Monday morning, 8:30am, February
5, 1940. It was raining and foggy (as usual). Phil Johnson (president of Boeing Aircraft Co.) grabbed a cup of hot coffee
and sat down at his desk to go through the morning mail. He normally scanned all the envelopes before he read the letter,
but this one caught his eye; "War Department, U.S. Army Air Corps, Wright Field, Ohio". Inside he found a thick document with
a cover page, which began "U.S. Army, Airplane, Bombardment, Specification For". It was dated January 29, 1940
Thus began the long, sometimes
tragic journey which would culminate in the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, unquestionably the most formidable bombing aircraft
of the Second World War.
It was originally designated
Boeing Model 341 but, after taking a few suggestions from the British (who were then using a small number of B-17Cs as Fortress
Is for the RAF), Boeing began adding self-sealing fuel tanks, more armor, and state-of-the-art defensive armament amongst
other refinements. When they were through, they sent the new specification to the Army Air Corps and redesignated it Boeing
Model 345. The specifications were approved in June and by the end of 1940, Boeing had completed a mock-up. After an inspection
and approval by the USAAC, two prototype "XB-29-BO" aircraft and a static test airframe were ordered and the Boeing-Seattle
plant shifted into high gear. Within 5 months, and before a single piece of the XB-29 had been manufactured, the Army ordered
250 more B-29 aircraft. Before the first B-29 ever flew, 1,650 were on order by the USAAF (around this time the name was changed
from "US Army Air Corps" to "US Army Air Forces"). Fourteen of the first batch were designated "YB29-BW" (These last two letters
in the designation were for the company name and location of the manufacturing plant. "-BW" signified "Boeing-Wichita". "-BO"
was used for "Boeing-Seattle in order to avoid "-BS"). The YB-29s would be the "Service Test" aircraft.
|The ceremony of the 1,000th B-29 on the Boeing-Wichita flight apron on 02/14/1945.
The first problem was finding
a wing to lift the giant. A search for an "off-the-shelf" wing yielded nothing suitable. Any given wing would have enough
lift, only to have too much drag at cruising speed. Another would have low drag but wicked stall characteristics. Yet another
would have low drag, good stall characteristics and not enough lift to get the 105,000 lb. monster off any runway of reasonable
length. The Solution? Boeing designed its' own wing, designated the Boeing "117" wing. When the wing design was finished,
it was 141 feet long and had an area of 1,736 square feet. It had a set of flaps, which would increase the wing area by 350
square feet, for better control at slower speeds. With the flaps retracted, the wing had very low drag, which permitted higher
speeds. Boeing had to devise a way to manufacture two wing spars which were the longest and heaviest Duralumin extrusions
ever made. During destruction testing of the Boeing 117 wing, it took 300,000 pounds of pressure to collapse the wing.
Early on, Boeing wrestled
with the problem of crew comfort in the Superfortress. In smaller bombers, the problem was less severe because of their limited
range. With the endurance of the Superfortress, the crew could be airborne for up to 18 hours at altitudes of 32,000 feet
where the temperature could drop to 50° below zero. This meant the B-29 crew areas would have to be pressurized. But, if the
plane were pressurized, how could you open 40 feet of the fuselage to outside air pressure at 32,000 feet in order to drop
the bombs? The Solution; pressurize the areas fore and aft of the double bomb bay and connect the two sections with a large
tube placed over the top of the bomb bays so airmen could get from one section of the ship to the other.
