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The Boeing B-29 "Superfortress"

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Boeing B-29

The B-29

The Boeing B-29 was designed in 1940 as an eventual replacement for the B-17 and B-24. The first one built made its maiden flight on September 21, 1942. In December 1943 it was decided not to use the B-29 in the European Theater, thereby permitting the airplane to be sent to the Pacific area where its great range made it particularly suited for the long over-water flight required to attack the Japanese homeland from bases in China. During the last two months of 1944, B-29s began operating against Japan from the islands of Saipan, Guam and Tinian.

With the advent of the conflict in Korea in June 1950, the B-29 was once again thrust into battle. For the next several years it was effectively used for attacking targets in North Korea.

The B-29 on display, named "Bockscar," was flown to the U.S. Air Force Museum on September 26, 1961. It is the airplane from which the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

141 ft. 3 in.
Length: 99 ft. 0 in.
Height: 27 ft. 9 in.
Weight: 133,500 lbs. max.
Armament: Eight or ten .50-cal. machine guns in remote controlled turrets plus two .50-cal. machine guns and one 20mm cannon in tail; 20,000 lbs. of bombs
Engines: Four Wright R-3350s of 2,200 hp. ea.
Cost: $639,000
Serial Number: 44-27297

Maximum speed:
357 mph.
Cruising speed: 220 mph.
Range: 3,700 miles
Service Ceiling: 33,600 ft.



The Wright R-3350-57  "Cyclone" Engine

Aircraft engine design made great advances during the war years. Piston engines reached a level of power and performance that was startling and a new type of power plant, the turbojet came into being. Tremendous effort went toward creating an aircraft engine that could deliver one horsepower for each pound of weight. This was achieved most notably in the Wright Cyclone R-3350 engine, four of which powered the giant B-29 bomber.

There are two main types of piston engines; radial or air-cooled and inline or liquid-cooled. Radial engines typically have a large area to facilitate cooling but this also increases drag - not an attribute you want when designing a fighter plane. This is why inline or liquid cooled engines were used in the majority of front-line fighters during the war including the P-51 Mustang, the Spitfire, and the Messerschmitt Bf 109. It took clever design and engineering to produce a high-performance radial engine fighter aircraft. This was accomplished with the Focke-wulf Fw-190D and P-47 Thunderbolt fighters.

An additional issue is the greater vulnerability of liquid-cooled engines to gunfire and damage since even a single bullet hole in the coolant lines could led to engine loss within minutes. While this is a valid criticism most aircraft designer's went with inline engines for fighters and its hard to argue with the results.

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The Wright R-3350 "Cyclone"

 The Wright R-3350 "Cyclone" was one of the most powerful radial aircraft engines produced in the United States. The first R-3350 was run in May 1937, and later versions of this engine remained in production into the 1950s. Thousands were built to power both military and commercial aircraft during this time. Its first major military use was in the Boeing B-29 during World War II. Subsequent versions were used in the C-119, C-121, A-1 Skyraider, and several Navy and commercial aircraft.

The R-3350 is a twin row, supercharged, air-cooled, radial engine with 18 cylinders and a displacement of 3,350 cubic inches. Horsepower ranges from 2,200 to over 2,800, depending on the model.

Courtesy Of The Air Force Museum


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The Wright R-3350 "Cyclone"

Wright Aeronautical Corporation. R-3350 Duplex Cyclone engine - twin row, supercharged, air-cooled, radial engine with 18 cylinders and a displacement of 3,350 cubic inches. Two General Electric B-11 superchargers, one on each side of the nacelle.

