Boeing B-29 Superfortress

Last updated

B-29 Superfortress
B-29 in flight.jpg
A USAAF B-29 Superfortress
Role Strategic bomber, Heavy bomber
Manufacturer Boeing
First flight21 September 1942 [1]
Introduction8 May 1944
Retired21 June 1960
StatusRetired (see Surviving aircraft)
Primary users United States Army Air Forces
United States Air Force
Royal Air Force
Produced1943–1946 [2]
Number built3,970
Unit cost
US$639,188 [3] (Prototype cost $3,392,396.60.) [4]
Variants All models
Boeing KB-29 Superfortress
XB-39 Superfortress
Boeing XB-44 Superfortress
Boeing B-50 Superfortress
Developed into Boeing 377 Stratocruiser
Tupolev Tu-4
Boeing assembly line at Wichita, Kansas (1944) Boeing-Whichata B-29 Assembly Line - 1944.jpg
Boeing assembly line at Wichita, Kansas (1944)

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber designed by Boeing, which was flown primarily by the United States during World War II and the Korean War. It was one of the largest aircraft operational during World War II and featured state-of-the-art technology. Including design and production, at over $3 billion it was the most expensive weapons project in the war, exceeding the $1.9 billion cost of the Manhattan Project—using the value of dollars in 1945. [5] [6] Innovations introduced included a pressurized cabin, dual-wheeled, tricycle landing gear, and an analog computer-controlled fire-control system directing four remote machine gun turrets that could be operated by one gunner and a fire-control officer. A manned tail gun installation was semi-remote. The name "Superfortress" continued the pattern Boeing started with its well-known predecessor, the B-17 Flying Fortress. Designed for the high-altitude strategic bombing, the B-29 also excelled in low-altitude night incendiary bombing. One of the B-29's final roles during World War II was carrying out the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Propeller (aeronautics) aircraft component which converts engine torque into forward thrust

An aircraft propeller, or airscrew, converts rotary motion from an engine or other power source, into a swirling slipstream which pushes the propeller forwards or backwards. It comprises a rotating power-driven hub, to which are attached several radial airfoil-section blades such that the whole assembly rotates about a longitudinal axis. The blade pitch may be fixed, manually variable to a few set positions, or of the automatically-variable "constant-speed" type.

Heavy bomber bomber aircraft of the largest size and load carrying capacity

Heavy bombers are bomber aircraft capable of delivering the largest payload of air-to-ground weaponry and longest range of their era. Archetypal heavy bombers have therefore usually been among the largest and most powerful military aircraft at any point in time. In the second half of the 20th century, heavy bombers were largely superseded by strategic bombers, which were often smaller in size, but were capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

Boeing Aerospace and defense manufacturer in the United States

The Boeing Company is an American multinational corporation that designs, manufactures, and sells airplanes, rotorcraft, rockets, satellites, and missiles worldwide. The company also provides leasing and product support services. Boeing is among the largest global aircraft manufacturers; it is the fifth-largest defense contractor in the world based on 2017 revenue, and is the largest exporter in the United States by dollar value. Boeing stock is included in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.


Because of the B-29's advanced design, unlike other wartime bombers, the Superfortress remained in service long after the war ended, with a few even being employed as flying television transmitters for the Stratovision company. The B-29 served in various roles throughout the 1950s. The Royal Air Force flew the B-29 as the Washington until 1954. The Soviet Union produced an unlicensed reverse-engineered copy as the Tupolev Tu-4. The B-29 was the progenitor of a series of Boeing-built bombers, transports, tankers, reconnaissance aircraft and trainers including the B-50 Superfortress (the first aircraft to fly around the world non-stop in 94 hours in 1949) which was a re-engined B-29. The type was retired in the early 1960s, after 3,970 had been built. Dozens of B-29s remain as static displays but only two examples, Fifi and Doc, have been restored to flying status, with Doc flying again for the first time from McConnell AFB on 17 July 2016. [7]


Stratovision was an airborne television transmission relay system from aircraft flying at high altitudes. In 1945 the Glenn L. Martin Co. and Westinghouse Electric Corporation advocated television coverage of small towns and rural areas as well as the large metropolitan centers by fourteen aircraft that would provide coverage for approximately 78% of the people in the United States. This system has been used for domestic broadcasting in the United States, and used by the U.S. military in South Vietnam and other countries.

Royal Air Force Aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain.

Tupolev Tu-4 Strategic bomber aircraft reverse engineered from Boeing B-29

The Tupolev Tu-4 was a piston-engined Soviet strategic bomber that served the Soviet Air Force from the late 1940s to mid-1960s. It was reverse-engineered from the American Boeing B-29 Superfortress.

A transport developed from the B-29 was the Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter, first flown in 1944, followed by its commercial airliner variant, the Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser in 1947. This bomber-to-airliner derivation was similar to the B-17/Model 307 evolution. In 1948 Boeing introduced a tanker variant of the B-29 as the KB-29, followed by the Model 377-derivative KC-97 introduced in 1950. A modified line of outsized-cargo variants of the Stratocruiser is the Guppy  / Mini Guppy  / Super Guppy, which remain in service with operators including NASA.

Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter military transport aircraft series by Boeing

The Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter is a long-range heavy military cargo aircraft developed from the B-29 and B-50 bombers. Design work began in 1942, with the prototype's first flight being on 9 November 1944, and the first production aircraft entered service in 1947. Between 1947 and 1958, 888 C-97s in several versions were built, 811 being KC-97 tankers. C-97s served in the Berlin Airlift, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Some aircraft served as flying command posts for the Strategic Air Command, while others were modified for use in Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadrons (ARRS).

Boeing 377 Stratocruiser four-engine propeller-driven airliner

The Boeing 377 Stratocruiser was a large long-range airliner developed from the C-97 Stratofreighter military transport, itself a derivative of the B-29 Superfortress. The Stratocruiser's first flight was on July 8, 1947. Its design was advanced for its day; its innovative features included two passenger decks and a pressurized cabin, a relatively new feature on transport aircraft. It could carry up to 100 passengers on the main deck plus 14 in the lower deck lounge; typical seating was for 63 or 84 passengers or 28 berthed and five seated passengers.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber aircraft by Boeing

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engined heavy bomber developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). Competing against Douglas and Martin for a contract to build 200 bombers, the Boeing entry outperformed both competitors and exceeded the air corps' performance specifications. Although Boeing lost the contract because the prototype crashed, the air corps ordered 13 more B-17s for further evaluation. From its introduction in 1938, the B-17 Flying Fortress evolved through numerous design advances, becoming the third-most produced bomber of all time, behind the four-engined B-24 and the multirole, twin-engined Ju 88.

Design and development

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress served as the United States' primary strategic bomber during World War II. However, this aircraft was deemed inadequate for use in the Pacific Theater. The United States Army Air Corps concluded that a very long range bomber that could carry a significantly larger payload over 3000 miles was necessary. [8]

Asiatic-Pacific Theater area of operations of U.S. forces during the Pacific War of 1941-45

The Asiatic-Pacific Theater, was the theater of operations of U.S. forces during World War II in the Pacific War during 1941–45. From mid-1942 until the end of the war in 1945, there were two U.S. operational commands in the Pacific. The Pacific Ocean Areas (POA), divided into the Central Pacific Area, the North Pacific Area and the South Pacific Area, were commanded by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief Pacific Ocean Areas. The South West Pacific Area (SWPA) was commanded by General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander South West Pacific Area. During 1945, the United States added the United States Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific, commanded by General Carl A. Spaatz.

United States Army Air Corps air warfare branch of the US Army from 1926 to 1941

The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) was the aerial warfare service of the United States of America between 1926 and 1941. After World War I, as early aviation became an increasingly important part of modern warfare, a philosophical rift developed between more traditional ground-based army personnel and those who felt that aircraft were being underutilized and that air operations were being stifled for political reasons unrelated to their effectiveness. The USAAC was renamed from the earlier United States Army Air Service on 2 July 1926, and was part of the larger United States Army. The Air Corps became the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 20 June 1941, giving it greater autonomy from the Army's middle-level command structure. During World War II, although not an administrative echelon, the Air Corps (AC) remained as one of the combat arms of the Army until 1947, when it was legally abolished by legislation establishing the Department of the Air Force.

