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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Thomas J. Classen

Deputy Commander of the 509th Composite GroupTinian Island

Wendover, UT
509th Composite GroupManhattan Project VeteranMilitary Veteran
Col. Thomas Classen

Lt. Col. Thomas John Classen served as a lieutenant colonel in the 393rd Bombardment Squadron.

By 1943, Tom was the captain of the 72nd Squadron. They operated from both Espiritu Santo and Guadalcanal during this time. They flew 49 missions by February 9, 1943. After a 30 day leave, Tom was assigned to the 9th Bomb Group.

When this Group disbanded, Classen was asked to become the commander of the 393rd Bombardment Squadron. He was well respected by his fellow officers and enlisted men. The 393rd was secretly selected to become the Group tasked with dropping the nuclear bombs over Japan.

He was the regularly assigned aircraft commander for the Big Stink, with Crew A-5, and he and his crew were later reassigned to Luke the Spook at Roswell Field. Under the command of Colonel Paul Tibbets Jr., Classen was advanced to Deputy Group Commander of the 509th Composite Group.

After the war Classen continued his USAAF and USAF careers, serving as the Director of Operations and Training Headquarters of the Alaska Air Command. He and his wife Rose were very active in wildlife preservation and protection. 

Thomas J. Classen's Timeline
1918 Oct 8th Born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
1940 Mar Enlisted in the Army Air Corps (AAC).
1941 Feb 8th Graduated from the AAC in Kelly Field, Texas, as a Second Lieutenant.
1943 May 1st Awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on 2/9/1943.
1944 Sep The 393rd Squadron is detached from the 504th BG.
1964 Jun Retired from the USAF.
2009 May 15th Passed away in College, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska.

Portrait of Classen. Photo courtesy of Robert Krauss.

A-5 Crew. Photo courtesy of the 509th Pictorial Album and Richard H. Campbell. Top row (left to right):  Cpl. George A. Weller, Cpl. Lee E. Caylor, S/Sgt. Alfred A. Lewandowski, 2nd Lt.William M. Rowe, Jr., T/Sgt. Omar G. Strickland. Kneeling (left to right): Lt. Col. Thomas J. Classen, Capt. William E. Wright, 1st Lt. Floyd W. Kemner, Capt. Bobby J. Chapman.

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