2,200 hp R-3350-13 17ft 0" (5.18m) three-blade propellers 3 XB-29s
2,200 hp R-3350-21 17ft 0" (5.18m) three-blade propellers 14 service-test YB-29s
2,200 hp R-3350-23 16ft 7" (5.05m) four-blade Hamilton Standard constant-speed, full feathering propellers B-29s
R-3350-41; R-3350-57; R-3350-57A

R-3350-57 Specs
Air-cooled, 18-cylinder twin-row radial engine
Country/Date: U.S.A., 1942
Rating: 2,200 hp @ 2800 rpm
Displacement: 3,350 cu. in.
Weight: 2,779 lbs.
Bore & Stroke: 6.125" & 6.3"

The immensely powerful Wright R-3350 was chosen as the power plant for the B-29. Four of these massive engines provided the power to move each B-29. Problems with overheating were legendary but were overcome with numerous field modifications and changes in engine use. Altogether the R-3350 went through tens of thousands of design changes during its early development. Pilots learned to use as much of the runway as possible and build up speed to help cool the engines before slowing climbing for altitude.

Work on the engine began in January 1936 and the first one ran in May 1937. It was similar in design to the company's R-2600 14-cylinder radial, sharing the same bore and stroke but adding two more cylinders per row for additional displacement. A three-piece forged aluminum (later changed to steel) crankcase, cast heads and a magnesium supercharger case to reduce weight. Downdraft carburetion on early engines yielded mixture inconsistencies between the front and rear cylinder rows, which was solved on later models by changing to a direct fuel injection system.

Wright Aeronautical built a new facility at Woodbridge, NJ for the R-3350 and shifted production at their Cincinnati plant exclusively to the Wright engine. Total output between these two plants approached 13,800. Chrysler's Dodge Chicago Division, supplied over 18,400 engines from their Chicago, IL location. As design problems were overcome the R-3350 saw its time between overhauls increase from 100 to 400 hours by the end of the war.

Almost all of the engine nacelles, as big as a fighter fuselage, were made by the Fisher Body division of General Motors. Cleveland facility.

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The Wright R-3350 "Cyclone"

In this view you can see two of the three Power Recovery Turbines that are attached to this Turbo Compound R-3350.  They are the round silver and black objects mounted about halfway back on the engine.  They added about 600 additional horsepower to the basic engine.  They were plumbed into the exhaust of the Cyclone engine which spun up the turbines.  These turbines then turned a shaft which was splined directly back into the output shaft of the engine.  This was a very efficient way to turn about 20% of the engines heat energy that was normally wasted into usable power for the engine.




The Remote-Controlled Gunnery System

Four companies competed for the contract including Bendix, General Electric, Sperry, and Westinghouse. General Electric developed the system used in the B-29 consisting of four turrets and a tail mount.

M5 Director General Electric fire control system
The bomber is provided with a system of electrically powered gun turrets which are operated by a sighting system in order to concentrate a broadside fire on enemy planes approaching from any angle. One of the vital elements of this sighting system is the mechanical-electrical computer whose function it is to make instant corrections for the speed of the bomber, the speed and direction of the attacking plane, altitude, temperature, wind age, gravity, and the ballistics of the gun projectile. In addition, it makes correction for parallax - the distance between the sighting station and the remotely located guns.

Production of M5 Director by the Singer Company Elizabethport Works
Starting in September 1943, weekly production stepped up gradually, reaching a rate of approximately 250 complete Computers per week at the end of 1944, and over 500 per week in July 1945, at which time a total of 20,794 complete Computers had been shipped out of the factory. About one-third of these Computers have been Double Computers, incorporating two computer mechanisms. In the Spring of 1945 the Double Computer was discontinued but the cancellation of this quantity was partly compensated for by some increase in the requirements of the Single Computer.


The Pressurized Cabin

Fuselage was 112" (2.84m) in diameter. Pressurization allowed the crew to experience the air pressure equivalent of 8,000 ft altitude at 30,000 ft. Two main pressurized compartments were connected by a 40 ft (m) tunnel 34" () in diameter located above the two bomb bays. The tail gunner was isolated in a small pressurized tail section. Two 6 inch pipes from the aft section pressurized the tail.


