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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

James Hopkins, Jr.

Aircraft Commander on Big StinkNagasaki Mission

Tinian IslandWendover, UT
509th Composite GroupManhattan Project VeteranMilitary VeteranNagasaki Mission
James Hopkins. Photo courtesy of Richard H. Campbell and Leon D. Smith.

Lt. Col. James Iredell Hopkins, Jr. served in the 509th Headquarters and Base Services Squadron. He was the Group Operations Manager for the 509th. He participated in the mission to Nagasaki as the aircraft commander of the Big Stink, though he was regularly assigned to the Necessary Evil. Hopkins died in a mysterious crash in the North Atlantic in 1951, with his 52 colleagues. 

Hopkins attended Texas A&M University for three years, before enlisting in the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program. In 1944, Hopkins served as the Operations Officer for the 509th, stationed at Wendover Field, Utah.

After the war ended, Hopkins continued to serve as the 509th Operations Officer. In February 1946 he was deployed to Kwajalein Atoll, and by the end of the year he returned to the Roswell Army Air Field.

James’ son, Jim Hopkins, has reflected on his father’s work. 

James Hopkins, Jr.'s Timeline
1918 Dec 4th Born in Palestine, Texas.
1940 Jun 25th1941 Feb 7th Flight Cadet training.
1941 Feb 15th Married Catherine Mary Williamson in Anderson, Texas.
1942 Feb 1st Promoted to First Lieutenant.
1942 Jul 7th Promoted to Captain.
1942 Jul 20th Deployed from Morrison Field Florida to begin trip to North Africa. During his time in Africa, nine months, he completed 43 combat missions.
1943 May 15th Promoted to Major.
1945 Aug 28th Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
1951 Mar 23rd Died in a transatlantic flight.

A-4 Crew. Photo courtesy of Leon D. Smith and Richard H. Campbell.

Standing (left to right):  2nd Lt. Louis B. Allen, 2nd Lt. John W. Dulin, Major James I. Hopkins, Jr.,

   2nd Lt. William J. Desmond, 1st Lt. Robert M. Donnell.

Kneeling (left to right):  S/Sgt. James H. Doiron, S/Sgt. William J. Cotter, Sgt. Samuel R. Wheeler,

   S/Sgt. William J. Spradlin.

Map showing routes of the 509th Composite Group missions

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