B-29/50 Superfortress
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Boeing B-29/50 Superfortress Gallery - Profiles

World War II

     U.S. Army Air Force organization of World War II was built on the group being the basic combat unit, and several groups were assigned to a wing.  The later U.S. Air Force / SAC organization virtually eliminated the group and the wing became the basic combat unit.  SAC's wings carried the linage and honors of  WWII groups having the same numeric designation.   In other words, SAC's 6th Bomb Wing was awarded the linage and honors of the earlier 6th Bomb Group.  This is especially important in following the B-29 because it was first flown by groups, then later by wings.    

First Blood - 58th Bomb Wing - China-Burma-India Theater

     President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised the Chinese that the United States would help to protect it from the Japanese.  The B-29 gave him the means to keep his word. The first operational B-29  unit was the 58th Wing.  It commanded the 40th, 444th, 462nd and 468th Bomb Groups.  Formed from hand-picked group commanders who had proven their mettle in the bombing of Europe and seasoned airmen, the 58th was trained, equipped and sent to the China-Burma-India Theater.  It was a risky venture, because the plane had not been adequately test-flown and was filled with bugs.  In spite of the obstacles, the 58th established forward bases in China so that it could begin its campaign against the Japanese steel industry.
      The 58th flew a shakedown mission to Bangkok on June 5, 1944 and the results were atrocious. 
98 aircraft were assigned to the mission, but mechanical problems caused 14 to abort prior to takeoff.  They were soon joined by others.  Only 77 bombers reached the target and due to poor visibility, more than half had to bomb by radar.  Five were lost on the way home by more mechanical demons. Navigation was so pitifully inadequate that a dozen planes landed at bases other than their home field and thirty others ended up landing on bases that weren't even part of the XX Bomb Commander.
     The B-29 could carry 20,000 pounds of bombs, which was 20 1,000 pound bombs.  The 77 aircraft that struck the target dropped a total of 1,540 bombs.  Post strike analysis showed that only 17 hit the target. Ten days later, the first B-29s attacked the Japanese homeland.  The target was the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata on the island of Kyushu and the result were even worse. 68 planes were dispatched, but only 47 bombed the target.  One plane was lost in combat and six others by mechanical failures.  Only one bomb hit a target and that was an accident.  It was a power house located 3/4ths of a mile from its assigned target. 
     Many of the later missions were flown at night, so the undersurfaces were painted black to help hide them in the night sky.  The above aircraft is from the 444th Bomb Group
      The strategic bombing of Japan from China fulfilled Roosevelt's political objective, that of aiding an ally, but was logistically unsound.  The 58th had to provide its own supply by flying gasoline, bombs, ammunition, food and other supplies over the Himalayan Mountains, which was referred to as "flying the hump."  The aircraft had to fly seven supply missions in order to fly one combat mission.  Some of the aircraft were modified as tankers.  They were stripped of armaments and their bomb bays were filled with additional fuel tanks.  Such an aircraft was the "Esso Express" of the 468th Bomb Group, shown above.  "Esso" was then the trade name of the Eastern Standard Oil Company and it had gasoline stations all over the U.S.
       On August 29, 1944, General Arnold turned over the XX Bomber Command to General Curtis Lemay, who had distinguished himself in the bombing of Europe.  He completely reorganized every aspect of operations and things did improve.  The subsequent missions provided the training programs that the crews had never had.  

Firebombing - The 73rd Bomb Wing - Isley Field, Saipan

       American ground forces captured the Marianas - a group of islands about 1,500 hundred miles from Japan.  Arnold saw them as providing the forward bases need by the B-29s.  The XX1 Bomber Command was formed to control them.  It then had but one wing: The 73rd was the second B-29 Wing.  It was composed of the 497th, 498th, 499th and 500th Bomb Groups.  On November 24, 1944, the wing bombed Tokyo, but results were poor.  Mechanical problems still plagued the aircraft and many crews ending up ditching in the vastness of the Pacific.  Later missions still yielded poor results.
      On January 20, 1945, the XX1 Bomber Command was turned over to General Curtis LeMay.  The 58th Bomb Wing was withdrawn from the China theater and assigned to LeMay's new command.
     Lemay was expected to immediately improve the results, but it took him a few missions for him to fully appreciate the situation.  He used several missions to conduct some tests, then, on March 9, 1945, he rewrote the book on strategic bombing.
     The B-29 Superfortress was covered with guns to protect it from fighters, but having encountered no significant fighter resistance, LeMay stripped the planes of their armor, guns and ammunition. The B-29 had been built for high-altitude precision bombing, but high winds and almost constant cloud cover over the targets made that impossible.  LeMay replaced the high explosive bombs with incendiary bombs and ordered his crews to bomb Tokyo at low altitude - 5,000 to 7,000 feet.  They were shocked and skeptical, but followed their orders.  Lucky Leven," of the 498th Bomb Group, flew that mission. 
      "Double Exposure," a F-13A flying with the 3rd Photo Recon Squadron was among the aircraft that provided photos showing bomb results.  The "fire-bombing" destroyed over sixteen square miles of the Japanese capitol.  Over the next ten days, Lemay had his crews firebomb five additional Japanese cities.  The "blitz" temporarily ended when the XXI Bomber Command ran out of incendiary bombs.  The fate of Japan was sealed." 

