Boeing B-29 Superfortress

The B-29 Superfortress is an American heavy bomber first flown September 21, 1942.  Entering service in approximately the final year of World War II, the B-29 was in many ways the most complex and advanced aircraft to become operational during that conflict.  Advances over previous U.S. bombers included a pressurized fuselage for crew comfort at high altitudes, remote-controlled gun turrets, some of the largest aviation engines used during the conflict, and refined aerodynamics.  Used by the U.S. exclusively in the campaign against Japan from captured island bases such as Okinawa, B-29s carried out incendiary carpet-bombing of Japanese cities and were converted to drop the only two nuclear weapons used in anger to date, on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945.  The B-29 became the main USAF bomber following the war, seeing extensive combat again during the Korean conflict.  B-29s also were used as research aircraft and two of them were modified to drop early experimental rocket planes, including the Bell X-1 which was the first aircraft to exceed the speed of sound but which could not take off unaided.  A total of 3,970 B-29s was built.

B-29s were operated by the Royal Air Force for a few years under the name Boeing Washington.  A version of the B-29 was built by the Soviet Union, designated the Tupolev Tu-4, using aircraft that had landed in the USSR during World War II as patterns.

Approximately 20 B-29s, including the two that dropped the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, are preserved.  All are in the United States except for one example in England and one in South Korea.  One B-29 was restored to flying condition in the 1960s and is still awing crowds at airshows; it is due to be joined by a second flying example in late 2015.  The reason for the survival of most of the existing B-29s is that they were placed in a desert target range at China Lake, near Death Valley, California, being used as targets for ground-to-ground missiles until retrieved by the USAF in the 1960s and 1970s.

B-29 42-24590 “Celestial Princess”

Many B-29s were retired after the war to American bases where they became instructional airframes, including some with distinguished wartime combat records.  “Celestial Princess” had served with the 770th Bomb Squadron, 462nd Bomb Group, based in India and later at Qionglai Air Base near Chengdu in China.  At least 17 mission symbols are visible but there appear to be more wrapping around the front of the nose.  I have seen profile illustrations of this aircraft but they show fewer mission symbols than this, which must be the final tally. 

B-29 42-24732 “Hore-zontal Dream”

Note the 28 mission symbols, two aerial kill markings and several indistict other-things-killed on the nose of this B-29, another wartime veteran used postwar as a training airframe.  This plane had served with the 678th Bomb Squadron, 444th Bomb Group. 

B-29 42-65299

This B-29 served with the 462nd Bomb Group in Asia during World War II, then ended up in Germany where it is shown wearing the tail insignia of the 8th Air Force and, in one photo, being overflown by a squadron of F-80s.

B-29 44-27297 “Bockscar”

The B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb of August 9, 1945, on Nagasaki, Japan, is preserved at the National Museum of the USAF.  The first couple of photos show it in outdoor storage in Arizona before it was buffed up and transferred to the NMUSAF.  

B-29A 44-61748 “It’s Hawg Wild”

The Imperial War Museum ferried its B-29, briefly registered G-BHDK, from Arizona to Duxford in 1980.  Now it is a proud and unique exhibit at IWM’s American Air Museum. 

B-29A 44-61853

Dick got some air-to-air photos from the observation blister of another B-29 when he worked on them during the early 1950s.

B-29A 44-61961 “Miss Dalate”

Its name a play on the words “missed a lot,” this B-29 was in Germany with the USAF in the late 1940s.

B-29A 44-61975 “Jack’s Hack”

Unusual in having been used as a target at Aberdeen, Maryland, rather than in California, this B-29 has been displayed since the 1970s at the New England Air Museum.  It was damaged by a 1979 tornado that struck the museum and the first three pics below show it still in damaged condition with much of its wings torn off, but it was extensively restored in the 2000s into one of the finest B-29s on display anywhere.

B-29A 44-61979

Dick got this lovely aerial photography of this stateside USAF B-29 in the early 1950s.

B-29A 44-62070 “Fifi”

More famous than any other B-29 except “Enola Gay,” which it has portrayed in movies, the Commemorative Air Force B-29 is one of the supreme achievements of the American private warbird restoration movement, given the complexity of the aircraft and the great deal of time and effort needed to keep it flying.  Registered N4249 and now N529B, “Fifi” tours the country offering the opportunity to see and even to ride in this significant and impressive aircraft.  Some of these photos show it in the paint it war in 1982, with black undersides, when it portrayed the drop ship for the Bell X-1 in the film “The Right Stuff.”  After a year or so in this paint scheme, the studio paid for it to be returned to its previous “Fifi” colors.  Neither the “A” marking on the tail nor the name “Fifi” correspond to any actual wartime B-29; both are tributes to the CAF member who led the recovery and restoration of the aircraft in the 1960s. 

B-29A 44-62139 “Command Decision”

The forward fuselage of this B-29, apparently a combat veteran of the 19th Bomb Group in Korea, is a walk-through exhibit at the National Museum of the USAF.  It is painted as a famous B-29, “Command Decision,” of the 28th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomb Group, whose gunners were credited with shooting down five MiG-15s, making the aircraft an “ace.”  The real “Command Decision” was serial 44-87657.