Then there were problems
with the huge, 161/2' Hamilton Standard propellers which caused "run-a-way" engines, problems with the 4 remote controlled
gun "barbettes, problems with the "fire control blisters" where gunners were stationed to aim the barbettes; the blisters
sometimes blew out when the craft was pressurized and flying at high altitude. (Gunners were advised to wear a safety line
in order to avoid being blown overboard if a blister popped). There were problems with booster controls for the rudder and
problems with the radar.
|Awaiting final flight tests, an impressive number of other B-29's fills the Boeing-Witchita parking
Finally on Monday, September
21, 1942, in front of almost all the Boeing employees who had contributed over 1,300,000 man hours to the Model 345 project,
Number One XB-29 was rolled out on the runway at Boeing Field, Seattle. Engines were warmed, takeoff power was applied and
Eddie Allen, Boeings Chief Test Pilot lifted the first Superfortress off the runway as smoothly as if he'd been doing it for
years. The 52 1/2 ton craft rose steadily to 6,000 feet where Allen made the preliminary tests of the controls for pitch,
yaw and roll. After a 1 1/2 hour flight, he brought the huge aircraft back to a smooth landing. The second prototype flew
three months later.
As a measure of the problems
yet to be solved; in the ninety-seven days following that first flight, Allen was able to accumulate only 27 hours flight
time in No. 1. However, as a measure of the fundamental integrity of the aircraft itself, not a single basic alteration to
the airframe was required throughout its' production history.
|Mechanic looks into the engine as the two men change a turbo-supercharger.
The most relentless problem
was the 2,200 hp Wright Cyclone R-3350 twin row radial engine. It had a persistent inclination to overheat, swallow valves
and even catch fire in flight. In an effort to produce more horsepower from a lighter engine, the crankcase was made of magnesium,
a very light, very strong metal. The problem was magnesium is also a flammable metal. When that was combined with the additional
problem of a fuel induction system, which tended to catch fire and burn long enough to catch the magnesium afire, it became
a very serious situation. "Band-Aid" treatments such as air baffles to direct more air to the rear row of cylinders and propeller
cuffs to force more air through the engine helped, but it would be many moons before the problem was solved. Boeing lost its'
Chief Test Pilot along with the cream of the B-29 flight test crew because of a fire which destroyed a wing spar. Shortly
after noon on Thursday, February 18, 1943, Eddie Allen was flight testing the number two XB-29 when an engine fire developed.
The port wing spar burned through and collapsed sending the huge bomber crashing into a meat packing plant a few miles south
of Boeing Field. All eleven men aboard the plane and 18 in the plant were killed instantly.
Eventually, Senator Harry
S. Truman (who would later become President Truman) headed a committee looking into the problems of the Wright R-3350 Cyclone
radial engine. The committee found Wright Aeronautical at fault for letting quality go by the boards in favor of quantity.
Equally at fault, according to the committee report, was the USAAF for putting too much pressure on Wright to speed up production
of the R-3350.
|"Enduring Eddie" by Artist John Young
The Boeing B-29 "Eddie Allen" was far more than
just another combat machine thrown into the effort to bring WW II to an end. Named after the famous Boeing test pilot Edmund
T. "Eddie" Allen, the aircraft was paid for by donations from the employees of Boeing Wichita and given to the USAAF as a
gift. Allen gave his life in the crash of the B-29 prototype, trying to nurse the burning aircraft back to base in order to
analyze the source of the problem. The "Eddie Allen" served its country well, flying 24 combat missions before being so badly
damaged that it was almost unable to return to its Tinian Island base. The damaged aircraft was never to fly again and its
remains were left on the small Pacific Island.
Though the problems
weren't completely solved, by the end of 1943 they were under control to the extent Boeing-Renton and Bell-Marietta began
turning out the first of nearly 2,000 B-29 Superfortresses contained in the initial orders for delivery to the USAAF.
|A column of smoke rises more than 60,000 feet over the Japanese port of Nagasaki.
It was armed with the General
Electric auto-computing fire control system composed of eight remotely-controlled .50 caliber machine guns installed in 4
barbettes located on the top and bottom of the fuselage fore and aft. Later models added 2 more machine guns to the top forward
barbette to assist in defending against frontal attacks. Control of the 4 barbettes could be transferred to a single gunner
or shared between front, right, left and top gunners. The tail-gunner controlled two more .50s plus a 20mm cannon. It was
estimated the tail gunner accounted for 75% of all enemy planes destroyed by the Superfortress. One reason for this was the
20mm cannon. Another was the slow closing rate of an enemy approaching from the rear which allowed more time for the tail
gunner to sight on the intruder.
