Z SQUARE 7, A B-29 TRUE STORY

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500th Bomb Group, 73rd Wing Honor Roll
Bill Mauldin With Willie And Joe
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Sgt Jesse S. Klein. 41-13180
Frank Farr & Merseburg, Germany
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"Lili Marlene" The B-17
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"Lili Marlene" The B-24
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Frank Farr Poetry "November 2, 1944", "Old Men And The War", " Merseburg"
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Zachary Taylor Nat'l Cemetery Memorial Pages Introduction
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Zachary Taylor Nat'l Cemetery Memorial Page - B29 Superfortress
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Zachary Taylor Nat'l Cemetery Memorial Page - A26 Invader
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Ivan Fail's "The Tuskegee Airmen"
Airmen Medal Of Honor Memorial
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Ivan Fail's "D Day, The Normandy Invasion"
B-29 Crew Positions & Specifications
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C. Clayton Thompson Bookseller
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Lompoc Veterans Memorial Building with photo album
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Ford Tolbert by Sallyann
Ford Tolbert Pictures
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Lt Raymond "Hap" Halloran
Colonel Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, USMC, The Black Sheep Squadron
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Omori POW Camp
Ivan Fail's "A Salute To Lt. Holguin"/ "Shoo Shoo Baby"
Great Bend, Kansas B-29 Memorial
General Lemay's biography including a B-29 nose art photo album
THE GENERAL AND MRS CURTIS LEMAY FOUNDATION
March 9 and 10, 1945 Over Tokyo
Lt "Hap" Halloran on March 10, 1945
General Earl Johnson
General Earl Johnson Biography
313th Bomb Wing Mining Missions
Lt Robert Copeland, copilot, Z Square 8
Pyote Bomber Base With A Photo Album
History of "Diamond Lil" With A Photo Album
History of "FIFI" With A Photo Album
"Hap" Halloran induction Combat Airman Hall of Fame
Blackie Blackburn with a photo album
Hap's Memorable Flight On FIFI
C. Douglas Caffey, A WW2 Veteran, Book Of Poetry
C. Douglas Caffey Collection Of Poetry
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C. Douglas Caffey on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
C. Douglas Caffey With More on PTSD
C. Douglas Caffey Memorial Day Flying The Flag
C. Douglas Caffey Saying Goodbye To America
OUR VETERANS NEED WORK!
Pearl Harbor with Photo Album
The Pacific Theater
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Saipan Medals of Honor
Battle of Tinian, Mariana Islands
Tinian Medals of Honor
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Guam Medals of Honor
Battle of Iwo Jima
Iwo Jima Medals of Honor
Cpl Ira Hayes, USMC
Battle of Okinawa
Okinawa Medals of Honor
Japanese Surrender
Navy Ships At Surrender Ceremonies
Ivan Fail's "The Saga Of The Superfortress"
Ivan Fail's "The Silent Sentries"
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  REMARKS 50TH ANNIVERSARY B-29'S ON TOKYO

 

                  By Major General Earl Johnson

 

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Major General Earl Johnson

INTRODUCTION

Mr. Schreffler; members of the Foreign Press Club of Tokyo; and my good and close friend and fellow Alumnus from Wabash College, Mitsuya Goto. I feel honored to be here today on this 50th Anniversary of the historic low-altitude, incendiary raid on Tokyo by B-29's on March 9th and 10th, 1945. I use those two dates because the raid actually took off about 7:00 P. M. on March 9th and it took almost seven hours to reach Tokyo so the bombs did not start falling until around 1:30 A. M. on March 10th, Tokyo time.

 

My first real look at the city without bombs aboard was on September 2nd, 1945, when I was in one of the several hundred B-29's which flew from north to south over the Battleship Missouri parked in Tokyo Bay at 10:00 A. M. as General Douglas MacArthur was conducting the surrender ceremonies. I remember that day well for as we flew over we were in tight squadron formation of eleven airplanes each. We called it a "bomber stream" and we were at 3,000 feet, as I recall, on a fine, clear day with good visibility. There wasn't much left of Tokyo except the Emperor's Palace and some buildings downtown near the Palace.