B-29 44-69729

Preserved at the Museum of Flight, this is a China Lake target B-29 that completed 37 missions during World War II with the 875th Bomb Squadron of the 498th Bomb Wing.

B-29 44-70016 “Sentimental Journey”

Pima Air & Space Museum‘s B-29 flew wartime missions from Guam with the 330th Bomb Group of the 20th Air Force. 

B-29 44-70064 “Raz’n Hell”

Castle Air Museum displays this B-29 which actually is a composite restoration including the fuselage of 44-70064, the wing of 44-84084 and the tail of 44-61535.  The latter machine is the original “Raz’n Hell,” a veteran of the 28th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomb Group at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, in the Korean War.

B-29A 44-61669 “Mission Inn” / “Three Feathers”

The March Field Museum B-29 was briefly made airworthy in the 1970s for a ferry flight from China Lake to its current home, registered N3299F.  It has worn a number of names and paint schemes during its time on display at the museum and was repainted in 2003 from “Mission Inn” to its current identity of “Three Feathers.”  These new markings appear to be its original combat colors from when it flew operationally with the 833rd Bomb Squadron, 500th Bomb Group, out of Saipan during World War II.  The markings shown here refer to the Mission Inn, a locally famous hotel and spa in Riverside, California, near March Field.  The nickname “Mission Inn” was also sometimes applied to March Field itself and to at least one B-29 based there.  

B-29B 44-84052

Another fine aerial shot of a B-29 from the 1950s.  Like the other B-29s Dick photographed in those days, it has not been preserved.

B-29B 44-84076 “Man-o-War”

The first main bomber type of the USAF’s Strategic Air Command is appropriately displayed at the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Nebraska.  “Man O’ War” was the name of a very successful American race horse of 1919-20.

B-29B 44-86292 “Enola Gay”

The famous or infamous “Enola Gay,” which dropped the atomic bomb of August 6, 1945 on Hiroshima, Japan, is with the National Air & Space Museum and is displayed at the museum’s Virginia facility.  Although viewable by arrangement for many years at the NASM’s Maryland restoration facility, the aircraft went on full public view only with the opening of the Udvar-Hazy center in 2003.  It immediately became a source of controversy, and a NASM director resigned over the political firestorm generated by interpretive displays initially installed around the aircraft which struck some Americans as excessively sympathetic to the victims of the Hiroshima attack.  Today, the aircraft that killed more people than any other weapon is displayed with essentially no information, free to reflect back whatever prejudices the viewer brings to it. 

B-29 44-86408 “Hagarty’s Hag”

The Hill Aerospace Museum displays this machine, license-built in Omaha, Nebraska by the Martin company.  It spent its military career in the United States, ultimately being grounded and used in chemical weapons testing.  The Hill museum acquired it in the 1980s and a gradual restoration commenced which is still underway. 

B-29B 44-87751

USAF B-29 44-87751 banks over scenic terrain during the early 1950s.

B-29A 45-21748 “Enola Gay”

Shown here when displayed at the Chanute Air Museum, first in postwar USAF markings and then marked to represent the “Enola Gay,” this B-29 has since been transferred to the Sandia National Atomic Museum in New Mexico where it wears different markings.

P2B-1S 84029 “Fertile Myrtle”

Originally B-29A 45-21787, this Superfortress went to the U.S. Navy as a P2B patrol bomber and then passed to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (predecessor of NASA) as a drop plane for the Douglas D-558-II experimental rocket plane.  Registered N91329 and later N29KW, it was occasionally in quasi-airworthy condition and was flown a few times in the 1970s, making occasional airshow appearances and flying in the Disney film “The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark,” released in 1980.  Now owned by Fantasy of Flight, the plane is in the long-term queue for restoration to airworthy condition at some future date.

Unidentified B-29s

Dick shot this taxi-past sequence of a B-29 visiting Furstenfeldbruck in 1948.  This one has the black undersides applied to low-level night bombers during World War II.

I don’t know where and when Dick photographed this B-29 bearing the fuselage number 48. 

The Hellbirds was the nickname of the 462nd Bomb Group, with their slogan “With malice toward some.”  This bomb group did a great deal of the bombing of Japan from Asian bases in 1945.  Here the insignia appears on the nose of a B-29 being used as an instructional airframe after the war.  It could be the starboard side of 42-24590 “Celestial Princess,” the first B-29 on this page.

Here are some B-29 formation photos by Dick in which the individual serials are illegible.

Modeling Notes (with links to targeted eBay searches):  The Academy B-29 range in 1/72 is the best and most comprehensive model kit treatment of the B-29, including the atomic bomb droppers and even a postwar KB-29 tanker variant.  However, the old Airfix B-29 deserves a nod for being quite good for its time.  In 1/48 scale, the Monogram/Revell kit was another superb 1970s Monogram effort which no one has seen the need to supplant.  In 1/144, Fujimi’s B-29 kit is nice; avoid the old Crown/Minicraft kit.


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