Initially the B-29 had a
maximum permissible weight of around 105,000 pounds which was quickly upgraded to 138,000 pounds. During the latter phases
of the war with Japan, gross take-off weights of well over 140,000 pounds were fairly common for the Superfortress .
A whopping 40% of the fuselage
was dedicated to carrying bombs. The double bomb bay could carry 16,000 pounds to a target 2,050 miles away and return to
base. It took 6,988 gallons of 100 octane aircraft fuel to fill the tanks. The maximum capacity was 9,548 gallons with ferry-tanks
in the bomb bays, in which case the range was extended to 6,000 miles.
The Superfortress was furnished
in two basic configurations. There was the "F13" photo version which was used to obtain target photos of Japan and in fact
the entire western Pacific and eastern Asia area. And, there was the B-29, B-29A and B-29B, all of which appeared identical,
though their "innards" were sometimes very different. As each Superfortress rolled down the assembly line, it was given the
latest USAAF modifications which resulted in 3,965 B-29s each of which was just a bit different from the next.
The Superfortress acquitted
itself well in the Pacific war in spite of mechanical and electronic problems. At first, it wasn't unusual for a mission to
lose more aircraft to mechanical problems than to the enemy. But, as the Crew Chiefs became more adept at field modification
the numbers slowly began to improve.
The major factor in creating
an efficient bombing machine out of the Superfortress was an Air Forces Major General named Curtis E. LeMay. Nicknamed "Iron
Ass", LeMay was put in command of the Marianas based B-29s and was responsible for solving several of the Superfortress and
operational problems in one stroke: He ordered the B-29 crews to remove the guns (the tail guns were replaced with broom sticks
so the enemy fighter pilots, hopefully, wouldn't become aware of the missing guns). Also the gunners and all the ammunition
were to be removed. And he ordered the missions flown at 8,000 to 12,000 feet. Bombing accuracy had been miserable because
of the high winds at the 28,000 to 34,000 foot level where previous mission had been flown. Aborts were common because of
engines which overheated in the process of climbing to which altitude. With the new procedures, fuel could be saved, without
the weight of guns, ammunition and gunners, more bombs could be carried, engines would run cooler and bombing would be done
from below the fierce winds raging over Japan.
|The Enola Gay was over Hiroshima, Japan at 31,600 feet when the first atomic bomb was dropped.
LeMay faced a near-mutiny
from his crews who were certain Japanese flak batteries would rip them to pieces at such a low altitude. And he knew his butt
was on the line to his superiors if it turned into a massacre. But he stuck to his decision and it was a good one. Casualties
went down, the number of targets destroyed rose dramatically and the number of aborts due to overheated engines dropped. The
air war against the Japanese home islands entered a new and apocalyptic phase where city after city was nearly obliterated
by firebombs. The city of Toyama was 99.5% destroyed in one raid by 173 B-29s on the night of August 1, 1945!
At 2:45am, Monday, August
6, 1945 an ordinary looking B-29-45-MO, serial number 44-86292 sat at the end of the runway at North Field, Tinian, an obscure
little island in the Marianas Group of the western Pacific. The engines were run up one at a time, a spot light illuminating
each to check for undue smoke or other disorder. The only thing peculiar about the ship at all was the name; no raucous female
nude in a suggestive pose painted on the nose, just the rather unremarkable printing: "Enola Gay". Sitting in the left seat
was Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., commander of the 509th Composite Group; in the right seat was Captain Robert Lewis. The
Group had been at Tinian since June and curiosity amongst the other Groups was mounting. The 509th didn't seem to have a particular
mission, just a few "training" flights to Truk and other low priority targets in Japan itself. They kept their distance from
the other Groups, didn't mingle at all. In another few hours, the whole world would know of the mission of the 509th Composite
Group and this particular aircraft, the Enola Gay.
