F.C. Bock, 82, Monitor of Nagasaki Bombing
By Wolfgang Saxon, , August 29, 2000
Frederick C. Bock, a retired scientific researcher who piloted one of the planes monitoring the drop of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945, died on Friday at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 82.
The cause was cancer, his family said.
Dr. Bock flew a plane used to measure and photograph the devastating explosion. It came three days after the first bomb destroyed Hiroshima.
A civilian observer on Captain Bock's B-29 Superfortress was William L. Laurence, science writer for The New York Times, whose account of the mission won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting in 1946.
Mr. Laurence, in his book "Dawn Over Zero" (Knopf, 1946), described how the nine men of the crew and the plane's maze of instruments had melded into a single smoothly functioning unit.
"I watched Capt. Frederick C. Bock, the pilot of our ship, go through the intricate motions of lifting a B-29 off the ground and marveled at the quiet efficiency of this Michigan boy who had majored in philosophy at Chicago University," Mr. Laurence wrote. "I talked to him on the ground and I was amazed at the transformation that had taken place. Man and machine had become one, a modern centaur."
Born in Greenville, Mich., Frederick Carl Bock graduated from the University of Chicago in 1939 and enrolled in a graduate program in philosophy. When the United States entered World War II, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces and became a pilot.
He flew combat missions from India across "the Hump" of the Himalayas. Later he was part of heavy bombing raids against Japanese targets flown out of China.
He was selected for the 509th Composite Group of B-29's, secretly assembled in December 1944 under Col. Paul Tibbets, who commanded the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the bomb over Hiroshima. In the second raid, Captain Bock's instrument plane was dubbed Great Artiste, while his squadron commander, Maj. Charles Sweeney, flew the captain's usual bomber, which he had named Bockscar, to drop the bomb on Nagasaki.
Dr. Bock rose to the rank of major and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. After the war he returned to Chicago for his Ph.D. in zoology, specializing in genetics and mathematical statistics.
While working at research institutes in Chicago, he developed algorithms for efficient strategies to solve complex problems. He retired in 1986 as a research scientist for Baxter Travenol Laboratories, for which he established a mathematical model of peritoneal dialysis.
Dr. Bock is survived by his wife of 53 years, Helen Lossman Bock; two daughters, Katherine Jocz of Cambridge, Mass., and Heidi Teraberry of Arvada, Colo.; a son, Wyman, of Cheam, England; a sister, Gretchen Bock of Phoenix; two grandsons; and four great-grandchildren.
The Bockscar is on display at the Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio. But for all the individual medals for their crews, the 509th as a unit never got an official decoration.
Only last September, and partly on Dr. Bock's prompting, the secretary of the Air Force awarded the squadron the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, with valor, for exceptional service in combat.
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© 2000 by Neil Mishalov