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Boeing B-29 Superfortress

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B-29: Powerful Long Range Strategic Bomber

B-29 Super Fortress - WWII American bomber.

B-29 Flying Fortress bomber in flight. USAF photo.

The plans for the Boeing B-29 Superfortress were started before World War II and culminated in one of the largest and most powerful long range bombers of the war.

Crew & Armament

Used mainly in the Pacific Theater by the United States, the B-29 was designed for a crew of 10-14 which included a pilot, copilot, engineer, bombardier, navigator radar specialist, radar operator, radio operator, and gunners with training in fire control, air mechanics, and electrical specialties. Armament included twelve 50 cal. machine guns, a 20 mm cannon and a maximum bomb load of 20,000 pounds.

Distinguishing Superfortress Features

Distinguishing features of the Superfortress included a pressurized cabin with a tunnel to a second pressurized compartment in the rear, electronically operated remote-controlled machine gun turrets, and protection armor for the crew.

B-29 and the Fire-Bombing of Japan

B-29s dropping incendiary bombs over Japan

B-29s dropping fir bombs over Yokohama, Japan. USAAF photo.

For 9 months, B-29s in massive formations of over 300 (some of the largest formations of the Pacific War), engaged in fire-bombing raids on Japan's main cities (November 17, 1944 to August 6, 1945), causing tremendous damage. According to Bill Gunston, in Aircraft of World War II, (p32),“The Tokyo [fire bombing] mission of 9 March 1945 wiped out more that 40km² (15.5 square miles) of the city, killed 84,000 and injured over 100,000 – never equaled in any other aerial attack.”

Photo Reconnaissance & Mine Laying with the B-29

B-29s were also used during WWII for photo reconnaissance work and mine laying operations. A large number of naval mines were dropped by B-29s in relatively shallow water such as harbors, taking a high toll on Japanese shipping at a time when American submarines had already destroyed great amounts of Japanese shipping tonnage.

First Atomic Bomb Dropped from B-29 Enola Gay

B-29 "Enonla Gay" nose art

Col. Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay, waving from his cockpit before the takeoff on August 6, 1945. USAAF photo.

The United States believed the use of the atomic bombs would hasten a Japanese surrender, preventing massive casualties on both sides in the planned invasion of Japan. The use of both atom bombs within 3 days of each other was done in an effort to convence the Japanese that many more of these bombs were available when in fact the next batch of 25 would not have been ready for use until the very end of of 1945.

Remembered for ending World War II and starting the nuclear age, the B-29 Superfortress retired from service in September 1960.

Museum B-29s on our website

Raz'n Hell - Castle Air Museum


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* B-29 Super Fortress facts

Category Bomber
Manufacturer Boeing
Introduced May 1944
Used in
US Army Air Forces
US Air Force
Royal Air Force
Produced 1943 – 1946
Number built 3,970
Cruising speed 220 mph
Max. speed 365 mph
Altitude Over 35,000 feet
Range 4,100 miles
* Numbers are approximate