Lifting 75 tons off the runway,
she was on her way to Japan. At 8:15:17am the Enola Gay was over Hiroshima, Japan at 31,600 feet when the worlds first atomic
bomb to be dropped from an aircraft, was toggled. Two minutes later it exploded over the city at an altitude of about 2,000
feet. The bomb wiped out a circle 4.5 miles in diameter in the middle of Hiroshima. On August 9, another atom bomb was dropped
on Nagasaki. Six days later, the Japanese unconditionally surrendered. Thus the end of World War Two was brought about in
no small measure by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress.
ft. 3 in (43.05 m)
ft. 0 in (30.17 m)
ft. 7 in (9.02 m)
sq ft (529.13 sq m)
lb (32,752 kg)
lb (63,502 kg)
m.p.h. (642 km/h) at 30,000 ft (9,144 m)
ft (7,299 m)
ft (11,018 m)
miles (6,759 km)
(with 18,000 lbs. (8,164 kg) bombs)
Wright Aeronautical R-3350-57 Twin Row Radial
2,200 hp (1,640 kw) take-off, 2,500 hp (1,864) WE, Air Cooled
or twelve 50-cal. machine-guns. One 20mm cannon.
Maximum bomb Load: 20,000 lbs. (9,0710 kg)
Click here for The Aviation History On-line Museum. Thank you!
The initial plan, implemented at the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a promise to China and called Operation Matterhorn, was to use B-29s 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. 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. 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
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 Thailand.
Joe Baugher's B-29 Report
B29 attacks on Japan from the Marianas!
chain of islands, consisting primarily of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, were considered as being ideal bases from which to launch
B-29 operations against Japan. The islands were about 1500 miles from Tokyo, a range which the B-29s could just about manage.
Most important of all, they could be put on a direct supply line from the United States by ship.
1943, the Marianas were firmly under Japanese control. Plans for the conquest of the Marianas had been put forward as early
as May 1943 by Admiral Ernest King at the Anglo-American Trident Conference in Washington, but not much was done at the time
since the US Navy was locked in a bitter contest further south in the Solomons and New Guinea. It was not until September
of 1943 that the full potential of the Marianas as a B-29 base to attack Japan was realized. On October 4, 1943, General Henry
H. Arnold approached the Joint Planning Staff with a proposal for the seizure of the Marianas at the earliest possible date
as bases for the B-29. Much of the combat that followed in the Pacific for the next two years had as its major objective the
seizure of B-29 bases ever closer and closer to Japan.
The plan was formally
approved at the Cairo Conference between President Franklin Roosevelt, Chinese President Chiang Kai-shek, and British Prime
Minister Winston Churchill, held in November of 1943. Admiral Chester Nimitz was to assume overall command of the effort.
First to be attacked was
Saipan. On June 11, 1944 a four-day naval and air bombardment of the island began. On the 15th, Marine units stormed ashore,
followed a day later by Army units. After several weeks of heavy fighting, during which over 3000 American and 24,000 Japanese
lives were lost, the island was finally declared secure on July 9. The seizure of Saipan enabled invasions of Guam and Tinian
to proceed, which were attacked on July 20 and July 23 respectively. These islands were declared secure on August 9. The US
now had its bases.
Construction of the B-29
airfields on Saipan began almost immediately, even while the fighting was still going on. Initial construction took place
at a former Japanese airstrip called Aslito. This was later renamed Isley Field, after Navy Commander Robert H. Isely (unfortunately
his name was misspelled and the incorrect version stuck).