Aerial Mining - the 313th Bomb Wing - North Field, Tinian

  The 313th Bomb Wing arrived in the Marians in early February, 1945. It was initially composed of four bomb groups - the 6th, 9th, 504th, and 505th.  Assigned to General LeMay XXI Bomber Command, it participated in the fire-bombing raids, but its primary mission was the mining of Japanese sea lanes.
    The mining operation was conceived by the U.S. Navy.  At the time, it was considered a secondary mission, but later analysis revealed that it had a devastating effect.  Japan was an island nation highly dependent on imports, especially fuel and food.  The operation resulted in imports being reduced by almost 95%.  This caused enormous shortages.  Above: "Rattle N' Roll" from the 6th Bomb Group.  Note the pirate on the nose.  He was later adopted by SAC's 6th Bombardment Wing.
    "Big Time Operator," of the 9th Bomb Group

Strategic Bombing - the 314th Bomb Wing - Guam

   The 314th Wing began operations from Guam in February 1945.  It consisted of the 19th, 29th, 39th and 330th Bomb Groups.  It participated in the fire bombing, but the first ten day blitz resulting in the Army Air Forces running out of incendiary bombs.  Like her sister wings, the 314th then flew conventional missions using high explosive bombs.
     The 30th Bomb Squadron's "Bluetailfly" was assigned to the 19th Bomb Group.  It was the first B-29 in the Far East to complete 100 combat missions.  After the war, she remained in the Far East. By the she went home in 1952, she had flown a grand total of 142 missions.  The 19th Group insignia was displayed on the left side of the nose of all its B-29s.

Petroleum Industry Missions - The 315th Bomb Wing - Northwest Field, Guam

     A fifth B-29 wing arrived in June of 1945. The aircraft of the 315th were equipped with specially modified aircraft, armed only radar controlled tail turret and fitted with Eagle radar.  It's mission was the destruction of the Japanese petroleum industry, but that had already been largely accomplished by the fire-bombings. The 16th, 331st, 501st and 503 Bomb Groups were assigned tot he 315th Wing.
     "Thumper," went overseas with the 497th Bomb Group.

The Atomic Bombers - the 509th Composite Group - Hiroshima and Nagasaki

    On June 11, 1945, a mysterious group of B-29s began arriving at Tinian 's North Field.   Unlike other groups that had three squadrons, the 509th had only one - the 393rd.  It flew specially modified Martin built B-29s.  They had an extensively modified bomb bay to carry new type of bomb.  They had fuel injection engines and Curtiss reversible pitch propellers and were stripped of all but tail armament.  The aircraft were parked in an isolated and highly guarded section of the enormous base. 
      It was assigned to the 313th Bomb Wing and began flying test sorties.  Combat flight training began on June 20th. The group began a string of dozen strikes against carefully chosen Japanese cities, flying the mission with only two to six planes and dropping a single bulbous bomb, nicknamed "Fat Man."       
      Commanded by Colonel Paul Tibbets, the group had undergone extensive training in the states for a top secret mission. Only Col Tibbets knew its nature.  It was revealed on August 6, 1945, when the     Enola Gay" commanded by Col. Tibbets dropped the world first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, virtually wiping the city out of existence. 
    Three days later, "Bockscar," commanded by Captain Frederick Bock dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan surrendered. "Bockscar" operated in spurious 444th Group Markings as part of the security surrounding its mission.  The 509th Composite Group is regarded as the beginning of the Strategic Air Command.

The Strategic Air Command

      The Strategic Air Command was established March 1, 1946. It predates the United States Air Force, which was established by the National Defense Act that became law July 26, 1947.
      In October 1947, SAC combat units began reorganizing under the Hobson Plan.  Among other things, it made the wing the primary combat unit.  The group organization of World War II would soon become a thing of the past.  . 
     "Bedroom Eyes," flew sixty-one missions in Korea and survived the war.  She was with the 498th Bomb Group, one of the ten groups assigned to SAC, when it was first established. The 498th was stationed at MacDill Field Army Air Field, Florida.  It was inactivated on Aug 4, 1946.  
   On February 20, 1948, SAC took delivery on the first B-50.  It was delivered to the 43rd Bomb Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. The B-50 was essentially an improved version oft he B-29 Superfortress.  Among the changes were more powerful engines and a taller fin and rudder.  Like some B-29s, it was equipped for aerial refueling. 

The Korean War

    On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea.  General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, USAF Chief of Staff, ordered the 22nd and 92nd bomb Groups to deploy their B-29s to the Far East to carryout conventional bombing operations. The 22nd went to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa and the and the 92nd deployed to Yokota Air Base Japan, where it joined the 19th Bomb Group already stationed there. 
    All three wings were assigned to the operational control of the Far Eastern Air Force, (FEAT), under the command of Maj. Gen Emmett "Rosie" O'Donnell. 
   The Korean War resulted in SAC deploying its 22nd and 92nd Bomb Groups to the operational control of the  "Double Whammy" is credited with dropping the first bombs of the Korean War on June 28, 1950.  Her name and nose art were derived the cartoon character Evil Eye Fleagle from the Little Abner comic strip.  The Superfortress was lost during a night mission on January 22, 1952.
    "Spirit of Freeport" served the 22nd Bomb Wing during the Korean War.
     "Never Hoppen" flew over 90 missions with the 28th BS, 19th Bomb Group in Korea.
     The 19th Bomb Groups B-29 "Lucifer" 45-21745 was one of the three B-29s especially modified to carry the huge Tarzon bombs.  There were extensive revisions to the bomb bay and bomb bay doors. The radar was moved forward replacing the lower gun turret. The aircraft were also fitted with a B-50 nose piece to give the bombardier better visibility.