The length of the 141-foot (43 m) wing span of a Boeing B-29 Superfortress based at Davis-Monthan Field is vividly illustrated here with the cloud-topped Santa Catalina Mountains as a contrasting background. Boeing B-29 Superfortress at Davis-Monthan AFB.jpg
The length of the 141-foot (43 m) wing span of a Boeing B-29 Superfortress based at Davis-Monthan Field is vividly illustrated here with the cloud-topped Santa Catalina Mountains as a contrasting background.
YB-29 Superfortresses in flight. Olive-drab painted B-29 superfortress.jpg
YB-29 Superfortresses in flight.
A Superfortress returns from a training mission to its base at this Training Command B-29 Transition School. B29.maxwell.750pix.jpg
A Superfortress returns from a training mission to its base at this Training Command B-29 Transition School.
1000th B-29 delivery ceremony at Boeing Wichita plant in February 1945. Favored by Warm breezes and under a blue Kansas Sky, a vast crowd attends the delivery ceremony on the Boeing-Wichita... - NARA - 196890.jpg
1000th B-29 delivery ceremony at Boeing Wichita plant in February 1945.

In response, Boeing began work on pressurized long-range bombers in 1938. Boeing's design study for the Model 334 was a pressurized derivative of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress with nosewheel undercarriage. Although the Air Corps did not have money to pursue the design, Boeing continued development with its own funds as a private venture. [9] In April 1939, Charles Lindbergh convinced general Henry H. Arnold to produce a new bomber in large numbers to counter the Nazi production. [10] The Air Corps issued a formal specification for a so-called "superbomber", capable of delivering 20,000 lb (9,100 kg) of bombs to a target 2,667 mi (4,292 km) away and capable of flying at a speed of 400 mph (640 km/h) in December 1939. Boeing's previous private venture studies formed the starting point for its response to this specification. [11]

Tricycle landing gear aircraft undercarriage arranged with main gear under the wing or fuselage and a third set under the nose

Tricycle gear is a type of aircraft undercarriage, or landing gear, arranged in a tricycle fashion. The tricycle arrangement has a single nose wheel in the front, and two or more main wheels slightly aft of the center of gravity. Tricycle gear aircraft are the easiest to take-off, land and taxi, and consequently the configuration is the most widely used on aircraft.

Charles Lindbergh American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist

Charles Augustus Lindbergh was an American aviator, military officer, author, inventor, explorer, and environmental activist. At age 25 in 1927, he went from obscurity as a U.S. Air Mail pilot to instantaneous world fame by winning the Orteig Prize: making a nonstop flight from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, to Paris, France. Lindbergh covered the ​33 12-hour, 3,600-statute-mile (5,800 km) flight alone in a single-engine purpose-built Ryan monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis.

Henry H. Arnold US Army Air Forces general

Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold was an American general officer holding the grades of General of the Army and General of the Air Force. Arnold was an aviation pioneer, Chief of the Air Corps (1938–1941), Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces, the only U.S. Air Force general to hold five-star rank, and the only officer to hold a five-star rank in two different U.S. military services. Arnold was also the founder of Project RAND, which evolved into one of the world's largest non-profit global policy think tanks, the RAND Corporation, and one of the founders of Pan American World Airways.

Boeing submitted its Model 345 on 11 May 1940, [12] in competition with designs from Consolidated Aircraft (the Model 33, later to become the B-32), [13] Lockheed (the Lockheed XB-30), [14] and Douglas (the Douglas XB-31). [15] Douglas and Lockheed soon abandoned work on their projects, but Boeing received an order for two flying prototypes, given the designation XB-29, and an airframe for static testing on 24 August 1940, with the order being revised to add a third flying aircraft on 14 December. Consolidated continued to work on its Model 33 as it was seen by the Air Corps as a backup in case of problems with Boeing's design. [16] Boeing received an initial production order for 14 service test aircraft and 250 production bombers in May 1941, [17] this being increased to 500 aircraft in January 1942. [12] The B-29 featured a fuselage design with circular cross-section for strength. The need for pressurization in the cockpit area also led to the B-29 being one of very few American combat aircraft of World War II to have a stepless cockpit design, without a separate windscreen for the pilots.

Consolidated Aircraft 1923-1943 aircraft manufacturer in the United States

The Consolidated Aircraft Corporation was founded in 1923 by Reuben H. Fleet in Buffalo, New York, the result of the Gallaudet Aircraft Company's liquidation and Fleet's purchase of designs from the Dayton-Wright Company as the subsidiary was being closed by its parent corporation, General Motors. Consolidated became famous, during the 1920s and 1930s, for its line of flying boats. The most successful of the Consolidated patrol boats was the PBY Catalina, which was produced throughout World War II and used extensively by the Allies. Equally famous was the B-24 Liberator, a heavy bomber which, like the Catalina, saw action in both the Pacific and European theaters.

Consolidated B-32 Dominator WW2-era US heavy strategic bomber

The Consolidated B-32 Dominator was an American heavy strategic bomber built for United States Army Air Forces during World War II, which had the distinction of being the last Allied aircraft to be engaged in combat during World War II. It was developed by Consolidated Aircraft in parallel with the Boeing B-29 Superfortress as a fallback design should the B-29 prove unsuccessful. The B-32 only reached units in the Pacific during mid-1945, and subsequently only saw limited combat operations against Japanese targets before the end of the war. Most of the extant orders of the B-32 were canceled shortly thereafter and only 118 B-32 airframes of all types were built.

Lockheed Corporation 1926–1995 aerospace manufacturer in the United States

The Lockheed Corporation was an American aerospace company. Lockheed was founded in 1926 and later merged with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin in 1995. The founder, Allan Lockheed, had earlier founded the similarly named but otherwise unrelated Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company, which was operational from 1912 through 1920.

Manufacturing the B-29 was a complex task. It involved four main-assembly factories: a pair of Boeing operated plants at Renton, Washington (Boeing Renton), and Wichita, Kansas (now Spirit AeroSystems), a Bell plant at Marietta, Georgia near Atlanta ("Bell-Atlanta"), and a Martin plant at Omaha, Nebraska ("Martin-Omaha" – Offutt Field). [12] [18] Thousands of subcontractors were involved in the project. [19] The first prototype made its maiden flight from Boeing Field, Seattle on 21 September 1942. [18] The combined effects of the aircraft's highly advanced design, challenging requirements, and immense pressure for production, hurried development and caused setbacks. The second prototype, which, unlike the unarmed first, was fitted with a Sperry defensive armament system using remote-controlled gun turrets sighted by periscopes, [20] first flew on 30 December 1942, this flight being terminated due to a serious engine fire. On 18 February 1943, the second prototype, flying out of Boeing Field in Seattle, experienced an engine fire and crashed. [21] The crash killed Boeing test pilot Edmund T. Allen and his 10-man crew, 20 workers at the Frye Meat Packing Plant and a Seattle firefighter. [22] Changes to the production craft came so often and so fast that in early 1944, B-29s flew from the production lines directly to modification depots for extensive rebuilds to incorporate the latest changes. AAF-contracted modification centers and its own air depot system struggled to handle the scope of the requirements. Some facilities lacked hangars capable of housing the giant B-29, requiring outdoor work in freezing cold weather, further delaying necessary modification. By the end of 1943, although almost 100 aircraft had been delivered, only 15 were airworthy. [23] [24] This prompted an intervention by General Hap Arnold to resolve the problem, with production personnel being sent from the factories to the modification centers to speed availability of sufficient aircraft to equip the first Bomb Groups in what became known as the "Battle of Kansas". This resulted in 150 aircraft being modified in the five weeks between 10 March and 15 April 1944. [25] [26] [27]

The most common cause of maintenance headaches and catastrophic failures were the engines. [25] Although the Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone radial engines later became a trustworthy workhorse in large piston-engined aircraft, early models were beset with dangerous reliability problems. This problem was not fully cured until the aircraft was fitted with the more powerful Pratt & Whitney R-4360 "Wasp Major" in the B-29D/B-50 program, which arrived too late for World War II. Interim measures included cuffs placed on propeller blades to divert a greater flow of cooling air into the intakes which had baffles installed to direct a stream of air onto the exhaust valves. Oil flow to the valves was also increased, asbestos baffles installed around rubber push rod fittings to prevent oil loss, thorough pre-flight inspections made to detect unseated valves, and frequent replacement of the uppermost five cylinders (every 25 hours of engine time) and the entire engines (every 75 hours). [N 1] [25] [28]

Pilots, including the present day pilots of the Commemorative Air Force’s Fifi , one of the last two remaining flying B-29s, describe flight after takeoff as being an urgent struggle for airspeed (generally, flight after takeoff should consist of striving for altitude). Radial engines need airflow to keep them cool, and failure to get up to speed as soon as possible could result in an engine failure and risk of fire. One useful technique was to check the magnetos while already on takeoff roll rather than during a conventional static engine-runup before takeoff. [28]

Interior photo of the rear pressurized cabin of the B-29 Superfortress, June 1944 Interior of a B-29 Superfortress bomber.jpg
Interior photo of the rear pressurized cabin of the B-29 Superfortress, June 1944

In wartime, the B-29 was capable of flight at altitudes up to 31,850 feet (9,710 m), [29] at speeds of up to 350 mph (560 km/h) (true airspeed). This was its best defense, because Japanese fighters could barely reach that altitude, and few could catch the B-29 even if they did attain that altitude. Only the heaviest of anti-aircraft weapons could reach it, and since the Axis forces did not have proximity fuzes, hitting or damaging the aircraft from the ground in combat proved difficult.[ citation needed ]

Defensive gun turret emplacements

Tail armament, B-29 Superfortress, Hill Aerospace Museum. B29 55 MO tail HAFB.jpg
Tail armament, B-29 Superfortress, Hill Aerospace Museum.