The XXI Bombardment Command
had been assigned the overall responsibility of the B-29 operations out of the Marianas bases. The XXI BC had been activated
at Smokey Hill on March 1, 1944. In August, Major General Haywood S. Hansell Jr was directed to take over command of the XXI
BC. The field on Saipan was to be occupied by the 73rd Bombardment Wing (which consisted of the 497th, 498th, 499th, and 500th
Bombardment Groups). The 73rd BW has been formed at Salina, Kansas on November 28, 1943 with Col. Thomas H. Chapman as the
first commander. In March, Col. Chapman was replaced by Brigadier General Emmett O'Donnell.
Brigadier General Emmett
O'Donnell flying in Dauntless Dotty. Seventeen of them had to abort due to the usual spate of engine failures. The remainder
approached the target at altitudes of 27-32,000 feet. For the first time, the B-29 encountered the jet stream, which was a
high-speed wind coming out of the west at speeds as high as 200 mph at precisely the altitudes at which the bombers were operating.
This caused the bomber formations to be disrupted and made accurate bombing impossible. In addition, the Nakajima plant was
covered in patchy cloud at the time and only 24 of the B-29s dropped their bombs in even roughly the right place. The target
was hardly damaged, and one B-29 was rammed by a Japanese fighter and destroyed. It was not a good start.
The Musashi plant was revisited
ten more times over the next few weeks. The results were still disappointing. Only ten percent of the damage done by the bombs
was actually inside the plant area. 40 bombers had been lost in these eleven raids, many to accidents caused by engine failures.
In December there
were a series of raids against the Mitsubishi engine plant at Nagoya. Although some 17 percent of the facility was gutted,
Japanese defenses were becoming more effective and losses to enemy action were now reaching four or five per mission.
Marianas operation was going the way of Operation Matterhorn, with losses being high and not much damage to the enemy being
done. Since little progress was being made, General Arnold recalled General Hansell and moved General LeMay from India to
take over the XXI BC. LeMay arrived in the Marianas on January 20, 1945.
Before he left, General Hansell
had introduced some reforms which were to have lasting effects. Engine failures were still a problem for the B-29 as late
as mid-January of 1945, and the abort rate was running at 23 percent per mission. In order to reduce the abort rate, Hansell
ordered a weight reduction program for the B-29 in which one of the fuel tanks was taken out and some of the 0.50-inch machine
gun ammunition was removed, shaving over 6000 pounds from the weight of each plane. Maintenance was centralized under Hansell's
headquarters rather than having it being split up between the various Bombardment Groups. As a result of these changes, B-29
endurance began to lengthen, engine life was extended from 200 to 750 hours, and the abort rate began to decline. By July
of 1945, it was down to less then seven percent per operation.
In January of 1945, the 313th
Bombardment Wing (6th, 9th, 504th, and 505th Bombardment Groups) under the command of Brig Gen John H. Davies took over the
newly-built North Field on Tinian. They took part in a high-altitude daylight raid on Kobe on February 4.
This was the last of the
raids on Japan for a while, General LeMay's B-29s being diverted to the campaign to capture Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima was considered
vital to the B-29 campaign, since it could be used to base fighters capable of escorting the B-29s to Japan, as well as an
emergency field midway between the Marianas and their targets.
Concerned about the relative
failure of the B-29 offensive to deal any crippling blows to Japan, General LeMay issued a new directive on February 19. General
LeMay had analyzed the structure of the Japanese economy, which depended heavily on cottage industries housed in cities close
to major industrial areas. By destroying these feeder industries, the flow of vital components to the central plants could
be slowed, disorganizing production of weapons vital to Japan. He decided to do this by using incendiary bombs rather than
purely high-explosive bombs, which would, it was hoped, cause general conflagrations in large cities like Tokyo or Nagoya,
spreading to some of the priority targets.
In addition, LeMay had concluded
that the effects of the jet stream, cloud cover, and high operating altitudes were to blame for the failure of the B-29 raids
to do any significant damage to the Japanese war industry. The initial raids against Japan had taken place at high altitudes
in order to stay above anti-aircraft fire and the effective altitude of defending fighters. LeMay suggested that high-altitude,
daylight attacks be phased out and replaced by low-altitude, high-intensity incendiary raids at nighttime. The aircraft would
attack individually, which meant that no assembly over the base at the start of the mission or along the way would be needed.