The Wing

Boeing "117" wing. The success of this wing design came largely from its enormous flaps, equivalent to 1/5 the area of the entire wing. At the time, the two wing spars were the longest and heaviest Duralumin extrusions ever used in a production aircraft. Fuel was carried in fourteen outer-wing, eight inner-wing, and four bomb bay tanks, giving a maximum capacity of 8168 US gallons. An early modification added four tanks in the wing center section, bringing total fuel capacity to 9438 US gallons.


The Radar / Navigation System

AN/APQ-13 (H2X) radar enclosed in a 30" radome X-Band Bombing Radar "Mickey" manufactured by Bell The AN/APQ-13 radome was located at the bottom of the fuselage, between the bomb bays. On airplanes with modified bomb bays (such as SB-29's etc.) often the radome would be moved forward in the lower forward turret position. The latter was of course deleted.

B-29's were equipped with improved H2X radar developed by Bell, Western Electric and M.I.T with the nomenclature AN/APQ-13, designating ground scanning radar. The USAAF adopted the British technique of night attacks making the use of radar essential. The radome was carried on the aircraft belly, between the bomb bays and was partially retractable. Unfortunately, the retracting motor gave quite a few problems and that lead to streamlining the radome shape and made it non-retractable. It operated at a frequency of 9375± 45 megacycles and used a super-heterodyne receiver. The radar was used for high altitude area bombing, search, and navigation. Computation from bombing could be performed by an impact predictor and Range Unit permitted a high degree of accuracy in locating beacons. AN/APQ-13 equipped B-29 aircraft were used through the beginning of the Korean conflict, 1950-1953.

AN/APQ-7 EAGLE 3 cm radar better target definition this wing shaped antenna in a housing installed underneath the forward section of the fuselage. It spanned 17 ft, had a 31" chord and was about 8" thick weighing nearly 1,000 pounds. X-BAND Search & Bombing Radar "Eagle Mk.1"; manufactured by Western Electric N/APN-4 LORAN (LONge RANge) radar navigation system manufactured by Philco. 1.950 MHz. consisted of two units each about 1 ft x 2 ft by 2.5 ft. One unit was the power supply while the other contained the oscilloscope display tube, timing circuits and receiver. Together they weighed about 80 pounds. By 1945 the APN-9 came into use at an amazing weight reduction - it only weighed 40 pounds.

The oscilloscope screen was about four inches in diameter and would display a station master and associated slave signal from about 1500 miles over water and 600 miles over land. With practice a fix could be determined in about three minutes. As an example, the minimum error for navigating the 1400 miles to Japan from Tinian was about 28 miles. With two successive fixes ground speed, drift, and ETA could be determined. The relative simplicity of LORAN and the fact that it could be used regardless of weather made it invaluable as an navigational tool until the aircraft arrived over Japan when airborne radar provided a more accurate fix. For some unknown reason the Japanese either never tried or failed to jam any of the LORAN systems.

More On The AN / APO-7 Eagle Radar


By the end of World War II there were 75 standard LORAN stations serving the needs of aircraft and vessels in operation with over 75,000 receivers in use.
AN/APN-9 LORAN (LONge RANge) radar navigation system manufactured by RCA; replaced AN/APN-4

AN/APG-15B gun laying radar fire control in tail radome S-Band Tail Gun Radar 2000 yard range.


Operation Silverplate


The SILVERPLATE B-29s of the 509th Composite Group

Seventeen Martin/Omaha B-29s, from blocks -35, -40, -45, and -50, were pulled from the production lines at random intervals, but only 15 were sent to squadron level. All guns except in the tail position were stripped from the aircraft, the sighting blisters were faired over and fuel injected engines with Curtiss Electric propellers were installed. Numerous changes were made to the bomb bay to accommodate the atomic bomb including a new H-frame bomb rack, hoist assembly and sway braces, a British-designed shackle and release unit, and different bomb bay doors.

Enola Gay Martin built B-29 (44-86292) Hiroshima
Bock's Car Martin built B-29 (44-27297) Nagasaki.