The General Electric Central Fire Control system on the B-29 directed four remotely controlled turrets armed with two .50 Browning M2 machine guns each. [N 2] All weapons were aimed optically with targeting computed by analog electrical instrumentation. There were five interconnected sighting stations located in the nose and tail positions and three Plexiglas blisters in the central fuselage. [N 3] Five General Electric analog computers (one dedicated to each sight) increased the weapons' accuracy by compensating for factors such as airspeed, lead, gravity, temperature and humidity. The computers also allowed a single gunner to operate two or more turrets (including tail guns) simultaneously. The gunner in the upper position acted as fire control officer, managing the distribution of turrets among the other gunners during combat. [30] [31] [32] [33] The tail position initially had two .50 Browning machine guns and a single M2 20 mm cannon. Later aircraft had the 20 mm cannon removed, [34] and sometimes replaced by a third machine gun. [35]

In early 1945 Major General Curtis Lemay, commander of XXI Bomber Command—the Marianas-based B-29-equipped bombing force—ordered most of the defensive armament and remote-controlled sighting equipment removed from the B-29s under his command. The affected aircraft had the same reduced defensive firepower as the nuclear weapons-delivery intended Silverplate B-29 airframes, and could carry greater fuel and bomb loads as a result of the change. The lighter defensive armament was made possible by a change in mission from high-altitude, daylight bombing with high explosive bombs to low-altitude night raids using incendiary bombs. [36] As a consequence of this requirement, Bell Atlanta (BA) produced a series of 311 B-29Bs that had turrets and sighting equipment omitted, except for the tail position, which was fitted with AN/APG-15 fire control radar. [37] This version could also have an improved APQ-7 "Eagle" bombing-through-overcast radar fitted in an airfoil shaped radome under the fuselage. Most of these aircraft were assigned to the 315th Bomb Wing, Northwest Field, Guam. [38]


The crew enjoyed, for the first time in a bomber, full-pressurization comfort. This first-ever cabin pressure system for an Allied production bomber was developed for the B-29 by Garrett AiResearch. [N 4] The nose and the cockpit were pressurized, but the designers were faced with deciding whether to have bomb bays that were not pressurized, between fore and aft pressurized sections, or a fully pressurized fuselage with the need to de-pressurize to drop their loads. The solution was a long tunnel over the two bomb bays so as not to interrupt pressurization during bombing. Crews could crawl back and forth between the fore and aft sections, with both areas and the tunnel pressurized. The bomb bays were not pressurized. [39]

Operational history

World War II

Radius of operations for B-29 bases. AAF-V-map5t.jpg
Radius of operations for B-29 bases.
Boeing B-29 Superfortress Boeing B-29 Superfortress.jpg
Boeing B-29 Superfortress
A B-29 of the 16th Bombardment Group during World War II in 1944 16thbg-b-29.jpg
A B-29 of the 16th Bombardment Group during World War II in 1944
Enola Gay , a Silverplate version of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress landing after delivering Little Boy over Hiroshima Enola Gay2.jpg
Enola Gay , a Silverplate version of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress landing after delivering Little Boy over Hiroshima

In September 1941, the Army Air Forces plans for war against Germany and Japan proposed basing the B-29 in Egypt for operations against Germany as British airbases were likely to be overcrowded. [40] [41] Air Force planning throughout 1942 and early 1943 continued to have the B-29 deployed initially against Germany, only transferring to the Pacific after the end of the war in Europe. By the end of 1943, however, plans had changed, partly due to production delays, and the B-29 was dedicated to the Pacific Theater. [42] A new plan implemented at the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a promise to China, called Operation Matterhorn, deployed the B-29 units to attack Japan from four forward bases in southern China, with five main bases in India, and to attack other targets in the region from China and India as needed. [43] The Chengdu region was eventually chosen over the Guilin region to avoid having to raise, equip, and train 50 Chinese divisions to protect the advanced bases from Japanese ground attack. [44] The XX Bomber Command, initially intended to be two combat wings of four groups each, was reduced to a single wing of four groups because of the lack of availability of aircraft, automatically limiting the effectiveness of any attacks from China.

This was an extremely costly scheme, as there was no overland connection available between India and China, and all supplies had to be flown over the Himalayas, either by transport aircraft or by the B-29s themselves, with some aircraft being stripped of armor and guns and used to deliver fuel. B-29s started to arrive in India in early April 1944. The first B-29 flight to airfields in China (over the Himalayas, or "The Hump") took place on 24 April 1944. The first B-29 combat mission was flown on 5 June 1944, with 77 out of 98 B-29s launched from India bombing the railroad shops in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand. Five B-29s were lost during the mission, none to hostile fire. [43] [45]

Forward base in China

On 5 June 1944, B-29s raided Bangkok, in what is reported as a test before being deployed against the Japanese home islands. Sources do not report from where they launched, and vary as to the numbers involved—77, 98, and 114 being claimed. Targets were Bangkok's Memorial Bridge and a major power plant. Bombs fell over two kilometres away, damaged no civilian structures, but destroyed some tram lines and destroyed both a Japanese military hospital and the Japanese secret police headquarters. [46] On 15 June 1944, 68 B-29s took off from bases around Chengdu, 47 B-29s bombed the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. This was the first attack on Japanese islands since the Doolittle raid in April 1942. [47] The first B-29 combat losses occurred during this raid, with one B-29 destroyed on the ground by Japanese fighters after an emergency landing in China, [48] one lost to anti-aircraft fire over Yawata, and another, the Stockett's Rocket (after Capt. Marvin M. Stockett, Aircraft Commander) B-29-1-BW 42-6261, [N 5] disappeared after takeoff from Chakulia, India, over the Himalayas (12 KIA, 11 crew and one passenger) [50] This raid, which did little damage to the target, with only one bomb striking the target factory complex, [51] nearly exhausted fuel stocks at the Chengdu B-29 bases, resulting in a slow-down of operations until the fuel stockpiles could be replenished. [52] Starting in July, the raids against Japan from Chinese airfields continued at relatively low intensity. Japan was bombed on:

  • 7 July 1944 (14 B-29s)
  • 29 July (70+)
  • 10 August (24)
  • 20 August (61) [53]
  • 8 September (90)
  • 26 September (83)
  • 25 October (59)
  • 12 November (29)
  • 21 November (61)
  • 19 December (36)
  • 6 January 1945 (49)

B-29s were withdrawn from airfields in China by the end of January 1945. Throughout this prior period, B-29 raids were also launched from China and India against many other targets throughout Southeast Asia, including a series of raids on Singapore and Thailand. On 2 November 1944, 55 B-29s raided Bangkok's Bang Sue marshalling yards in the largest raid of the war. Seven RTAF Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusas from Foong Bin (Air Group) 16 and 14 IJAAF Ki-43s attempted intercept. RTAF Flt Lt Therdsak Worrasap attacked a B-29, damaging it, but was shot down by return fire. One B-29 was lost, possibly the one damaged by Flt Lt Therdsak. [N 6] On 14 April 1945, a second B-29 raid on Bangkok destroyed two key power plants, and was the last major attack conducted against Thai targets. [46] The B-29 effort was gradually shifted to the new bases in the Mariana Islands in the Central Pacific, with the last B-29 combat mission from India flown on 29 March 1945.

