At the tail end of the Korean War, Lew Weingard left Erie, Pennsylvania and wanted to fly planes in the Air Force. But it was not meant to be. So, after getting his commission from the enlisted ranks he was sent to post-war Japan and served with the 9th Fighter Bomber Squadron minding its top secret atomic bomb arsenal. “No one knew we had these ‘special weapons,’ as we called them,” Lou confides, “not even the Japanese government. My wife didn’t even know what I did.” The Cold War was heating up.
Lou’s mission in Japan may have been covert, but he and his family openly enjoyed living there for three years, travelling, making new friends, and experiencing the culture. “The Japanese people were very kind to us,” he admits.
Despite being the first day of spring 2014, it snowed the day we preserved the stories of five veterans from Tionesta, Pennsylvania: Victor Miesel, Lew Weingard, Rick Witherell, Lewis Cooke, and Bernie Polar.
We were enthusiastically invited to Tionesta by Mr. Miesel, an energetic 94 year old veteran of the Army Air Corps. We set up our mobile studio at Mt. Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. The quiet country location made for a perfect recording location.
We could not have asked for a more interesting day of amazing stories, the likes of which we’ve not heard before–ranging from the southern islands of the Pacific, post war Japan, the Kuwaiti desert, jungles of Vietnam, and the mountains of Korea.
“You’ve had a long day,” Victor consoled us. Sixteen hours from door to door. Sure, it was a long day, but we’re known to go the extra mile for a great story . . . or in this case, five of them!
Cold War Air Force veteran Lew Weingard of Tionesta, Pennsylvania talks with Kevin Farkas (director of Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Intiative) about his top secret duties managing the US atomic bomb arsenal in Japan during the 1950s.
At a moment’s notice, tactical atomic weapons could be delivered anywhere throughout Southeast Asia by long-range F-84s.