Unlike many other World War II-era bombers, the B-29 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 and used the name Washington for the type, replacing them in 1953 with the Canberra jet bomber, and 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) which was essentially a re-engined B-29. The type was finally retired in the early 1960s, with 3,970 aircraft in all built. While dozens of B-29s have survived through today as static displays, only one, Fifi, remains on active flying status.
A transport derived from the B-29 was the C-97, 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. The tanker variant of the B-29 was introduced in 1948 as the KB-29, followed by the Model 377-derivative KC-97 introduced in 1950. A heavily modified line of outsized-cargo variants of the B-29-derived Stratocruiser is the Guppy / Mini Guppy / Super Guppy which remain in service today with operators such as NASA.
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 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 Thailand. Five B-29s were lost during the mission, none to hostile fire.
Forward base in ChinaOn 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. On 15 June 1944, 68 B-29s took off from bases around Chengdu 47 of which reached and bombed the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yahata Japan. This was the first attack on Japanese islands since the Doolittle raid in April 1942. 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, 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, disappeared after takeoff from Chakulia, India, over the Himalayas (12 KIA, 11 crew and one passenger)(Source: 20th Bomb Group Assn.) This raid, which did little damage to the target, with only one bomb striking the target factory complex, nearly exhausted fuel stocks at the Chengdu B-29 bases, resulting in a slow-down of operations until the fuel stockpiles could be replenished. 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), 8 September (90), 26 September (83), 25 October (59), 12 November (29), 21 November (61), 19 December (36) and for the last time on 6 January 1945 (49).
The tactic of using aircraft to ram American B-29s was first recorded on 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. It was therefore agreed in December 1943 to seize the Marianas.
Saipan was invaded by US forces on 15 June 1944, and despite a Japanese naval counterattack which led to the Battle of the Philippine Sea and heavy fighting on land, was secured by 9 July. Operations followed against Guam and Tinian, with all three islands secured by August.
Work began at once to construct air bases suitable for the B-29, work beginning even before the end of ground fighting. In all, five major air fields were built, with 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. These bases, which could be supplied by ship, and unlike the bases in China, were not vulnerable to attacks by Japanese ground forces, 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 first mission against Japan from bases in the Marianas was flown on 24 November 1944, with 111 B-29s sent to attack Tokyo, with 73rd Bomb Wing wing commander Brigadier General Emmett O'Donnell, Jr. as mission command pilot in B-29 Dauntless Dotty, the first attack on the capital since the Doolittle Raid in April 1942. From that point, raids intensified, launched regularly until the end of the war. These attacks succeeded in devastating almost all 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 significantly affected Japan's ability to support its population and move its troops.
The atomic bombsPerhaps the most famous B-29 is the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb "Little Boy" on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, and is presently preserved and on display at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Bockscar, another B-29, dropped "Fat Man" on Nagasaki three days later, and is preserved and on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. These two actions, along with the Soviet invasion of Manchuria on 9 August 1945, brought about the Japanese surrender, and the official end of World War II. Both aircraft were handpicked for modification from the assembly line at the Omaha plant that was to become Offutt Air Force Base.
Following the surrender of Japan, 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 to that date flown by U.S. Army Air Forces aircraft and the first-ever nonstop flight from Japan to the U.S. 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, with a gross takeoff weight of 155,000 pounds (70,000 kg).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.
B-29s in Europe and Australia
Although considered for other theaters, and briefly evaluated in England, 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 thought to be as a "disinformation" program intended to deceive the Germans into believing that the B-29 would be deployed to Europe.
Postwar, several RAF Bomber Command squadrons were equipped with B-29s loaned from USAF stocks. The aircraft were known as the Washington B.1 in RAF service, and remained in service from March 1950 until the last bombers were returned in early 1954, having been replaced 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 and flown to Australia. They were attached to the Aircraft Research and Development Unit and used in trials conducted on behalf of the British Ministry of Supply. Both aircraft were placed in storage in 1956 and were sold for scrap the next year.
Soviet copying of the B-29
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 and kept by the Soviets, despite American requests for their return and were, instead, used by the Soviets as a pattern for the Tupolev Tu-4.
On 31 July 1944 Ramp Tramp (serial number 42-6256), of the 462nd (Very Heavy) Bomb Group was diverted to Vladivostok, Russia after an engine failed and the propeller could not be feathered. This B-29 was part of a 100 aircraft raid against the Japanese Showa steel mill in Anshan, Manchuria. 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 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. 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.
Because aluminum in the USSR was supplied in different gauges to those available in the US (metric vs imperial), 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 B-29 clone aircraft. 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.
Between warsWhile the end of World War II caused production of the B-29 to be phased out, with the last example completed by Boeing's Renton factory on 28 May 1946, and with many aircraft sent for storage and ultimately scrapping as surplus to requirements, the remaining B-29s formed the combat equipment of Strategic Air Command when it formed on 21 March 1946. 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.
The B-29s were outfitted with filtered air sampling scoops and monitored debris from above ground nuclear weapons testing by the United States and the USSR. The aircraft were also used for long-range weather reconnaissance (WB-29) and for signals intelligence gathering and photographic reconnaissance (RB-29).
Korean War and postwar serviceThe 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 "Fagot" 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.
The B-29 was notable for dropping the large "Razon" and "Tarzon" radio-controlled bomb 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.
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.
The B-29 was soon made obsolete by the development of the jet engined fighter aircraft. 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 (which was 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 variants were phased out in the mid-1960s. A total of 3,970 B-29s were built.
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Das Modell zeigt eine B-29 der 504th Bomb Group / 313th Bomb Wing aus North Field / Tinian - Marianen Inseln 1945.
The model shows a B-29 of the 504th bomb group / 313th bomb wing in North Field / Tinian - Marian Island 1945.