B-29A-30-BN, 42-94106, on a long-range mission. B-29 Bomber on a long range mission in late 1945.jpg
B-29A-30-BN, 42-94106, on a long-range mission.

New Mariana Islands air bases

In addition to the logistical problems associated with operations from China, the B-29 could only reach a limited part of Japan while flying from Chinese bases. The solution to this problem was to capture the Mariana Islands, which would bring targets such as Tokyo, about 1,500 mi (2,400 km) north of the Marianas within range of B-29 attacks. The Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed in December 1943 to seize the Marianas. [55]

US forces invaded Saipan on 15 June 1944. Despite a Japanese naval counterattack which led to the Battle of the Philippine Sea and heavy fighting on land, Saipan was secured by 9 July. [56] Operations followed against Guam and Tinian, with all three islands secured by August. [57]

Naval construction battalions (Seabees) began at once to construct air bases suitable for the B-29, commencing even before the end of ground fighting. [56] In all, five major air fields were built: two on the flat island of Tinian, one on Saipan, and two on Guam. Each was large enough to eventually accommodate a bomb wing consisting of four bomb groups, giving a total of 180 B-29s per airfield. [45] These bases could be supplied by ship, and unlike the bases in China, were not vulnerable to attacks by Japanese ground forces. The bases became the launch sites for the large B-29 raids against Japan in the final year of the war. The first B-29 arrived on Saipan on 12 October 1944, and the first combat mission was launched from there on 28 October 1944, with 14 B-29s attacking the Truk atoll. The 73rd Bomb Wing launched the first mission against Japan from bases in the Marianas, on 24 November 1944, sending 111 B-29s to attack Tokyo. For this first attack on the Japanese capital since the Doolittle Raid in April 1942, 73rd Bomb Wing wing commander Brigadier General Emmett O'Donnell Jr. acted as mission command pilot in B-29 Dauntless Dotty . The campaign of incendiary raids started with the bombardment of Kobe on February 4, 1945, then peaked early with the most destructive bombing raid in human history (even when the later Silverplate-flown nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are considered) [58] on the night of March 9–10, 1945 on Tokyo. From then on, the raids intensified, being launched regularly until the end of the war. The attacks succeeded in devastating most large Japanese cities (with the exception of Kyoto and several others), and they gravely damaged Japan's war industries. Although less publicly appreciated, the mining of Japanese ports and shipping routes (Operation Starvation) carried out by B-29s from April 1945 reduced Japan's ability to support its population and move its troops.

The atomic bombs

Perhaps the most famous B-29s were the sixty-five examples of the Silverplate series, which were modified to drop atomic bombs. They were also stripped of all guns, except the tail ones, in order to have a lighter plane. The Silverplate aircraft were handpicked by Lieutenant Colonel Paul W. Tibbets for the mission, straight off the assembly line at the Omaha plant that was to become Offutt Air Force Base. The Silverplate bombers differed from other B-29s then in service by having fuel injection and reversible props. Pilot Charles Sweeney credits the reversible props for saving Bockscar after making an emergency landing on Okinawa following the Nagasaki bombing.[ citation needed ]

Enola Gay , flown by Tibbets, dropped the first bomb, called Little Boy, on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. Enola Gay is fully restored and on display at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, outside Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. Bockscar dropped the second bomb, called Fat Man, on Nagasaki three days later. Bockscar is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Following the surrender of Japan, called V-J Day, B-29s were used for other purposes. A number supplied POWs with food and other necessities by dropping barrels of rations on Japanese POW camps. In September 1945, a long-distance flight was undertaken for public relations purposes: Generals Barney M. Giles, Curtis LeMay, and Emmett O'Donnell Jr. piloted three specially modified B-29s from Chitose Air Base in Hokkaidō to Chicago Municipal Airport, continuing to Washington, D.C., the farthest nonstop distance (c.6400 miles) to that date flown by U.S. Army Air Forces aircraft and the first-ever nonstop flight from Japan to Chicago. [N 7] [60] Two months later, Colonel Clarence S. Irvine commanded another modified B-29, Pacusan Dreamboat, in a world-record-breaking long-distance flight from Guam to Washington, D.C., traveling 7,916 miles (12,740 km) in 35 hours, [61] with a gross takeoff weight of 155,000 pounds (70,000 kg). [62] Almost a year later, in October 1946, the same B-29 flew 9,422 miles nonstop from Oahu, Hawaii, to Cairo, Egypt, in less than 40 hours, further proving the capability of routing airlines over the polar icecap. [63]

B-29s in Europe and Australia

Royal Air Force Washington B.1 of No. 90 Squadron RAF based at RAF Marham Boeing B-29A Washington B.1 WF502 90 Sqn Hooton 20.09.52 edited-2.jpg
Royal Air Force Washington B.1 of No. 90 Squadron RAF based at RAF Marham

Although considered for other theaters, and briefly evaluated in the United Kingdom, the B-29 was exclusively used in World War II in the Pacific Theatre. The use of YB-29-BW 41-36393, the so-named Hobo Queen, one of the service test aircraft flown around several British airfields in early 1944, was part of a "disinformation" program from its mention in an American-published Sternenbanner German language propaganda leaflet from Leap Year Day in 1944, meant to be circulated within the Reich, [64] with the intent to deceive the Germans into believing that the B-29 would be deployed to Europe. [26]

American post-war military assistance programs loaned the RAF enough Superfortresses to equip several RAF Bomber Command squadrons. The aircraft were known as the Washington B.1 in RAF service, and served from March 1950 until the last bombers were returned in early 1954. The phase out was occasioned by deliveries of the English Electric Canberra bombers. Three Washingtons modified for ELINT duties and a standard bomber version used for support by No. 192 Squadron RAF were decommissioned in 1958, being replaced by de Havilland Comet aircraft.

Two British Washington B.1 aircraft were transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1952. [65] They were attached to the Aircraft Research and Development Unit and used in trials conducted on behalf of the British Ministry of Supply. [65] Both aircraft were placed in storage in 1956 and were sold for scrap in 1957. [66]

Soviet Tupolev Tu-4

Tupolev Tu-4 at Monino museum Tupolev Tu-4 01 red (10255123433).jpg
Tupolev Tu-4 at Monino museum

At the end of World War II, Soviet development with modern four-engined heavy bombers lagged behind the west. The Petlyakov Pe-8 — the sole heavy bomber operated by the Soviet Air Forces—first flew in 1936. Intended to replace the obsolete Tupolev TB-3, only 93 Pe-8s were built by the end of World War II. During 1944 and 1945 five B-29s made emergency landings in Soviet territory after bombing raids on Japanese Manchuria and Japan. In accordance with Soviet neutrality in the Pacific War, the bombers were interned by the Soviets despite American requests for their return. Rather than return the aircraft, the Soviets reverse engineered the American B-29s and used them as a pattern for the Tupolev Tu-4. [67]

On 31 July 1944 Ramp Tramp (serial number 42-6256), of the United States Army Air Force 462nd (Very Heavy) Bomb Group was diverted to Vladivostok, Russia, after an engine failed and the propeller could not be feathered. [N 8] This B-29 was part of a 100-aircraft raid against the Japanese Showa steel mill in Anshan, Manchuria. [67] On 20 August 1944, Cait Paomat (42-93829), flying from Chengdu, was damaged by anti-aircraft gunfire during a raid on the Yawata Iron Works. Due to the damage sustained, the crew elected to divert to the Soviet Union. The aircraft crashed in the foothills of Sikhote-Alin mountain range east of Khabarovsk after the crew bailed out.

On 11 November 1944, during a night raid on Omura on Kyushu Japan, the General H.H. Arnold Special (42-6365) was damaged and forced to divert to Vladivostok in the Soviet Union. The crew was interned. [68] On 21 November 1944, Ding Hao (42-6358) was damaged during a raid on an aircraft factory at Omura, Japan, and was also forced to divert to Vladivostok.

