at Konan in northeastern Korea. Many of those reports were said to have come from Japanese refugees who had formerly held positions at the plant. According to one report, "The actual experiments on atomic energy were conducted in Japan and that the Hungnam plant was opened for the development of the practical application of atomic energy to a bomb or other military use."

Did the U.S. Army deny that the Japanese had conducted a nuclear test at Konan to prevent Japan's atomic know-how from falling into Russian hands?
Konan_POW_camp_and_chemical_plantSince their historic signing of the Soviet-Japanese Non-Aggression Pact on April 13, 1941, the Soviet Union remained neutral with Japan during the entirety of WWII. That is, until August 8, 1945, two days after the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. On that day, the Soviet government informed Japan that the situation had changed dramatically and it "here-by makes known to the Government of Japan its wish to denounce the pact." In a note to the Japanese Ambassador, the Soviet-Foreign Commissar Molotov informed Japan that a state of war existed between the two countries.
The following day, the Soviet Union began their massive invasion of Japanese-occupied Manchuria, the Sakhalin Islands and northern Korea. And by August 25th, the Russian Army had occupied much of Korea as far south as the 38th parallel including Heijo (Pyongyang), the future capital of North Korea, Kanko (Hamhung), North Korea's second largest city, and Konan (Hungnam), the home of the largest fertilizer and chemical complex in the Far East. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army's XXIV Corps on Okinawa awaited orders to begin the occupation of southern Korea, which only began in early-September of that year.
Russian_forces_occupy_northern_KoreaBefore the first American soldier stepped foot in Korea, Soviet forces entered Konan. There, they liberated hundreds of British and Australian prisoners, men who had endured more than three-and-a-half years in Japanese captivity. And where, for the last two years, they were forced to perform hard labor at a carbide factory located some 500 yards from the Konan POW camp. The Russians then led the Japanese officers and Korean guards away. And, according to Snell, the Russians also arrested Japanese scientists who had developed the atomic bomb at a chemical plant nearby. The scientists were then transported to Moscow where they were tortured for their atomic "know-how."
1st Lt. Joseph W. QueenFour days after the Russians arrived at Konan, two B-29 Superfortress bombers arrived over that city. With hundreds of half-starved Allied prisoners waving and cheering below, the B-29's dropped tons of food and medical supplies into the camp. Later that afternoon, a third B-29 arrived. Unlike the first two, the Hog Wild, unmarked and unannounced, began circling the Konan POW camp. When the Russians became suspicious, they sent up four Yak fighters to accompany the B-29 to a landing field nearby. When the Hog Wild's airplane commander, 1st Lt. Joseph W. Queen, refused to land his plane and flew out to sea instead, two of the Yaks pursued the B-29, firing its guns and cannon at the fleeing American bomber.
Hog_Wild_crew_with_B-29_in_KonanSeriously damaged with one of the B-29's four engines about to explode, six of the Hog Wild airmen bailed out into the Sea of Japan, the others crash-landed on shore. Miraculously, all men on board survived to tell their version of the story. The crew of the Hog Wild was then interrogated by Russian officers, and for the next ten days, while they awaited rescue, high-ranking American and Soviet officials exchanged angry messages, each blaming the other for the incident. According to the American press, however, the Russians quickly apologized after General MacArthur lodged a strongly worded protest.

The Flight of the Hog Wild is the detailed and well-documented history of nuclear activities in North Korea, and events surrounding the downing of a B-29 bomber "Hog Wild" by Soviet fighters over Konan, Korea on August 29, 1945.
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