Consequently, aircraft could go directly from the base to the target and return, maximizing the bomb load and saving substantially
on fuel. He ordered that all the B-29s be stripped of their General Electric defensive gun systems, leaving only the tail
gun. The weight of extra crew members, armament, and ammunition would bo into bombs, each B-29 being loaded down with six
to eight tons of M69 incendiary bombs. These bombs would be dropped from altitudes of only 5 to 6 thousand feet. This strategy
would enable the B-29s to escape the effects of the jet stream and would get the bombers below most of the cloud cover. In
addition, the B-29s would no longer have to struggle up to 30,000 feet and this would save on fuel and on wear and tear to
the engines. It was believed that Japanese night fighter forces were relatively weak, but flak losses were expected to be
The first raid to use these
new techniques was on the night of March 9-10 against Tokyo. Another wing--the 314th Bombardment Wing (19th, 29th, 39th, and
330th BG) commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas S. Power--had arrived in the Marianas and was stationed at North Field on Guam. A
total of 302 B-29s participated in the raid, with 279 arriving over the target. The raid was led by special pathfinder crews
who marked central aiming points. It lasted for two hours. The raid was a success beyond General LeMay's wildest expectations.
The individual fires caused by the bombs joined to create a general conflagration known as a firestorm. When it was over,
sixteen square miles of the center of Tokyo had gone up in flames and nearly 84,000 people had been killed. Fourteen B-29s
were lost. The B-29 was finally beginning to have an effect.
On the night of March 11-12,
the B-29s were in action again, this time against the city of Nagoya. This time, the scattered fires did not join to create
a general firestorm, and only two square miles of the city were destroyed. On the night of March 13-14, eight square miles
of Osaka went up in flames. On March 16-17, three square miles of Kobe were destroyed, and on March 19-20 in a return visit
to Nagoya, three more square miles were destroyed. This destructive week had killed over 120,000 Japanese civilians at the
cost of only 20 B-29s lost. The strategic bombing campaign had at last been justified.
By March 20, XXI Bombardment
Corps had run out of incendiaries, forcing a momentary pause. While waiting for new incendiary stocks, LeMay devoted his B-29s
to flying tactical missions over the island of Kyushu in support of the invasion of Okinawa. Airfields and support facilities
were primary targets. These raids lasted until early May.
In April of 1945, General
LeMay gave new orders for more incendiary raids. This time, aircraft engine factories at Musashi and Nagoya were to be hit,
but urban areas in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kawasaki, Kobe, and Yokohama were also to be attacked. On April 7, 153 B-29s struck
the aircraft-engine complex at Nagoya, destroying about 90 percent of that facility. Five days later, 93 B-29s destroyed the
Nakajima factory at Musashi. The Japanese aircraft engine industry essentially ceased to exist after this time.
On April 13, 327 B-29s burned
out eleven more square miles of Tokyo. Seven more B-29s were lost.
In mid-April, the XXI BC
received the 58th Bombardment Wing, which had been redeployed from the now-defunct XX BC in the CBI theatre to West Field
On May 14, 472 B-29s attacked
the area in and around the Mitsubishi engine factory at Nagoya. Two nights later, another visit to Nagoya devastated another
four square miles of that city. On May 23 and May 25, Tokyo was hit again. Although these two Tokyo raids had cost 43 B-29s,
over 50 percent of the city had now been destroyed.
Alarmed at the increasing
B-29 losses, a change of tactics was ordered. In an attempt to confuse the enemy defenses and to lure Japanese fighters into
an air battle in which many of them would be destroyed, high-altitude daylight attacks were temporarily resumed. On May 29,
454 B-29s appeared over Yokohama, but this time they were escorted by P-51 Mustangs from Iwo Jima. In the resulting dogfight,
26 Japanese fighters were destroyed as against the lost of four B-29s and three P-51s. Thereafter, the Japanese hoarded their
surviving fighters for a last-ditch effort against the inevitable invasion force, and the air defense of cities became a lesser
priority. By June of 1945, Japanese interceptors were seen much less frequently and the B-29s had virtually free reign over
all Japanese airspace.