The interned crews of these four B-29s were allowed to escape into American-occupied Iran in January 1945 but none of the B-29s were returned after Stalin ordered the Tupolev OKB to examine and copy the B-29, and produce a design ready for quantity production as soon as possible. [68] [N 9]

Because aluminum in the USSR was supplied in different gauges from that available in the US (metric vs imperial), [67] the entire aircraft had to be extensively re-engineered. In addition, Tupolev substituted his own favored airfoil sections for those used by Boeing, with the Soviets themselves already having their own Wright R-1820-derived 18 cylinder radial engine, the Shvetsov ASh-73 of comparable power and displacement to the B-29's Duplex Cyclone radials available to power their design. In 1947, the Soviets debuted both the Tupolev Tu-4 (NATO ASCC code named Bull), and the Tupolev Tu-70 transport variant. The Soviets used tail-gunner positions similar to the B-29 in many later bombers and transports. [69] [N 10]

Transition to USAF

Production of the B-29 was phased out after World War II with the last example completed by Boeing's Renton factory on 28 May 1946. Many aircraft went into storage, being declared excess inventory and were ultimately scrapped as surplus. Others remained in the active inventory and equipped the Strategic Air Command when it formed on 21 March 1946. [71] In particular, the "Silverplate" modified aircraft of the 509th Composite Group remained the only aircraft capable of delivering the atomic bomb, and so the unit was involved in the Operation Crossroads series of tests, with B-29 Dave's Dream dropping a "Fat Man"-type bomb in Test Able on 1 July 1946. [71]

Some B-29s, fitted with filtered air sampling scoops, were used to monitor above ground nuclear weapons testing by the United States and the USSR by sampling airborne radioactive contamination. The USAF also used the aircraft for long-range weather reconnaissance (WB-29), for signals intelligence gathering (EB-29) and photographic reconnaissance (RB-29).

Korean War and postwar service

A photo-reconnaissance B-29 that crash-landed at Iruma Air Base, Japan, after being severely damaged by MiG-15 fighters over the Yalu River; the B-29's tail gunner shot down one of the attackers (November 9, 1950) B-29-44-61813-shotdown.jpg
A photo-reconnaissance B-29 that crash-landed at Iruma Air Base, Japan, after being severely damaged by MiG-15 fighters over the Yalu River; the B-29's tail gunner shot down one of the attackers (November 9, 1950)
A 307th Bomb Group B-29 bombing a target in Korea, c. 1951. B-29 307th BG bombing target in Korea c1951.jpg
A 307th Bomb Group B-29 bombing a target in Korea, c. 1951.

The B-29 was used in 1950–53 in the Korean War. At first, the bomber was used in normal strategic day-bombing missions, though North Korea's few strategic targets and industries were quickly reduced to rubble. More importantly, in 1950 numbers of Soviet MiG-15 jet fighters appeared over Korea, and after the loss of 28 aircraft, future B-29 raids were restricted to night-only missions, largely in a supply-interdiction role. Over the course of the war, B-29s flew 20,000 sorties and dropped 200,000 tonnes (180,000 tons) of bombs. B-29 gunners were credited with shooting down 27 enemy aircraft. [73]

The B-29 dropped the 1,000-lb VB-3 "Razon" (a range-controllable version of the earlier Azon guided ordnance device) [74] and the 12,000 lb. VB-13 "Tarzon" MCLOS radio-controlled bombs [75] in Korea, mostly for demolishing major bridges, like the ones across the Yalu River, and for attacks on dams. The aircraft also was used for numerous leaflet drops in North Korea, such as those for Operation Moolah. [76]

A Superfortress of the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron flew the last B-29 mission of the war on 27 July 1953. Over the three years 16 B-29 and reconnaissance variants were lost to North Korean fighters, four to anti-aircraft fire and 14 to other operational causes. [77]

With the arrival of the mammoth Convair B-36, the B-29 was reclassified as a medium bomber by the Air Force. However, the later B-50 Superfortress variant (initially designated B-29D) was good enough to handle auxiliary roles such as air-sea rescue, electronic intelligence gathering, air-to-air refueling, and weather reconnaissance.

The B-50D was replaced in its primary role during the early 1950s by the Boeing B-47 Stratojet, which in turn was replaced by the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. The final active-duty KB-50 and WB-50 variants were phased out in the mid-1960s, with the final example retired in 1965. A total of 3,970 B-29s were built.


Bell X-1 and its B-29 mother ship Bell X-1 in the belly of a B-29.jpg
Bell X-1 and its B-29 mother ship

The variants of the B-29 were outwardly similar in appearance but were in fact built around different wing center sections that affected the wingspan dimensions. The wing of the Renton built B-29A-BN used a different subassembly process and was a foot longer in span. The Georgia built B-29B-BA weighed less through armament reduction. A planned C series with more reliable R-3350s was not built.

Moreover, engine packages changed including the type of propellers and range of the variable pitch. A notable example were the Silverplate project built for the Manhattan Project with Curtiss Electric reversible pitch propellers.

The other differences came about through added equipment for varied mission roles. These roles included cargo carriers (CB); rescue aircraft (SB); weather ships (WB); and trainers (TB); and aerial tankers (KB).

Some were used for odd purposes such as flying relay television transmitters under the name of Stratovision.

WB-29A of the 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron in 1954 showing the fuselage-top observation station Boeing WB-29A 53 WRS 1954.jpg
WB-29A of the 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron in 1954 showing the fuselage-top observation station

The B-29D led progressively to the XB-44, and the family of B-50 Superfortress (which was powered by four 3,500 hp (2,600 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-4360-35 Wasp Major engines).

Another role was as a mothership. This included being rigged for carrying the experimental parasite fighter aircraft, such as the McDonnell XF-85 Goblin and Republic F-84 Thunderjets as in flight lock on and offs. It was also used to develop the Airborne Early Warning program; it was the ancestor of various modern radar picket aircraft. A B-29 with the original Wright Duplex Cyclone powerplants was used to air-launch the famous Bell X-1 supersonic research rocket aircraft, as well as Cherokee rockets for the testing of ejection seats. [78]

Some B-29s were modified to act as test beds for various new systems or special conditions, including fire-control systems, cold-weather operations, and various armament configurations. Several converted B-29s were used to experiment with aerial refueling and re-designated as KB-29s . Perhaps the most important tests were conducted by the XB-29G; it carried prototype jet engines in its bomb bay, and lowered them into the air stream to conduct measurements.


Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union

Surviving aircraft

The two remaining flyable B-29s: FIFI (top) and Doc (bottom) FIFI and Doc.jpg
The two remaining flyable B-29s: FIFI (top) and Doc (bottom)

Twenty-two B-29s are preserved at various museums worldwide, including two flying examples; FIFI, which belongs to the Commemorative Air Force, and Doc, which belongs to Doc's Friends. Doc made its first flight in 60 years from Wichita, Kansas, on 17 July 2016. [79] There are also four complete airframes either in storage or under restoration, eight partial airframes in storage or under restoration, and four known wreck sites.[ citation needed ]

The B-29 Miss Marilyn Gay, which flew 27 successful bombing missions mainly over Japan during the Second World War, and five POW relief missions is displayed at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia. There is a restored B-29A, Jack's Hack, located as part of the 58th Bomb Wing Memorial the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, CT. Three of the Silverplate nuclear weapon delivery B-29s survive: the Enola Gay (nose number 82) the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb, was fully restored and placed on display at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air & Space Museum near Washington Dulles International Airport in 2003. Similarly, the weapons delivery aircraft for the Nagasaki raid deploying the Fat Man, the Bockscar (nose number 77) is restored and on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. The third is the 15th Silverplate to be delivered, on the last day of the war in the Pacific. It is on display at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, NM, posing with a replica of the Mark-3 "Fat Man" nuclear bomb.

Only two of the 22 museum aircraft are outside the United States, one is the B-29A It's Hawg Wild in the American Air Museum at the Imperial War Museum Duxford in the United Kingdom, the other at the KAI Aerospace Museum in Sachon, South Korea. [80]

Accidents and incidents

Memorial at the Alaska Veterans Memorial to the victims in a B-29 crash in the Talkeetna Mountains in 1957. Akvetstb29.jpg
Memorial at the Alaska Veterans Memorial to the victims in a B-29 crash in the Talkeetna Mountains in 1957.

