On 6/23/2022 8:33 AM, a425couple wrote:
> Pete Feigal
> Former Pro Military Artist for 25 Years.Mon
> How many B-29 bombers were shot down in WW2?
> Four hundred and fourteen (414) B-29s were lost bombing Japan—147 of
> them to flak and Japanese fighters, 267 to engine fires, mechanical
> failures, takeoff crashes and other “operational losses.”
really well worth going to the source, in able to see the
pictures and drawings.
Former Pro Military Artist for 25 Years.Tue
Was the B-29 a good plane?
I heard something once from “Corky” Meyer, Grumman’s top test pilot
during WWII and Korea who “brought in” the Hellcat, Bearcat, Tigercat
and Panther jet, who knew and spoke with some other test pilots that
while the B-29 was in its testing phase, her main test pilot, an Air
Force flyer famous for his skill, balls of steel and “Never say die”
attitude…demanded something almost unheard of from a test pilot…he asked
to be allowed to quit the project…to save his life.
Just guess what happened to the very next B-29 test pilot, Eddie Allen
and his entire crew, a few weeks later?
That’s how bad it was.
“There were scores of defects – either readily apparent – or worse-
appearing when an aircraft was actually at work and at
altitude”.-General Curtis Le May:
“Because of disappointing results garnered from high-altitude B-29
bombing using high-explosive ordnance, LeMay decided to switch to
low-altitude incendiary missions…”
It was the most advanced aircraft of WWII, and America is brainwashed
into believing that “advanced technology” can fix any problem, but that
doesn't make it “good,” or make it “work,” and if all that “advancement”
was hurried ands pushed before it was ready, leaving it dangerous and
unreliable, all the “advancement” just makes it dangerous, cranky and
complex, crammed so full of so many advanced systems, all at the cutting
edge of technology, that very few things in it worked perfectly. That’s
called “Technological immaturity.”
Its a lot of myth, folks, just like the Norden Bombsight. All folks read
today about the B-29 is positive things: “Greatest Plane that Ever
Flew!”…because as far back as early 1943, the Air Force knew the B-29
was going to be a lemon and started an official PR campaign to push and
promote this aircraft, as it was THE most expensive project of the
entire war, costing $1 Billion MORE than the Manhattan Project, as the
greatest thing since Sliced Bread.
The B-29, while a revolutionary aircraft that modernized the Air Force,
was not very good as originally deployed, and many of her crews
considered her a death trap, but the Air Force had a huge PR campaign of
both Silence and Pretty Lies to fool both the American public…and the
Soviets, that it was ready to fly to Alpha Centari.
As a matter of fact the second XB-29 (Serial Number 41-0003) that first
flew on December 30, 1942. Shortly after noon on February 18, 1943,
crashed, killing test pilot Eddie Allen and his crew. They were flight
testing the second XB-29 when an engine fire developed, an almost daily
event on a B -29. The magnesium engine parts (yes) caught fire and the
white-hot magnesium burned right through the port wing spar, and
collapsed the entire wing, sending the huge bomber crashing into the
Frye Meat Packing Plant three miles from Boeing Field. All eleven men
aboard the plane and 18 in the plant were killed instantly. It got worse
The Frye packing plant on fire, 18 February 1943.
2,970 aircraft were built of all types, and was incredible, and amongst
its “advanced” features was the first ever fully pressurized nose and
cockpit in a bomber; an aft area for the crew was also pressurized.
Since the bomb bays were not pressurized, a pressurized tunnel was
devised to connect the fore and aft crew areas. A retractable tail
bumper was provided for tail protection during nose-high takeoffs and
It had a very high-lift, low-drag wing that Boeing developed—similar to
the Consolidated B-24 Liberator’s unique “Davis wing”—with sophisticated
Fowler flaps, (at the time a high-tech innovation,) to make the wing
work at takeoff and landing speeds.
It could cruise at 50mph faster than a B-17, carrying 2.5 Xs the bombs,
up to 20,000 lbs internally, and potentially could fly at 10,000 feet
higher…not factoring that pesky 140 mph winds in the Gulf Stream.
It had a centrally controlled, computer-corrected, remotely operated gun
turret, incredible for the 1940’s, their “Star Wars,” that could control
Ballistics, Lead and Parallax Error.
