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Boeing B-29-55-MO Superfortress

The B-29 Dropped the World’s First Atomic Bombs

Designed in 1940 as the replacement for the B-17 and B-24, the first B-29 flew in 1942. The following year, United States Army Air Forces leadership committed the Superfortress to Asia, where its extensive range made it well-suited for the long, over-water flights against 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. This airframe would later be used in the Korean War. However, it was two days in August 1945, that made the B-29 one of the most well-known aircraft in history. The B-29s, “Enola Gay” and “Bockscar,” assigned to the 509th Composite Group, dropped the world’s first, two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, ending World War II.

Boeing B-29-55-MO Superfortress

Serial Number: 44-86408

Manufacturer: Boeing

Crew: Nine to fourteen

Engines: Four Wright R-3350-23 radial; 2,200 horsepower each

Wingspan: 141 feet 3 inches

Length: 99 feet

Height: 27 feet 9 inches

Weight: 70,140 pounds (empty); 135,000 pounds (maximum)

Speed: 220 mph (cruising); 365 mph (maximum)

Range: 5,830 miles

Service Ceiling: 32,000 feet

Armament: Twelve .50-caliber machine guns; up to 20,000 pounds of bombs

Cost: $605,360 (average B-29 cost of unit in 1944)

The B-29 Superfortress at Hill Air Force Base

Hill Air Force Base played a critical role in repairing, maintaining, storing and refurbishing B-29s after World War II. During the war, Hill Air Force Base also supported Wendover Field, Utah, where the renowned 509th Composite Group trained with its Silverplate B-29s. After the war, Hill Air Force Base stored these airframes in large numbers and would later go on to modify some for the Korean conflict.

Now located at Hill Aerospace Museum, in June 1948, our B-29 moved to the 97th Bombardment Group, Strategic Air Command, at Biggs Air Force Base, Texas. One year later it transferred to the 4002nd Base Services Squadron, Strategic Air Command (SAC), at Campbell Field, Kentucky. In October 1949, the B-29 then moved to the 43rd Bombardment Group (SAC) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.

The aircraft encountered several more transfers; in May 1953, it was transferred to the Wright Development Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where it remained until June 1953.

Following time at Wright-Patterson, the aircraft was relocated to Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah, for chemical munitions testing. In November 1953, the aircraft was dropped from the United States Air Force inventory while serving at Michaels Army Air Field, Dugway Proving Grounds. For the next 30 years, the aircraft would reside at Dugway, acting as a ground test vehicle for testing various types of chemical warfare agents.

In 1983, museum staff transferred B-29 #44-86408 from Dugway Proving Ground to Hill Aerospace Museum, where it underwent restoration and still resides today. Currently, the B-29 is painted to depict the B-29 “Straight Flush” assigned to the 509th Composite Group, one of 531 B-29s manufactured by the Glen L. Martin Company in Omaha, Nebraska. On August 6, 1945, Captain Claude Eatherly flew reconnaissance in “Straight Flush” over Japan and determined the weather was clear for the “Enola Gay” to drop the bomb on Hiroshima.

Was the B-29 a good bomber?

Though late to the war effort, the B-29 Superfortress was the pinnacle of allied bomber engineering, with a pressurized cabin and an analog, computer-controlled, fire-control system.

Where was the B-29 built?

Due to the B-29’s immense size, at over 141′ wide, the Superfortress was assembled in four separate facilities; two plants in Renton, Washington; one in Wichita, Kansas; and another in Marietta, Georgia.

How far could the B-29 fly?

The B-29 was able to travel up to 3,250 miles at an altitude of nearly 32,000 feet.

How many B-29 bombers are left?

Of the 3,970 built, only twenty-two B-29s are left in the world. Of those, only two are still air worthy. Both the Enola Gay and Bockscar—the aircraft that dropped the two atomic bombs—are preserved in museums.

How many B-29 were shot down over Japan?

Although exact numbers are unclear, approximately 10% of the bombing force brought to bear against the Japanese mainland were shot down by enemy forces. Whether this was due to anti-aircraft (AA) fire or enemy fighters is not known.

What was the nickname of the B-29 bomber?

The B-29 was nicknamed the Superfortress, in homage to the B-17 Flying Fortress.

What was the purpose of the B-29?

The B-29 was a high-altitude strategic bomber, built specifically to handle the challenges of the war on the Pacific front. Bombers would be required to fly extreme (3,000+ miles) distances at high altitudes in order to meet the enemy and return home safely.

Why were B-29s not used in Europe?

Simply put, the B-29 wasn’t needed. The B-17 Flying Fortress was already handling the job nicely, and the war in Europe was, by that point, in its final stages.