B-29 accidents and incidents include a crash of the plane near Clovis, New Mexico, on Friday evening, 10 November 1944 wherein all 15 members of the crew were killed; the 1948 Waycross B-29 crash, which resulted in the United States v. Reynolds lawsuit regarding State Secrets Privilege; the 1948 Lake Mead Boeing B-29 crash; and, the 1953 "Tip Tow" crash. On 11 April 1950 a B-29 departed Kirtland Air Force Base at 9:38 p.m. and crashed into a mountain on Manzano Base approximately three minutes later, killing the crew. Detonators were installed in the nuclear bomb on the aircraft. The bomb case was demolished and some high-explosive (HE) material burned in the gasoline fire. Other pieces of unburned HE were scattered throughout the wreckage. Four spare detonators in their carrying case were recovered undamaged. There were no contamination or recovery problems. The recovered components were returned to the Atomic Energy Commission. [81] Both the weapon and the capsule of nuclear material were on board the aircraft but the capsule was not inserted for safety reasons. A nuclear detonation was not possible. [82]

Specifications (B-29)

Flight Engineers station of Bockscar Boeing B-29 Bockscar cockpit 2 USAF.jpg
Flight Engineers station of Bockscar

Data from Quest for Performance [83]

General characteristics



  • Guns:
  • Bombs:
    • 5,000 lb (2,300 kg) over 1,600 mi (2,600 km; 1,400 nmi) radius at high altitude [85]
    • 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) over 1,600 mi (2,600 km; 1,400 nmi) radius at medium altitude [85]
    • 20,000 lb (9,100 kg) maximum over short distances at low altitude [85]
    • Could be modified to carry two 22,000 lb (10.0 t) Grand Slam bombs externally. [85]

Notable appearances in media

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists

Related Research Articles

Strategic bomber type of heavy bomber aircraft designed to drop large amounts of ordnance

A strategic bomber is a medium to long range penetration bomber aircraft designed to drop large amounts of air-to-ground weaponry onto a distant target for the purposes of debilitating the enemy's capacity to wage war. Unlike tactical bombers, penetrators, fighter-bombers, and attack aircraft, which are used in air interdiction operations to attack enemy combatants and military equipment, strategic bombers are designed to fly into enemy territory to destroy strategic targets. In addition to strategic bombing, strategic bombers can be used for tactical missions. There are currently three countries that operate strategic bombers: the United States, Russia, and China.

The Tupolev Tu-70 was a Soviet passenger variant of the Tu-4 bomber and designed immediately after the end of World War II. It used a number of components from Boeing B-29s that had made emergency landings in the Soviet Union after bombing Japan. It had the first pressurized fuselage in the Soviet Union and first flew on 27 November 1946. The aircraft was successfully tested, recommended for serial production, but ultimately not produced because of more pressing military orders and because Aeroflot had no requirement for such an aircraft.

Boeing B-50 Superfortress Strategic bomber aircraft family by Boeing

The Boeing B-50 Superfortress is an American strategic bomber. A post–World War II revision of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, it was fitted with more powerful Pratt & Whitney R-4360 radial engines, stronger structure, a taller tail fin, and other improvements. It was the last piston-engined bomber built by Boeing for the United States Air Force, and was further refined into Boeing's final such design, the B-54. Not as well known as its direct predecessor, the B-50 was in USAF service for nearly 20 years.

Boeing B-29 Superfortress variants

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress was produced in a large number of experimental and production models.

Twentieth Air Force Numbered air force of the United States Air Force responsible for strategic missile forces

The Twentieth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). It is headquartered at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming.


Silverplate was the code reference for the United States Army Air Forces' participation in the Manhattan Project during World War II. Originally the name for the aircraft modification project which enabled a B-29 Superfortress bomber to drop an atomic weapon, "Silverplate" eventually came to identify the training and operational aspects of the program as well. The original directive for the project had as its subject line "Silver Plated Project" but continued usage of the term shortened it to "Silverplate".

328th Weapons Squadron

The United States Air Force's 328th Weapons Squadron is an USAF Weapons School training unit located at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

468th Bombardment Group

The 468th Bombardment Group was a World War II United States Army Air Forces combat organization. It was inactivated on 31 March 1946. The unit served primarily in the Pacific Ocean theater and China Burma India Theater of World War II as part of Twentieth Air Force. The 468th Bomb Group's aircraft engaged in very heavy bombardment B-29 Superfortress operations against Japan. After its reassignment to the Mariana Islands in 1945, its aircraft were identified by a "I" and a triangle painted on the tail.

502d Bombardment Group

The 502d Bombardment Group was a World War II United States Army Air Forces combat organization. The unit was inactivated on 15 April 1946.

393rd Bomb Squadron

The 393rd Bomb Squadron, sometimes written as 393d Bomb Squadron, is part of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. It operates Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit nuclear-capable strategic bomber aircraft.

XXI Bomber Command

The XXI Bomber Command was a unit of the Twentieth Air Force in the Mariana Islands for strategic bombing during World War II.

877th Bombardment Squadron

The 877th Bombardment Squadron is a former United States Army Air Forces unit. It was activated in November 1943, equipped with Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers, and assigned to the 499th Bombardment Group. After training in the United States, it deployed to Saipan, where it participated in the strategic bombing campaign against Japan, earning two Distinguished Unit Citations. After V-J Day, it returned to the United States, where it was inactivated at March Field, California on 16 February 1946.

878th Bombardment Squadron

The 878th Bombardment Squadron is a former United States Army Air Forces unit. It was activated in November 1943, equipped with Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers, and assigned to the 499th Bombardment Group. After training in the United States, it deployed to Saipan, where it participated in the strategic bombing campaign against Japan, earning two Distinguished Unit Citations. After V-J Day, it returned to the United States, where it was inactivated at March Field, California on 16 February 1946.

879th Bombardment Squadron

The 879th Bombardment Squadron is a former United States Army Air Forces unit. It was activated in November 1943, equipped with Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers, and assigned to the 499th Bombardment Group. After training in the United States, it deployed to Saipan, where it participated in the strategic bombing campaign against Japan, earning two Distinguished Unit Citations. After V-J Day, it returned to the United States, where it was inactivated at March Field, California on 16 February 1946.

869th Bombardment Squadron

The 869th Bombardment Squadron is a former United States Army Air Forces unit. Its was assigned to the 497th Bombardment Group, and was last stationed at MacDill Field, Florida where it was inactivated on 31 March 1946. The squadron served in combat with Twentieth Air Force flying Boeing B-29 Superfortress aircraft in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II, where it earned two Distinguished Unit Citations.

875th Bombardment Squadron

The 875th Bombardment Squadron is a former United States Army Air Forces unit. The squadron was activated during World War II. After training in the United States with Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers, the squadron moved to the Mariana Islands, where it participated in the strategic bombing campaign against Japan, earning two Distinguished Unit Citations before the end of hostilities in August 1945. The squadron returned to the United states in December 1945 and was inactivated in March 1946, and its personnel and equipment transferred to another organization.



  1. As efforts were made to eradicate the problems a succession of engine models were fitted to B-29s. B-29 production started with the −23, which were all modified to the "war engine" −23A. Other versions were −41 (B-29A), −57, −59.
  2. The forward upper turret's armament was later doubled to four .50 Brownings.
  3. The nose sighting station was operated by the bombardier
  4. Boeing had previously built the 307 Stratoliner, which was the first commercial airliner with a fully pressurized cabin. Only 10 of these aircraft were built. While other aircraft such as the Ju 86P were pressurized, the B-29 was designed from the outset with a pressurized system.
  5. The suffix −1-BW indicates that this B-29 was from the first production batch of B-29s manufactured at the Boeing, Wichita plant. Other suffixes are BA = Bell, Atlanta; BN = Boeing, Renton, Washington; MO = Martin, Omaha, Nebraska. [49]
  6. The biggest raid on Bangkok during the war occurred on 2 November 1944, when the marshalling yards at Bang Sue were raided by 55 B-29s ... [54]
  7. "The straight line distance between Chitose Japanese Air Self Defense Force and Chicago, Chicago Midway Airport is approximately 5,839 miles or 9,397 kilometers." [59]
  8. The drag of the windmilling propeller critically reduced the range of the B-29. Because of this "Ramp Tramp" was unable to reach the home-base at Chengdu, China, and the pilot opted to head for Vladivostok.
  9. Ramp Tramp was also used during 1948-49 as a drop ship for underwing launching of 346P glider. The 346P was a development of the German DFS 346 rocket-powered aircraft. The complete wing and engines of Cait Paomat were later incorporated into the sole Tupolev Tu-70 transport aircraft.
  10. The Soviets interned another B-29 when, on 29 August 1945, a Soviet Air Force Yak-9 damaged a B-29 dropping supplies to a POW camp in Korea, and forced it to land at Konan (now Hŭngnam), North Korea. The 13-man crew of the B-29 was not injured in the attack, and was released after being interned for 13 days. [70]
  11. For the B-29B-BW all armament and sighting equipment was removed except for tail position; initially 2 x .50 in M2/AN and 1× 20 mm M2 cannon, later 3 x 2 x .50 in M2/AN with APG-15 gun-laying radar fitted as standard.