More On Operation Silverplate


Legacy Of The B-29 and The 20th Air Force


Under the leadership of its commander, General Curtis LeMay, the 20th Air Force used B-29s in an intensive bombing campaign against Japan that included traditional and incendiary bombs. As many as 300 bombers were used for each mission, a number that doubled the following summer. As the threat from enemy fighters decreased, the armament was stripped from the planes to allow more weight for bombs. The firestorms created by the incendiary bombs became so intense that the silver planes returned to base black with soot. And on August 6, 1945, the B-29 Enola Gay dropped the first nuclear bomb on the city of Hiroshima, followed three days later by a second bomb dropped by the B-29 Bock’s Car on Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered a week later.

Although many credited the nuclear bomb with ending the war, the bomb never could have been dropped without the range and carrying capacity of the B-29. When the earlier B-17s returned from the war, they ended up in bone-yards in the desert, whereas the number of B-29s in service did not decrease. While Japan signed the surrender on the USS Missouri, 500 Superfortresses flew overhead as a show of force. In the weeks after the war, it flew "Missions of Mercy"--searching for and dropping supplies on prisoner of war camps.

In 1946, the plane was mobilized to participate in nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll. And on June 25, 1950, the day the Korean War began, four B-29s from Guam were sent to drop bombs on the invading North Koreans. But by then, they were already obsolete--no match against jets--and they were used mainly for reconnaissance. The plane that had delivered the first nuclear bomb and had formed the backbone of the United States nuclear weapons delivery command was retired less than a decade after its dramatic debut.

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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.

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Favored by Warm breezes and under a blue Kansas Sky, a vast crowd attends the delivery ceremony of the 1,000th B-29 on the Boeing-Wichita flight apron at 4:15 P.M. Dates 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.

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Awaiting final flight tests, an impressive number of other B-29's fills the Boeing-Witchita parking apron during the ceremony.

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.

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Cpl. John J. Green, 19, mechanic from Eugene, Oregon, looks into the powerful engine as Cpl. Robert L. Cover, 22, airplane mechanic, of Joplin, Missouri (right) helps from the outside as the two men change a turbo-supercharger on a Boeing B-29 Superfort at an Air Force base in Okinawa, Ryukyu Retto. Dates ca.09/12/1950

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.

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.

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"Enduring Eddie" by Artist John Young

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.

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.


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The "Enola Gay" forward fuselage undergoing restoration at the Garber Restoration Facility in 1989.
The "Enola Gay" aft fuselage undergoing restoration at the Garber Restoration Facility in 1999.

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.

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The Enola Gay was over Hiroshima, Japan at 31,600 feet when the worlds first atomic bomb was dropped from an aircraft. 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.

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!

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A dense column of smoke rises more than 60,000 feet into the air over the Japanese port of Nagasaki, the result of an atomic bomb, the second ever used in warfare, dropped on the industrial center August 8, 1945, from a U.S. B-29 Superfortress. Dates 1942-1945

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.

The Enola Gay

The Complete History Of The B-29

Dropping The Atomic Bombs


Boeing B-29A Superfortress
Wing span: 141 ft. 3 in (43.05 m)
Length: 99 ft. 0 in (30.17 m)
Height: 29 ft. 7 in (9.02 m)
Wing Area: 1,736 sq ft (529.13 sq m)
Empty: 72,208 lb (32,752 kg)
Maximum Take-Off: 140,000 lb (63,502 kg)
Maximum Speed: 399 m.p.h. (642 km/h) at 30,000 ft (9,144 m)
Service Ceiling: 23,950 ft (7,299 m)
Combat Ceiling: 36,150 ft (11,018 m)
Normal Range: 4,200 miles (6,759 km)
(with 18,000 lbs. (8,164 kg) bombs)
Four Wright Aeronautical R-3350-57 Twin Row Radial
2,200 hp (1,640 kw) take-off, 2,500 hp (1,864) WE, Air Cooled
Eight or twelve 50-cal. machine-guns. One 20mm cannon.
Maximum bomb Load: 20,000 lbs. (9,0710 kg)


The B-29 Photo Gallery


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B-29 Superfortress B-29 Superfortress

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