Mission Possible: U Graduate Delivers 3 Secret Packages

By By Carrie Andrew

By Carrie Andrew

As an Air Force pilot in World War II, T. Upton Ramsey flew not one, but three highly secretive missions.

Ramsey joined the U.S. Army Air Force in January 1942. He and a few friends, like many other young college students, decided to sign up after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“We went to the Navy first, and the doctor scratched my chest and said my skin was too thin to be in the Navy. So we went right across the hall to the Air Corps,” Ramsey said.

After completing training in New Mexico, Ramsey was stationed in Norwich, where he was assigned to lead a group of fighters to North Africa.

There, he flew sea sweep missions to destroy German tankers in an effort to cut off supplies for their troops in North Africa. It was also at this time that Ramsey flew his first secret mission.

“I went to Sardinia and delivered this great big box. I did not know until later that the mission was to pay off the Italians to surrender. They didn’t capitulate because they wanted to. They wanted money. They paid them off in solid gold,” he explained.

After completing the mandatory 50 missions, Ramsey waited for a week to be sent home. When no replacement crew arrived, he volunteered to fly four more missions to targets of his choice.

Though Ramsey returned to the United States, he continued flying B-29s out of Omaha. That’s when he was given the Silver Plate Job.

“I picked up a new 29 in Omaha. It was being delivered to Wendover, Utah, and since that was close to my home in Salt Lake City, I was given the job of delivering it,” Ramsey explained.

Upon arrival at Wendover, someone in authority signed for the airplane, and Ramsey and his crew were shuttled to the Salt Lake Airport.

Ramsey had a three-day pass to stay in Salt Lake, but when he protested being taken to the airport, the driver said, “General LeMay wants you back in Omaha today.”

Back in Omaha, Ramsey explained, “The general wanted to know why we had called it the Silver Plate Job. We told him everyone in the factory where [the B-29] was made referred to it that way. He looked us straight in the eye and said, ‘You will not discuss this with anyone for five years after the war or you’ll all be court martialled.'”

Later that month, Ramsey’s co-pilot brought the morning paper to Ramsey’s attention. The front page contained a photograph of the B-29 that had dropped an atomic bomb on Japan the day before.

“It was my plane,” Ramsey said he realized upon close examination of the photo. “And that is the plane that was known as the Enola Gay.”

Ramsey embarked on his last secret mission after the second atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. It began by transporting another wooden box from California to Tokyo.

“I didn’t know what was in the secret box until I got there,” Ramsey explained. “The general who met me was very nice and asked if we were not curious about what was in the box. In unison, we all said, ‘Yes.’ He explained it contained the flag that was flying on the U.S. Capitol the day Pearl Harbor was bombed and was being used for the surrender ceremonies on the Missouri.”

Ramsey and his crew were in attendance at the surrender ceremony.