 

THE B-29 AIRPLANE

To understand how all this came about you need to know a little about the B-29. This airplane was actually envisioned and designed before World War II by a consortium of aircraft manufacturers led by Boeing and Martin, but Boeing finally won out. The first one flew in Seattle, Washington on September 21, 1942. And a short time later it was ordered into production to became the first warplane in our history that was ordered into production before it had been fully tested. This caused many problems which were not fully solved until right up to the March 9th mission on Tokyo even if they were all solved then.

 

The B-29 carried a crew of eleven (11)--2 pilots, 1 flight engineer, 1 bombardier, 1 navigator, 1 radar operator, 1 radio operator and 4 gunners. When an extra crew member or staff supervisor went along it was usually only one making it a crew of 12.

 

THE BASES AND UNITS

The first combat unit of four Groups (about 180 B-29's) was sent to India in mid1944, with forward bases in the Chengtu valley of China. The plan was to commence bombing Japan and to give support to Chiang Kai-shek. But results were poor, supplies were difficult and Yawata in western Japan was the only major Japanese homeland target reachable. It was a terrible nightmare for the new B-29.

  

It wasn't until the Marianna Islands of Saipan, Tinian and Guam were invaded and taken that the airplane could have a decent base of operations and become effective against Japan. These three islands were large enough to construct runways 8,500 in length which the B-29 needed for heavy take-offs.

 

North Field, Tinian, the field I was on, had 4-parallel runways of 8,500 feet each. It was, at the time, the largest airfield in the world. West Field, Tinian had two runways; Saipan had two runways; Northwest Field, Guam had two runways; and, North Field, Guam had two runways. That makes twelve (12) B-29 runways. Ironically, I flew B-52's off those same runways on North Field, Guam during the Vietnam War.

 

The first unit, the 73rd Bombardment Wing with four Bomb Groups, came to Isley Field on Saipan in October 1944. They flew several high altitude, training missions against Iwo Jima and Truk then on November 24th, 1944, they flew their first daylight mission to Japan. Aircraft reliability and bombing accuracy was poor. Weather forecasting over Japan was difficult, the winds at high altitude were very strong and the airplane wasn't ready. Neither were the crews.

 

The next unit was the 313th Bomb Wing at North Field, Tinian, which also came with four Bomb Groups in late December and January 1945. I came with that Wing and its 9th Bomb Group the latter part of January. Then before the March 9th raid on Tokyo portions of the 314th Wing arrived on North Field, Guam with perhaps 70 or 80 B-29's. By March 9th the entire 21st Bomber Command had around 350 B29's, or less than one-half its planned strength.

 

Also in January 1945, the same month I arrived, General Curtis LeMay came to the 21st Bomber Command from the 20th Bomber Command in China. His Headquarters was on Guam and things began to happen fast. He first studied the B-29 results from high altitude raids against Japan and concluded they were miserable.

 

HOW WE CAME TO INCENDIARY RAIDS

In late January and during February it became obvious the job was not getting done. We were not doing critical damage to Japan's war-making capability. A lot of the industry was being fed by small, home factories all over the major cities with the larger factories being almost like assembly locations. This fact led into incendiary missions on cities as a way to get at the war industry.

 

One incendiary mission had been flown by B-29's against Hankow, China by the China-based 20th Bomber Command on December 18th, 1944. The results of that mission had been good.

 

The incendiary bomb used was the M-69, which had been developed earlier in tests in Utah where engineers built an entire Japanese-style city and set it afire. Sufficient manufacturing capability became available at the end of 1944, and by the end of February 1945, there was a stockpile of M-69's in the Mariannas for a start.

