2LT Morris R. Jeppson
United States Army Air Corps
|Born June 23, 1923|
|Place of birth||Carson City, Nevada|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army Air Corps|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Morris Richard Jeppson (born June 23, 1923 in Carson City, Nevada) was a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He served as assistant weaponeer on the Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. Jeppson, along with Rear Admiral William Sterling Parsons were responsible for arming the bomb during the flight from Tinian to Japan. Jeppson's role was to remove the safety plugs from the weapon just before reaching the target area, a job that later caused controversy. In September 1945, Jeppson was awarded the Silver Star in recognition of his service to his country.
During the 1950s, Jeppson worked as a scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California developing hydrogen thermonuclear weapons. Later in his career, he helped develop several key technological breakthroughs including microwave technology as well as stabilizers used on helicopters.
For many years, Jeppson refused to speak publicly about the mission for fear of reprisal against himself and his family. In recent years, he has been more willing to speak about his service to his country through interviews. On the 45th anniversary of the dropping of the bomb in 1990, Jeppson granted an interview and recounted his part in the mission.
A reunion for the 60th anniversary in 2005 which was supposed to take place on the island of Guam had been in the planning stages, but never materialized.
A controversy over the sale of a set of safety plugs Jeppson had kept since the mission occurred in June 2002. The bomb was protected during flight from a premature detonation by the insertion of four safety plugs into its electrical connection from its internal battery to the firing mechanism to prevent a firing voltage from reaching the mechanism. Each was about the size and shape of a car cigarette lighter (approximately three inches in length), with a green cap for the safety plug and a red cap for the arming plug. After the mission Jeppson had kept one of each in his possession.
The plugs were offered for sale in an auction, however the United States Government tried to halt the sale claiming they were classified secret material. US District Court Judge Susan Illston rejected the claim by the government clearing the way for the sale. The plugs were eventually sold to retired physicist Clay Perkins for $167,000.
TIME Magazine published an in-depth issue commemorating the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the bombs on Japan. Jeppson and other crew members gave accounts of their experiences.
Now retired from his work as a physicist, Jeppson lives in Las Vegas with his second wife. He has three children, five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.