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August 9, 2010

Beverly native's role in atomic bomb overlooked

BEVERLY — As the world today marks the 65th anniversary of the day the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, the name of Frederick "Dick" Ashworth is likely to come up.

Ashworth was the U.S. Navy officer who served as the weaponeer on the B-29 that dropped the bomb on Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the first atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima.

He was also a central figure in the top-secret planning that led up to the bombings. It was his decision to select the island of Tinian as the base for both missions. Six days after Ashworth's Nagasaki mission, Japan surrendered, marking the end of World War II.

Despite the fact that Ashworth played such a key role in those historic events, chances are that few people on the North Shore realize that he is one of their own.

Ashworth was born in Beverly, grew up in Wenham, and graduated from Beverly High School in 1928. His father, Fred, worked for 43 years at the United Shoe Machinery Corp. in Beverly, sang in the choir at the First Baptist Church, and was president of the Beverly Rotary Club. His mother, Minnie, served on the Wenham School Committee and volunteered for years at the Wenham Historical Association and Museum.

Local historian Ed Brown said Ashworth's place in history is either overlooked or completely unknown on the North Shore. Even Brown did not know about Ashworth's local roots until 2001.

"More people should know about him," Brown said. "He was a brave man who was dedicated to serving his country."

Roots in Beverly, Wenham

According to Brown's 2006 book about Ashworth, "What Only Two Could Do," Ashworth was born in Beverly in 1912. He was baptized at the First Baptist Church, lived the first six years of his life in his family's home on Larcom Avenue in the Prospect Hill section of the city, and attended first grade at the former Prospect School.

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