|Length:||99' 0"||30.17 M|
|Height:||27' 9"||8.46 M|
|Wingspan:||141' 3"||43.05 M|
|Wingarea:||1739.00 Sq Ft||161.54 Sq M|
|Empty Weight:||69610.0 lbs||31569.0 Kg|
|Gross Weight:||140000 lbs||63492.0 Kg|
|Max Weight:||141100lbs||63990.0 Kg|
|No. of Engines:||4|
Designed to replace the older B-17, the B-29 incorporated numerous new features. Pressurized crew compartments, flush riveting to streamline airflow over the aircraft, newly developed Wright Cyclone R-3350 Radial engines, and remotely sighted gun turrets are just a few of the changes that made up the "Superfortress".
The long range bomber was introduced to the Air Force in 1940, but production was delayed to incorporate changes in armament and load. The first World War II B-29 raid was from specially designed bases in China on Japanese shipyards in Bangkok, Thailand in June 1944. The B-29's were the first aircraft to bomb mainland Japan since Doolittle's raid in 1942. The B-29 was not used in the European Theater of Operations due to the short flying distances.
The entire production of B-29s was commited to the Pacific Theater in an effort to crush the Japanese. Able to carry a bomb load of 20,000 lbs., B-29s flew from bases on Guam, Saipan and Tinian. The "Superfortresses' bombed during the day and used incendiaries at night causing great fire storms in Tokyo, Kobe, Yokohama, and other target cities. The most destructive raid of World War II occurred when 334 B-29's bombed Tokyo on 9-10 March 1945. 1.5 million people were left homeless and over 83,000 killed versus the 80,000 killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.
The most famous use of the B-29 "Superfortress" was on the 6th of August, 1945, when Colonel Paul Tibbets, piloting the B-29 "Enola Gay", dropped the "Little Boy" atom bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing 75,000 people in a matter of seconds. On the 9th of August, 1945, the Japanese unconditionally surrendered to the Allied Armies. Five years later, in July of 1950, war between North and South Korea broke out. Again, the "Superfortress' was called upon to provide aerial support. The B-29 was the only US produced bomber flown by a foreign country (Great Britain) in post World War II.
The B-29 at the March Field Museum is an A model serial number 44-61669. It was delivered to the USAAF on 5 May 1945 at the Boeing facility in Renton, Washington. It was assigned to the 20th Air Force, 73rd Bomb Wing, 500th Bomb Group, 833rd Bomb Squadron flying combat missions out of Saipan. It carried the name "Flagship 500" and had a "Z-49" on its tail at the end of WWII. Its last USAF assignment was in 1956 with the 581st Air Resupply Group at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. It was transferred as a TB-29A trainer to the US Navy on 18 March 1956. The aircraft was recovered from the Naval Test Center at China Lake, restored by a private organization, and flown from Daggett Field, Barstow, to March AFB in January, 1981 by MARC (Military Aircraft Restoration Corp.). This aircraft is on loan from the USAF.
From 1981 to 2003, our B-29 had the nose art of the "Mission Inn" painted on the starboard nose. (Click here to see more information about the "Mission Inn" B-29). This is the name of a famous hotel in neighboring Riverside, California, and was also the name applied to a former March Air Force Base - 22nd Bomb Wing "Superfortress'' that served in the Korean War. When the museum's B-29 (#44-61669) was recovered from the Gunnery ranges of the Naval Weapons Test Center - China Lake, California, in the mid 1970's (it was flown to the March Field Museum in August 1981), its history was almost completely unknown. Because of the fact that there once was a B-29 stationed at March AFB with "Mission Inn" nose art, it seemed appropriate at the time (1981) to put that nose art on the museum's B-29. But since learning of the airplane's actual history in the 500th Bomb Group, including 11 combat missions during WWII, it is currently planned to restore her original paint scheme of Z49 with nose art --- Flagship "500".
In June 1999, the museum learned that #44-61669 had been assigned to and flown by crews of the 883rd Bomb Squadron, 500th Bomb Group, 73rd Bomb Wing on Saipan! It was "Z-49", and had been called "Flagship 500." In checking back through the 73rd BW history, there is a photo (shown below) of this B-29 on page 5 in the January 1987 73rd Bomb Wing Newsletter. It was taken during an enroute stopover in Hawaii during "Operation Sunset." One of its crew members: Colonel Jack Dougherty, Commander of the 500th Bomb Group, was clearly shown in the photo and caption. In this photo, the B-29's name appeared in the 73rd BW "ball-and spear" insignia on the port side of the nose.
The above photo shows the museum's B-29. Colonel Jack Dougherty, Commander of the 500th Bomb Group, center standing, waits while Major Don Hanson calls the roll during a stopover in Hawaii on the "Sunset Project". L to R standing are John Posey, unknown, Don Hanson, Prescott Martin, Art Miller, unknown, Jack Dougherty, Leroy English, Norbert Oswald, unknown, Ralph Maust, unknown, and Glenn McClure. Kneeling L to R are Jim Manning and four unknowns. They are in front of the museum's aircraft (#44-61669) with the "49" on the nose and "Flagship 500" nose art. Not shown is the huge "Z" on the airplane's tail which stands for the "Z-49" designation.
It should be noted that, at least with the 500th Bomb Group B-29's, the tail numbers of the aircraft were based on the organization of the group and had nothing to do with the serial number of the aircraft. The shortest possible names were a letter followed by two numbers. So, for these B-29's, a large letter was painted on the tail, often enclosed in a triangle or a circle, and the two numbers were painted on both sides of the nose. When a plane with a tail number like Z-49 was too damaged from one combat mission to fly the next, then another B-29 replaced it and was painted with Z-49. The museum's B-29 (#44-61669) was the third aircraft to have the tail number of Z-49 because it replaced the B-29 (#44-69878) before it, which had replaced the first one (#42-24671). But the museum's B-29 was the only Z-49 with "Flagship 500" nose art. It is significant that this aircraft had 11 combat missions during WWII and was the plane flown by the 500th Bomb Group Commander on his return to the U.S. at the end of the war.
Museum's B-29 on Saipan in 1945
Below are 13 extra pictures of the B-29.
Right click on the files below and choose "Save Target As" to copy them to your computer.