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Boeing B-29 Superfortress

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress was the most significant long range bomber of World War II. Designed in 1940 to replace the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator bombers, the first B-29 Superfortress made its maiden flight from Boeing Field, Seattle, WA on 21 September 1942.

B-29 bombers dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 August and 9 August 1945, and, from 1944, were the backbone of the conventional heavy strategic bombing of Japan that led to the Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945.

From the cockpit of a nearby B-29 flying in the same formation, this photo is a view of two 39th Bomb Group B-29s out of North Field (Anderson Air Force Base, Guam) on a mission to Hiratsuka, Japan, 16 July 1945
From the cockpit of a nearby B-29 flying in the same formation, this photo is a view of two 39th Bomb Group B-29s out of North Field (Anderson Air Force Base, Guam) on a mission to Hiratsuka, Japan, 16 July 1945.

Today in WW II: 23 Sep 1940 After just seven weeks of development, American Bantam delivers the first prototype jeep to Camp Holabird, MD.   

Boeing B-29 Superfortress in World War II

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress was committed to the Pacific Theater in December 1943 by General "Hap" Arnold, then Commanding General of the Army Air Forces. The superior range of the B-29 made it particularly suited for the long flights against the Japanese homeland, over-water from island bases or from airfields in China. During April 1944, the first operational B-29s were sent to India, organized as the Twentieth Air Force. While initial bombing results were poor, starting in May 1944 B-29s began flying more than 1,500 miles one way from the Marianas Islands (Saipan, Guam and Tinian). More than 1,000 bombers and 250 fighters conducted 28,000 combat sorties against Japan in the brief span of 16 months, dropping incendiary bombs that set the Japanese cities on fire. This relentless campaign, capped by the atomic bombings in August 1945, convinced the Japanese to surrender unconditionally on 2 September 1945.

Boeing B-29 Superfortress in the Korean War

The conflict in Korea that started in June 1950 brought the B-29 back to a combat role. Although vulnerable to MiG-15 jet fighter attacks, the Superfortress remained effective in night missions against selected targets throughout the Korean War. It was rendered obsolete by the post-war jet-engined bombers.

Boeing B-29 Superfortress Production History

A total of 3,895 B-29 aircraft were produced by Boeing (Renton, WA and Wichita, KS), Bell Aircraft (Marietta, GA), and Glenn Martin (Omaha, NE) following the prototype flight in September 1942. The Fisher Body plant in Cleveland, OH was a subcontractor for control surfaces and engine nacelles. Several variants were produced, including the B-29A with a different engine and wing structure. The Renton plant produced 1,119 B-29As, but other variants did not go into production.

The last B-29 rolled out of the Boeing plant in Wichita, KS in October 1945. The most famous B-29 was the "Enola Gay" that dropped the first atomic bomb. Enola Gay is a model B-29-45-MO, serial number 44-86292, now at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC.

After WW II, in 1947, the Soviet Union produced a copy of the B-29 named the Tu-4.

Boeing B-29 Superfortress Characteristics

ArmamentEight .50-cal. machine guns in remote controlled turrets plus two .50-cal. machine guns and one 20mm cannon in tail
Normal bomb load20,000 lbs. of conventional bombs
EnginesFour Wright R-3350s of 2,200 hp each
Maximum speed357 mph
Cruising speed220 mph
Range3,700 miles
Ceiling33,600 ft.
Span141 ft. 3 in.
Length99 ft.
Height27 ft. 9 in.
Weight133,500 lbs. maximum

Boeing B-29 Superfortress production, outside the Witicha, KS plant, 14 February 1945
Boeing B-29 Superfortress production, outside the Witicha, KS plant, 14 February 1945.

Boeing B-29 Superfortress in flight, during WW II
Boeing B-29 Superfortress in flight, during WW II.

Boeing B-29 Superfortress on display at Washington National Airport, across the river from Washington, DC, 29 November 1944.  Fuel drums in foreground are what is required to fill the B-29s tanks
Boeing B-29 Superfortress on display at Washington National Airport, across the river from Washington, DC, 29 November 1944. Fuel drums in foreground are what is required to fill the B-29's tanks.

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay is backed over pit to upload the atomic bomb, Tinian Island, 5 August 1945
The Boeing B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay" is backed over pit to upload the atomic bomb, Tinian Island, 5 August 1945.

Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers in flight during WW II.  The olive drab color scheme was relatively unusual since most B-29s were painted silver
Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers in flight during WW II. The olive drab color scheme was relatively unusual since most B-29s were painted silver.

Boeing B-29-55-MO Superfortress serial number 44-86408 known as Haggerty's Hag shown at the Hill Aerospace Museum, Hill Air Force Base, Ogden, UT.
Boeing B-29-55-MO Superfortress serial number 44-86408 known as "Haggerty's Hag" shown at the Hill Aerospace Museum, Hill Air Force Base, Ogden, UT.

Recommended Book about the Boeing B-29 Superfortress

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