On June 5, the B-29s attacked
Kobe with such effectiveness that the city was crossed off the target list as not worth revisiting. By the end of the month,
the six major cities on LeMay's list had all been effectively destroyed.
The newly-arrived 315th Bombardment
Wing (16th, 331st, 510st, and 502nd BGs) stationed at Northwest Field on Guam was equipped entirely with the B-29B variant.
This variant had been built by Bell Aircraft at Marietta, Georgia and had been manufactured without the General Electric gun
system in order to save weight. The 315th had been trained for low-altitude, nighttime pathfinder missions. Between June 26
and August 10, they carried out a series of strikes against oil production facilities which essentially shut down the Japanese
The 73rw BW was ordered to
the Marianas rather than to the CBI. The first B-29 arrived on Saipan on October 12, 1944. It was piloted by General Hansell
himself. By November 22, over 100 B-29s were on Saipan. The XXI BC was assigned the task of destroying the aircraft industry
of Japan in a series of high-altitude, daylight precision attacks. However, General Hansell was fully aware that his crews
still lacked the necessary experience to carry out such missions. In late October and early November 1944, a series of tactical
raids were carried out as training exercises for the crews. On October 27, 18 B-29s attacked Japanese installations on Truk.
Four Superfortresses had to abort because of the usual engine problems, and combat formations were scrappy. Truk was hit again
by B-29s on October 30 and November 2.
Aware that there was now
a new threat, Japanese aircraft based on Iwo Jima staged a low-level raid on Isley Field on November 2, damaging several B-29s
on the ground. Retaliatory strikes were ordered on Iwo Jima on November 5 and 11, but the results were again poor. As in the
Matterhorn campaign, the B-29s were in danger of being dissipated in tactical missions and even these were not all that successful.
General Arnold was pressing
Hansell for an attack on Japan as soon as possible. The first raid against Japan took place on November 24, 1944. The target
was the Nakajima Aircraft Company's Musashi engine plant just outside Tokyo. It was the first attack on Tokyo since the Doolittle
raid of over two years earlier. 111 B-29s took off.
March of 1945, the 313th Bombardment Wing began a series of mining operations against Japanese ports. Nearly 13,000 acoustic
and magnetic mines were placed in the western approaches to the narrow Shimonoseki strait and the Inland Sea as well as in
the harbors of Hiroshima, Kure, Tokyo, Nagoya, Tokuyama, Aki, and Noda. The mining operation was extremely successful and
brought Japanese coastal shipping to a standstill by April. In May, merchant vessels were ordered to break through the line
of mines, and 85 of them were sunk. These mining efforts were so effective that the postwar Strategic Bombing Survey credited
the B-29 with 9.3 percent of the total Japanese shipping losses during the war.
most of the larger Japanese cities had been gutted, and LeMay ordered new incendiary raids against 58 smaller Japanese cities.
By now, the B-29 raids were essentially unopposed by Japanese fighters. In late June, B-29 crews felt sufficiently confident
that they began to drop leaflets warning the population of forthcoming attacks, followed three days later by a raid in which
the specified urban area was devastated.
of 1945, the XX and XXI Bombardment Commands were grouped under the US Strategic Air Forces, Pacific, under the command of
General Carl A. Spaatz.
end of June, the civilian population began to show signs of panic, and the Imperial Cabinet first began to consider negotiating
an end to the war. However, at that time, the Japanese military was adamant about continuing on to the bitter end.
During the Marianas operation,
a total of 25,500 individual aircraft sorties were flow, and 170,000 tons of conventional ordnance had been dropped. A total
of 371 bombers had been lost.
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