Thursday, January 12, 2012


B-29 Superfortress
C L I C K     T O     E N L A R G E

We know the expression that necessity is the mother of invention.  Early on the American military realized they'd need a bomber far surpassing anything currently in existence if they were to reach Japan in a campaign of strategic bombing.  The same held true for Germany if Britain was lost as a potential American base in Europe.  Topping 3 billion dollars the weapon system that became the B-29 was the most expensive development project of the war - even surpassing the Manhattan Project to produce an atomic bomb.  
Picture:  1024 x 768 at 300 dpi - Scenic Reflections

Crew:                    11

Power:                  4 - Wright 2200 hp R-3350-57 radial engines

Max. Speed:        576 kph / 358 mph
Ceiling:                 9695 m / 31,800 ft
Range:                  5229 km / 3250 miles
Climb:                   7625 m / 25,000 ft in 43 minutes

Weight -
Empty:                  31,843 kg / 70,140 lb
Max. Take Off:     56,296 kg / 124,000 lb

Size - 
Wingspan:           43.05 m / 141 ft 3 in
Wing Area:          161.27 sq m / 1736 sq ft
Length:                 30.18 m / 99 ft
Height:                 9.01 m / 29 ft 7 in

                             4 - gun turret over nose
                             2 - gun turret under nose, over and under rear fuselage
                                  all 12.7 mm / 0.5 in caliber
                             1 - 20 mm / 0.78 in cannon and 
                             2 - 12.7 mm / 0.5 in guns in tail
                             9080 kg / 20,000 lb bomb load

High altitude bombing of industry in Japan yielded poor results as factors, such as the jet stream, left destruction wide of their target.  It may not have mattered all that much as Navy submarines were increasingly choking off Japan from vital resources.  The decision was made to target civilian morale and B-29s based in the Marianas methodically fire bombed Japan's major cities.  The strategy became one of political coercion.  
Picture:  475 x 594 at 200 dpi - 307th Bombardment Group

Initial Strategic Air Command

Mobilizing large scale research and development along with utilizing enormous industrial capacity brought about the atom bomb and the means to deliver it.  Its use dramatized the futility of continued resistance and Japan's leaders acceded to unconditional surrender despite having not yet suffered invasion and still maintaining two million armed troops on the home front.  This weapons system would launch America's strategic air arm in the coming confrontation with the Soviet Union.  Stalin matched the challenge, creating the Tu-4 - a B-29 clone, and detonating an atomic bomb in 1949.  If ever there was a misapprehension that the wartime alliance was anything other than a marriage of convenience it was quickly dispelled.  
Picture:  1809 x 1192 - Wikipedia         

B-29 Crew

The B-29's wings had to provide lift for enormous weight.  Air speed had to compensate for any shortfall in wing design.  The bomber's four powerful engines pushed available technology to the limit resulting in frequent powerplant fires.  There was enormous pressure to deploy this revolutionary aircraft even as the bugs in engineering were worked out.  This made flying over long stretches of ocean and combat missions over Japan even more nerve wracking.  Taking Iwo Jima in February, 1945 enabled many hundreds of B-29s to make emergency landings on its airstrip during the remaining months of the war.  
Picture:  2844 x 1731 - Reunions Magazine

Incendiary Raid

Using M-69 napalm incendiary bombs over Tokyo on March 9, 1945 resulted in a greater number of deaths than the atomic explosion over Hiroshima five months later.  Wars create unintended consequences.  The rationale behind total war is that Hell on Earth now is meant to shorten the on-going nightmare... actually saving many lives.  Family loving people were required to make such decisions in World War II.
Picture:  1800 x 1165 at 300 dpi - Wikipedia       


At war's end more than 2,000 B-29s had been produced.  Immediately shutting down production would have put many people out of work so over a thousand additional aircraft were manufactured before work was halted in May, 1946.  Like a fast moving freight train the cost of war does not stop on a dime.  There is a momentum that will not be denied by the simple signing of a peace treaty.
Picture:  1034 x 778 at 100 dpi - Wreck Chasing

Projecting Power

Pressurized crew quarters, remote control gun turrets, and a rudimentary radar system used for ground targeting set the B-29 apart from other warbirds of its time.  But it was the concept of building an aircraft for the sole purpose of destroying strategic targets from high altitudes and thousands of miles away that would most influence aircraft design until missile technology came of age.  The weapons of mass destruction still exist but the fear of their use is nowhere near the level it was during the Cold War.  They will remain with us because, on a national level, goodwill comes up short of self interest.
Picture:  2792 x 2180 - World War II Database 

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