 

An analysis of China raid indicated that 400 B-29's were needed to inflict the same level of damage on Tokyo as had been inflicted on Hankow, but the 21st Bomber Command did not have 400 B-29's. Neither did it have any more time to start getting results. General LeMay determined that we had to go right then with what was available and the decision was made to bomb Tokyo the night of March 9th-10th at low altitude using the M-69.

 

In addition, it was planned for four more missions in rapid succession against Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, and as it turned out, against Nagoya again since the first raid did not cause as much damage as expected.

 

THE MARCH 9-10 TOKYO FIRE RAID

At the mission briefing at around 2:00 o'clock that afternoon the briefing officer said we were going to bomb Tokyo that night with incendiaries between 5,000 and 9,000 feet as individual airplanes. Gasps went up from the thirty-three crews jammed into our 9th Bomb Group briefing quonset. Many felt it was a one-way, suicide mission with balloons and dangling cables ready to entangle an engine or tear off a wing. I was assigned to fly with one of our lead crews commanded by Captain Dave Rogan.

 

As a lead crew Captain Rogan's was designated as a path-finder which meant we took off a little early to get there ahead of our Group and drop phosphorous flares to light and mark our Group's drop area. I guess our biggest fear was running into another B-29 over the target as all our running lights were turned off. This fear was well-founded for many of our losses later on, and probably that night, were for that reason--mid-air collisions.

 

Of interest I located and talked to Dave Rogan just last week. He said his Flight Engineer kept an accurate diary of every mission and I have brought along a copy of that diary. I won't read it here but it is available if you are interested.

 

So off to Tokyo we went shortly after dark on March 9th from North Field, Tinian. I think I stayed awake most of the way to Japan. About an hour out from the Japanese coast we put on our flak suits and steel helmets and got ready to enter enemy territory and make the bomb run. The Flight Engineer's diary says we missed our landfall point and had to make a 360-degree circle to get on the proper course for the bomb run. I don't remember that. But I do distinctly remember coming across Tokyo Bay from south to north at our bombing altitude of 6,500 feet with some of the lights of Tokyo still on.

 

Some flares and incendiaries had been dropped in front of us but the huge fires had not started yet. We got rid of our own flares and bombs on our Group's aiming point and got out of there as fast as we could with a full-power, climbing turn toward the East. As we climbed away we could see the fires starting to grow.

 

One of the things General LeMay had been worried about was that our gunners might fire on other B-29's mistaking them for Japanese night-fighters so all of our gunner's ammunition was downloaded from the airplanes before take-off. The four gunners were mere observers mostly looking out for other B-29's.

 

THE RESULTS

That night in Tokyo there was a very strong wind on the ground which caused more widespread damage than would otherwise have been the case. The final result was the greatest loss of life and property of any air raid in World War II including Europe. Losses were greater than either atomic bomb at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. There were 16.8 square miles of Tokyo burned out; 83,000 people were killed; and, over 267,000 buildings were destroyed. The turning point in the war had been reached but no one knew it yet.

 

The cost in B-29's was about 13 of the 325 scheduled or around 4%. Our 9th Bomb Group lost two airplanes but some crew members were saved by submarines.

 

Back on the ground on Tinian it was not known exactly what had happened until late that afternoon when a photo reconnaissance plane was able to go over Tokyo at high altitude for pictures. Then it became apparent that the damage was much greater than had been anticipated.

 

This mission was the first of four more missions run every 2nd night. The next was March 11-12 against Nagoya with 285 B-29's; then two days later against Osaka with 274 airplanes; then against Kobe with 331 B-29's. The 5th, and final mission, was back to Nagoya with 290 B-29's. Many of our crews in the 9th Group flew 4 of the 5 missions in the 9-days. I flew the first on Tokyo and the last on Nagoya.

 

There was one good reason we stopped after the 5th mission--we were out of incendiary bombs. Even if we had bombs I think we would have stopped for a few days to give the flight crews and maintenance people a chance to catch some rest.