  1. LeMay and Yenne 1988, p. 60.
  2. "Boeing B-29." Boeing. Retrieved: 5 August 2010.
  3. Knaack 1988, p. 486.
  4. Associated Press, "Cost of B-29 Bomber Reduced Four-Fifths", The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Sunday 15 October 1944, Volume 51, page 2.
  5. O'Brien, Phillips Payson (2015). How the War Was Won (First ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 47–48. ISBN   978-1-107-01475-6.
  6. "B-29 Superfortress, U.S. Heavy Bomber". The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia. © 2009 by Kent G. Budge. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  7. Waller, Staff Sgt. Rachel (July 17, 2016). "B-29 'Doc' takes to the skies from McConnell". McConnell AFB . Retrieved July 2, 2017.
  8. Gorman, Gerald S. (May 27, 1999). "Endgame in the Pacific: Complexity, Strategy and the B-29" (PDF). Ft. Leavenworth, KS: Army Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Studies. pp. 14–15. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  9. Bowers 1989, p. 318.
  10. Herman 2012, pp. 289-291
  11. Willis 2007, pp. 136–137.
  12. 1 2 3 Bowers 1989, p. 319.
  13. Wegg 1990, p. 91.
  14. "Factsheet: Lockheed XB-30." Archived 16 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved: 15 November 2010.
  15. Francillon 1979, p. 713.
  16. Willis 2007, p. 138.
  17. Knaack 1988, p. 480.
  18. 1 2 Bowers 1989, p. 322.
  19. Willis 2007, pp. 138–139.
  20. Brown 1977, p. 80.
  21. Peacock Air International August 1989, pp. 70–71.
  22. Banel, Feliks (15 February 2013). "70 Years Ago: Remembering The Crash Of Boeing's Superfortress". KUOW-FM . Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  23. Willis 2007, p. 144.
  24. Peacock Air International August 1989, p. 76.
  25. 1 2 3 Knaack 1988, p. 484.
  26. 1 2 Bowers 1989, p. 323.
  27. Herman 2012, pp. 284-346.
  28. 1 2 Gardner, Fred Carl "A Year in the B-29 Superfortress." Fred Carl Gardner's website, updated 1 May 2005. Retrieved: 11 April 2009.
  29. 1 2 "B-29 Superfortress." Boeing. Retrieved: 22 March 2012.
  30. Brown 1977, pp. 80–83.
  31. Williams and Gustin 2003, pp. 164–166.
  32. "B-29 Gunnery Brain Aims Six Guns at Once." Popular Mechanics, February 1945, p. 26.
  33. ""Central station fire control and the B-29 remote control turret system.", 23 February 2011. Retrieved: 30 May 2015.
  34. Willis 2007, p. 140.
  35. Pace2003, p. 53.
  36. Herman 2012, p. 327.
  37. Willis 2007, pp. 140, 144.
  38. "History of 315 BW." Retrieved: 19 June 2008.
  39. Mann 2009, p. 103.
  40. Craven and Cate Vol. 1 1983, pp. 145–149.
  41. Craven and Cate Vol. 2 1983, p. 6.
  42. Craven and Cate Vol. 5 1983, pp. 11–12.
  43. 1 2 Willis 2007, pp. 144–145.
  44. Craven and Cate Vol. 5 1983, pp. 18–22.
  45. 1 2 Peacock Air International August 1989, p. 87.
  46. 1 2 Stearn, Duncan. "The air war over Thailand, 1941-1945; Part Two, The Allies attack Thailand, 1942-1945." Pattaya Mail, Volume XI, Issue 21, 30 May – 5 June 2003. Retrieved: 18 February 2012.
  47. Craven and Cate Vol. 5 1983, p. 100.
  48. Craven and Cate Vol. 5 1983, p. 101.
  49. "List of B-29 and B-50 production." Archived 23 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved: 16 June 2008.
  50. Source: 20th Bomb Group Assn
  51. Willis 2007, p. 145.
  52. Craven and Cate Vol. 5 1983, pp. 101, 103.
  53. • The tactic of using aircraft to ram American B-29s was first recorded on the raid of 20 August 1944 on the steel factories at Yawata. Sergeant Shigeo Nobe of the 4th Sentai intentionally flew his Kawasaki Ki-45 into a B-29; debris from the explosion following this attack severely damaged another B-29, which also went down. Lost were Colonel Robert Clinksale's B-29-10-BW 42-6334 Gertrude C and Captain Ornell Stauffer's B-29-15-BW 42-6368 Calamity Sue, both from the 486th BG. See: "Pacific War Chronology: August 1944." Retrieved: 12 June 2008. Archived 2 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine . Several B-29s were destroyed in this way over the ensuing months. Although the term "Kamikaze" is often used to refer to the pilots conducting these attacks, the word was not used by the Japanese military. See: "Japanese website dedicated to the Tokkotai JAAF and JNAF." Retrieved: 7 June 2008.
  54. Forsgren, Jan. "Japanese Aircraft In Royal Thai Air Force and Royal Thai Navy Service During WWII." Japanese Aircraft, Ships, & Historical Research, 21 July 2004. Retrieved: 18 February 2012.
  55. Willis 2007, pp. 145–146.
  56. 1 2 Willis 2007, p. 146.
  57. Dear and Foot 1995, p. 718.
  58. Laurence M. Vance (14 August 2009). "Bombings Worse than Nagasaki and Hiroshima". The Future of Freedom Foundation. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  59. "How Far Is It?" Retrieved: 8 June 2009.
  60. Potts, J. Ivan, Jr. "Chapter: The Japan to Washington Flight." Remembrance of War: The Experiences of a B-29 Pilot in World War II. Shelbyville, Tennessee: J.I. Potts & Associates, 1995. Retrieved: 8 June 2009.
  61. "Monday, January 01, 1940 – Saturday, December 31, 1949." Archived 20 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine History Milestones (US Air Force). Retrieved: 21 October 2010.
  62. Mayo, Weyland. "B-29s Set Speed, Altitude, Distance Records." Retrieved: 21 October 2010.
  63. "Inside The Dreamboat." Popular Science, December 1946 interview with crew about planning for flight.
  64. Sternenbanner announcement of the B-29 in German. comparing it to the B-17 in size
  65. 1 2 Wilson, Stewart (1994). Military Aircraft of Australia. Weston Creek, Australia: Aerospace Publications. p. 216. ISBN   978-1875671083.
  66. "A76: Boeing Washington." RAAF Museum. Retrieved: 28 January 2012.
  67. 1 2 3 "Tu-4 "Bull" and Ramp Tramp." Monino Aviation. Retrieved: 1 November 2009.
  68. 1 2 Lednicer, David. "Intrusions, Overflights, Shootdowns and Defections During the Cold War and Thereafter." David Lednicer, 16 April 2011. Retrieved: 31 July 2011.
  69. "Russian B-29 Clone – The TU-4 Story". Archived from the original on 9 August 2008. Retrieved Retrieved: 20 July 2011.
  70. Streifer, Bill and Irek Sabitov. "The Flight of the Hog Wild B-29 (WWII): The day the world went cold." Jia Educational Products, Inc., 2011. Retrieved: 28 November 2011.
  71. 1 2 Peacock Air International September 1989, p. 141.
  72. "William F. (Bill) Welch — 31st and 91st SRS Recollections." Retrieved: 18 May 2015.
  73. Futrell et al. 1976.
  74. NMUSAF page on the VB-3 Razon ordnance
  75. NMUSAF page on the VB-13 Tarzon ordnance
  76. United States Air Force operations in the Korean conflict, 1 July 1952 – 27 July 1953. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: USAF Historical Division, 1956, p. 62.
  77. Wheeler 1992, p. 84.
  78. Shinabery, Michael. "Whoosh failures were 'instructive'." Archived 17 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine Alamogordo Daily News , 26 October 2008. Retrieved: 17 May 2014.
  79. "It wasn't easy, but B-29 Doc takes to Wichita skies".
  80. Weeks, John A. III. "B-29: The Superfortress Survivors.", 2009. Retrieved: 17 July 2009.
  81. Atomic Energy Commission.
  82. Department of Defense, Narrative Summaries of Accidents Involving U.S. Nuclear Weapons, 1950-1980 Archived 22 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  83. Loftin, LK, Jr. Quest for Performance: The Evolution of Modern Aircraft. NASA SP-468. Retrieved: 22 April 2006.
  84. AAF manual No. 50-9: Pilot's Flight Operating Instructions for Army model B-29, 25 January 1944, page 40; Armament
  85. 1 2 3 4 Budge, Kent G. "B-29 Superfortress, U.S. Heavy Bomber". Archived from the original on 12 August 2017. Retrieved 12 August 2017.


