Man finds records indicating his father played a role in ending WWII | Functions

ROGERSVILLE — While rummaging through filing cabinets his father had left him, Eric Spangler came across a photo of a device that helped change the course of World War II.

Eric’s father, Harry L. Spangler, helped invent a mechanism that loaded the Big Boy, also known as the Fat Man atomic bomb, aboard a B-29 bomber.

The name of this special B-29 was the Bockscar. This aircraft would go down in history as the second aircraft to drop an atomic bomb during combat.

The Enola Gay was the first to drop an atomic bomb in warfare. This incident was a few days before that of the Bockscar.

Eric, 72, believes the atomic bomb photographed is the Fat Man because of its sheer size; however, the name of the bomb depicted is unknown. What is known is that it was one of two that was dropped on Japan.

The Enola Gay dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

According to the National WWII Museum, the bombings resulted in more than 80,000 Japanese casualties.

The Bockscar released the Fat Man on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Based on statistics found on, the Fat Man’s efficiency was “10 times that of Little Boy”. According to Newsweek, approximately 40,000 people were killed instantly.

The use of the atomic bombs is still a subject of moral controversy.

“Without the atomic bomb, it is impossible to say how many millions of Americans would have died trying to defeat Japan,” Eric said. “And that bomb ended the war quickly, you know?”

Eric decided that the story behind the photo was worth sharing because of the device’s significance in the war. Eric said that “the photo is of the mechanism where they actually loaded the Big Boy nuclear weapon.”

Considering that Harry helped invent the device, Eric felt “it was well worth mentioning what he had done to serve his country.”

Life on the farm

Harry grew up on a farm in Peterstown, West Virginia. According to Eric, growing up on a farm “shapes a person’s character very quickly” because of the “an awful lot of hard work they do”.

Eric told a story from his father’s childhood: “I remember him telling me that he worked all summer for a year and that his pay was basically a beehive. …” Eric continued that his father’s experience “instilled in him many qualities that made him a little bit special.”

In light of Harry’s farm work, he was able to gain “a kind of mental toughness,” Eric said. These characteristics would be useful in his military career.

military life

In his early twenties, Harry enlisted in the military and became an officer in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

The Army Air Corps evolved into its own branch of the military on June 20, 1941. According to, the separation would mean “greater autonomy from the military’s chain of command”.

The Department of the Air Force was established in 1947.

Harry transferred to the Army Reserves, where he reached the rank of Major.

While in the military, Harry was called “to help with the atomic bomb project,” Eric said. He had previously been stationed “for several years abroad”.

A life-changing event

“The thing that was kind of amazing about my dad was that while he was on the reservations he had a gun and a gun and was basically cleaning it, and basically there was a bullet that went into a room and hit one or the other. went off in a different way.”

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As a result, “the bullet went through his cheek, through his nose, and took out his left eye,” Eric said. He refers to a photo in which his father wears a glass eye.

Harry pursued a career with “a major investment company at the time” after retiring.

“What’s amazing is that even with everything that was against him…he led the nation in sales every year.” said Eric. The investment company “had more than 2,000 sellers.”

“I mean with all that stuff stacked against him, he never used that as a crutch to be an advantage.”

A military family

Eric’s father was not the only man in his family in the military. Many of Eric’s relatives, including himself, served the country.

“My whole family was involved in the military.” said Eric. “My brother was an E7 in special units. Of course my father served in World War II. And all my uncles were in the navy or army in World War II, so my whole family had military legacies everywhere. I even think my great-great-grandfather fought in the Civil War.”

Eric’s decision to serve was influenced by his family’s previous involvement, although Eric said service was virtually mandatory at the time.

Eric was “a little better than seven years on active duty.” He served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army after graduating from ETSU in 1971. He later took “resigned on commission”.

On his return, he flew helicopters in the army reserve. In 1990 he retired.

Eric amassed a “total of nearly 20 years of service.”

civil life

Harry attended high school in Peterstown, Virginia.

After graduation, he enrolled in a university, but which one is unclear. There he studied to become a teacher.

He taught at Richland High School as a physics teacher. He did this for an estimated few years until he eventually enlisted in the military.

war stories

Eric told some war stories that his father shared with him: ‘He told about the war situations going on abroad and about major crashes. Some planes came back because they were all shot down.”

Eric said his father spoke of the P-38 Lightning, a “dominant aircraft.” According to Eric, “The enemy wouldn’t like to see that. In fact, if the Germans saw a P-38, ‘Achtung Lightning!’ You know, get out of here, or watch out for P-38 to shoot us all.”

The planes were not the only topics of discussion. Eric said his father “would also talk about training people on the 50-caliber machine gun for the bombers.”

“He would tell all kinds of stories.” said Eric. His stories were “interesting because he was really there.”

Words of wisdom

Eric acquired the photo of the mechanism from his father years after his death in 2001.

“My father was a typical American… of that generation. Very tough. Very dedicated,” Eric says. “I wish there was more of him.”

Harry told his son, “The saddest words of a heartwarming pen are those few words that could have been.” In simpler terms: “Don’t get so caught up in what could have been; just get caught up in doing it.”

Eric is proud to honor the memory of his father and other veterans like him. As Eric said, WWII veterans are “very special people, and I wish there were more of them.”

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