 

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

These raids were carried out in early March 1945. As I said, the turning point in the war had been reached. However, not too many people realized it except perhaps General LeMay and some of our Wing Commanders.

 

One humorous story, if any war can be humorous, was about General LeMay being at our Wing Headquarters on Tinian briefing General Arnold, Chief of the Army Air Forces, and the Air member of the Joint-Chiefs-of-Staff in Washington. The briefing was covering the damage to Japan's major cities after these fire raids. He turned to General LeMay and said, "Curt, Washington has no idea this damage is so great. I want you to go to Washington immediately and brief the Joint Chiefs".

 

Whereupon, General LeMay jumped in a Jeep with his Sergeant driver from Guam and raced the two miles down to our airfield to board his B-29 and fly to Washington. Our field had four-parallel runways each with its own taxiway. To get to the right one there was a large traffic circle with roads running off in all directions. So to get off on the right road to go to a particular location, in this case the Generals B-29, you had to know what you were doing.

 

The poor Sergeant, being from Guam, not knowing our field, got on the big traffic circle and went around three times (or so the story goes) with General LeMay cussing louder and stomping harder on his cigar each time around. They finally got someone to help them find the correct turn-off road which took him to his B-29 and off to Washington he went to brief the Joint Chiefs.

 

There was five (5) more months in front of us with more incendiary raids on Tokyo, incendiary raids on Yokohoma, aerial mining of the Inland Sea, repeat missions to Kobe, Osaka, Nagoya and raids on every small city or factory in Japan. It was truly an awesome operation.

 

IWO JIMA REALLY SAVED US

The capture of Iwo Jima saved the B-29 operation by allowing crippled airplanes to land there on the way back to the Mariannas for fuel or as a result of battle damage.

 

A B-29 from our 9th Bomb Group was the first to land on Iwo Jima in early March when Lt. Malo's crew was badly shot up from one of the early incendiary raids, and even though Iwo Jima was not ready for him, he had to land or ditch.

 

The only runway was half in the hands of the Japanese and half in the hands of our Marines. He touched down on the Japanese side and rolled into the American side where he was patched up and made ready to fly. On take-off he started his roll on the American side and was doing 90 to 100 hundred miles an hour when he crossed into the Japanese side. He was shot at several times but managed to escape and return to our base at North Field, Tinian.

 

Before the aerial war was over some 2,400 B-29's had landed on Iwo Jima with some sort of trouble, many of them two or three times. The taking of Iwo Jima saved the B-29 operation and the stationing of the P-51 fighters there for escort of B-29's to Japan certainly helped.

 

THE ARRIVAL OF THE 509TH

I have purposely avoided any discussion of the atomic missions to Hiroshima and Nagasaki but I will take questions on that subject.

 

I talked with General Paul Tibbetts on the phone a little over a week ago and told him I was coming over here. He passed on his regards to this group. His 509th Group was stationed on the same North Field, Tinian, I was on and I knew most of the crew members.

 

But no one at my level knew what they were about so we sort of dismissed them as having some sort of "blockbuster" bomb much like the 10,000 pound bomb the British RAF had used. Even when we learned by short-wave radio from the States what they had dropped on Hiroshima we still did not get excited. I think we were all too tired. The drop on Nagasaki three days later by Chuck Sweeney was, to us, "just another mission". But, of course, those two B-29 missions, little known to us at the time, have changed the course of history.

 

CONCLUSION

I want to thank all of you for this opportunity to visit Tokyo once again and speak to such a distinguished audience. The mission or missions I have described took place 50-years ago and contributed greatly to the end of World War II.

 

But we should not forget that it was made possible by soldiers, sailors and marines who fought and died in the Pacific to secure the bases from which the B-29's could launch.

 

The B-29 operation proved Strategic Air Power and has shaped our Armed Forces for the past 50-years. Perhaps far into the future.

 

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