  • Anderton, David A. B-29 Superfortress at War. Shepperton, Surrey, UK: Ian Allan Ltd., 1978. ISBN   0-7110-0881-7.
  • Berger, Carl. B29: The Superfortress. New York: Ballantine Books, 1970. ISBN   0-345-24994-1.
  • Birdsall, Steve. B-29 Superfortress in Action (Aircraft in Action 31). Carrolton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1977. ISBN   0-89747-030-3.
  • Birdsall, Steve. Saga of the Superfortress: The Dramatic Story of the B-29 and the Twentieth Air Force. London: Sidgewick & Jackson Limited, 1991. ISBN   0-283-98786-3.
  • Birdsall, Steve. Superfortress: The Boeing B-29. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1980. ISBN   0-89747-104-0.
  • Bowers, Peter M. Boeing Aircraft since 1916. London: Putnam, 1989. ISBN   0-85177-804-6.
  • Bowers, Peter M. Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Stillwater, Minnesota: Voyageur Press, 1999. ISBN   0-933424-79-5.
  • Brown, J. "RCT Armament in the Boeing B-29". Air Enthusiast , Number Three, 1977, pp. 80–83.
  • Campbell, Richard H., The Silverplate Bombers: A History and Registry of the Enola Gay and Other B-29s Configured to Carry Atomic Bombs. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2005. ISBN   0-7864-2139-8.
  • Chant, Christopher. Superprofile: B-29 Superfortress. Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset, UK: Haynes Publishing Group, 1983. ISBN   0-85429-339-6.
  • Craven, Wesley Frank and James Lea Cate, eds. The Army Air Forces In World War II: Volume One: Plans and Early Operations: January 1939 to August 1942. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1983.
  • Craven, Wesley Frank and James Lea Cate, eds. The Army Air Forces In World War II: Volume Two: Europe: Torch to Pointblank August 1942 to December 1943. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1983.
  • Craven, Wesley Frank and James Lea Cate, eds. The Army Air Forces In World War II: Volume Five: The Pacific: Matterhorn to Nagasaki June 1944 to August 1945. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1983.
  • Davis, Larry. B-29 Superfortress in Action (Aircraft in Action 165). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1997. ISBN   0-89747-370-1.
  • Dear, I.C.B. and M.R.D. Foo, eds. The Oxford Companion of World War II. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1995. ISBN   0-19-866225-4.
  • Dorr, Robert F. B-29 Superfortress Units in World War Two. Combat Aircraft 33. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2002. ISBN   1-84176-285-7.
  • Dorr, Robert F. B-29 Superfortress Units of the Korean War. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2003. ISBN   1-84176-654-2.
  • Fopp, Michael A. The Washington File. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1983. ISBN   0-85130-106-1.
  • Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920. London: Putnam, 1979. ISBN   0-370-00050-1.
  • Futrell R.F. et al. Aces and Aerial Victories: The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia, 1965–1973. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1976. ISBN   0-89875-884-X.
  • Grant, R.G. and John R. Dailey. Flight: 100 Years of Aviation. Harlow, Essex, UK: DK Adult, 2007. ISBN   978-0-7566-1902-2.
  • Herbert, Kevin B. Maximum Effort: The B-29s Against Japan. Manhattan, Kansas: Sunflower University Press, 1983. ISBN   978-0-89745-036-2.
  • Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II. New York: Random House, 2012. ISBN   978-1-4000-6964-4.
  • Hess, William N. Great American Bombers of WW II. St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International, 1999. ISBN   0-7603-0650-8.
  • Higham, Robin and Carol Williams, eds. Flying Combat Aircraft of USAAF-USAF. Volume 1. Washington, D.C.: Air Force Historical Foundation, 1975. ISBN   0-8138-0325-X.
  • Howlett, Chris. "Washington Times".
  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft (Part Work 1982–1985). London: Orbis Publishing, 1985.
  • Johnsen, Frederick A. The B-29 Book. Tacoma, Washington: Bomber Books, 1978. ISBN   1-135-76473-5 |.
  • Johnson, Robert E. "Why the Boeing B-29 Bomber, and Why the Wright R-3350 Engine?" American Aviation Historical Society Journal, 33(3), 1988, pp. 174–189. ISSN 0002-7553.
  • Knaack, Marcelle Size. Post-World War II Bombers, 1945–1973. Washington, D.C.: Office of Air Force History, 1988. ISBN   0-16-002260-6.
  • LeMay, Curtis and Bill Yenne. Super Fortress. London: Berkley Books, 1988. ISBN   0-425-11880-0.
  • Lewis, Peter M. H., ed. "B-29 Superfortress". Academic American Encyclopedia. Volume 10. Chicago: Grolier Incorporated, 1994. ISBN   978-0-7172-2053-3.
  • Lloyd, Alwyn T. B-29 Superfortress, Part 1. Production Versions (Detail & Scale 10). Fallbrook, California/London: Aero Publishers/Arms & Armour Press, Ltd., 1983. ISBN   0-8168-5019-4, 0-85368-527-4.
  • Lloyd, Alwyn T. B-29 Superfortress. Part 2. Derivatives (Detail & Scale 25). Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania/London: TAB Books/Arms & Armour Press, Ltd., 1987. ISBN   0-8306-8035-7, 0-85368-839-7
  • Mann, Robert A. The B-29 Superfortress: A Comprehensive Registry of the Planes and Their Missions. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2004. ISBN   0-7864-1787-0.
  • Mann, Robert A. The B-29 Superfortress Chronology, 1934-1960. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009. ISBN   0-7864-4274-3.
  • Marshall, Chester. Warbird History: B-29 Superfortress. St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International, 1993. ISBN   0-87938-785-8.
  • Mayborn, Mitch. The Boeing B-29 Superfortress (Aircraft in Profile 101). Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1971 (reprint).
  • Nijboer, Donald. B-29 Superfortress vs Ki-44 "Tojo": Pacific Theater 1944–45 (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017).
  • Nijboer, Donald, and Steve Pace. B-29 Combat Missions: First-hand Accounts of Superfortress Operations Over the Pacific and Korea (Metro Books, 2011).
  • Nowicki, Jacek. B-29 Superfortress (Monografie Lotnicze 13) (in Polish). Gdańsk, Poland: AJ-Press, 1994. ISBN   83-86208-09-0.
  • Pace, Steve. Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Ramsbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire, United Kingdom: Crowood Press, 2003. ISBN   1-86126-581-6.
  • Peacock, Lindsay. "Boeing B-29... First of the Superbombers, Part One." Air International , August 1989, Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 68–76, 87. ISSN   0306-5634
  • Peacock, Lindsay. "Boeing B-29... First of the Superbombers, Part Two." Air International, September 1989, Vol. 37, No. 3, pp. 141–144, 150–151. ISSN   0306-5634
  • Pimlott, John. B-29 Superfortress. London: Bison Books Ltd., 1980. ISBN   0-89009-319-9.
  • Rigmant, Vladimir. B-29, Tу-4 – стратегические близнецы – как это было (Авиация и космонавтика 17 [Крылья 4]) (in Russian). Moscow: 1996.
  • Vander Meulen, Jacob. Building the B-29. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 1995. ISBN   1-56098-609-3.
  • Wegg, John. General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors. London: Putnam, 1990. ISBN   0-85177-833-X.
  • Wheeler, Barry C. The Hamlyn Guide to Military Aircraft Markings. London: Chancellor Press, 1992. ISBN   1-85152-582-3.
  • Wheeler, Keith. Bombers over Japan. Virginia Beach, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1982. ISBN   0-8094-3429-6.
  • White, Jerry. Combat Crew and Unit Training in the AAF 1939–1945. USAF Historical Study No. 61. Washington, D.C.: Center for Air Force History, 1949.
  • Williams, Anthony G. and Emmanuel Gustin. Flying Guns World War II: Development of Aircraft Guns, Ammunition and Installations 1933–45. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife, 2003. ISBN   1-84037-227-3.
  • Willis, David. "Boeing B-29 and B-50 Superfortress". International Air Power Review, Volume 22, 2007, pp. 136–169. Westport, Connecticut: AIRtime Publishing. ISSN   1473-9917. ISBN   1-880588-79-X.
  • Wolf, William. Boeing B-29 Superfortress: The Ultimate Look. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2005. ISBN   0-7643-2257-5.