GE, Sperry, Westinghouse and Bendix all worked *separately* to make this
amazing gunsight but major problems with the periscope sighting and the
hydraulic turrets plagued the system and in April of ‘42, the United
States Army Air Forces, as it was now known, decided that the Sperry
system would not be used on the B-29. It was incredibly over-elaborate
and heavily maintenance-reliant, a poor system for day-to-day combat,
that demands simplicity our at least well-thought out, well-de eloped
systems, not intricate machines whipped up out of some designer’s butt
and the fact that the gunsight was developed separately in four
different companies workshops and then cobbled together into one machine
didn't give crews much confidence.
Very cool, very expensive, very intricate and very accurate…when it
worked. Often it didn’t. As it turned out the Air Force started simply
removing the four-gun top turret, officially “for extra speed and fuel
savings.” Very likely…and because it never worked. A big part of the
problem was the maintenance crews…they had never even heard of the
advanced computers ’n gyros ’n stuff in this gun system let alone seen
them, and even though trained to fix them, like every other aspect of
the B-29, it was rushed.
These young 19 year old, gum-chewin’, ball cap wearin’ mechanics had
trouble synchronizing the guns, which they constantly needed. Just
training the flight crews to fly this monster was a huge undertaking and
headache, and in that aspect alone the B-29 fell way behind in schedule
for combat readiness.
The problem was the system simply didn’t work. It often failed to keep
Japanese fighters at bay and was absolutely plagued with mechanical and
technical glitches, problems the often poorly trained crew members could
fix-it was only THE most complicated gun on the planet.
The four frontal guns – doubled from 2 to 4 to prevent frontal attacks
-had very poor ballistics as a compromise for streamlining, leaving a
4-gun turret where it was ballistically impossible to hit a target with
more than two guns…with a large blind spot to head on attack.
The 200lb CFC computers suffered from terrible build quality and rarely
ever worked as advertised – a common glitch was for the turret to slew
20 degrees and then wildly spray out its entire ammunition,1,000 rds, in
that direction. This fault – caused by bad wiring design and
occasionally badd wiring harnesses, – was only tracked down and fixed in
Jan 1945, when the B-29 had been in action for seven months.
A late-but-cool B-29 gun upgrade enabled the gunners to set the turrets
to track motion – cool, huh? In theory..until in raids over Japan when
they tried it out, 17 bombers had their bomb-bays riddled with .50
caliber bullets during the bomb run – the motion of opening their bomb
doors had triggered other bombers in their formation’s automatic turret
The B-29’s gun turrets, amazing as their were over the other bomber’s
plain old .50s were also impossible to access in flight – so any
malfunction set off by even slight jars to jam the guns couldn’t be
repaired in the air. The impressive tail turret – fitted with an
additional impressive with 20mm cannon – was hampered by bad ballistic
design so the two .50 machine guns and the 20mm cannon could NOT hit the
same target, and the incredible radar guiding the tail 20mm cannon was
also incredibly intricate…and never really functioned well in combat.
(Eventually, like the four gun top turret, the tail cannon & radar were
completely removed, and only the twin .50 cals, like other US bombers,
Ultimately almost the entire complex defensive system was so
unsatisfactory that it was removed from all aircraft in February 1945
(bar the tail turret), and the B-29B was built without any turrets at
all, as by then the USAAF had realized defensive guns on a bomber – even
super advanced defensive guns – actually had to work and that they were
less useful than flying high and fast and at night.
And more B-29s were lost to mechanical failure than any other cause; in
its first 6 months, regularly 10% of B-29s that took off would be lost –
per mission – to mechanical defects alone.
As stated, four hundred and fourteen (414) B-29s were lost bombing
Japan—147 of them to flak and Japanese fighters, 267 to engine fires,
mechanical failures, takeoff crashes and other “operational losses.”
But do the math and you’ll see that for every B-29 lost to the enemy,
almost two were lost to accidents and crashes.
The grim jest among the B-29 crews was that they were being killed more
by Curtiss-Wright, the makers of the B-29’s big R3350 radial engines,
the highest-displacement production engine in the world at the time,
than by the Japanese.
Except it wasn’t a joke.
The B-29 had 4 × Wright R-3350-23 Duplex-Cyclone 18-cylinder air-cooled
turbosupercharged radial piston engines, making 2,200 hp each, made
partially with magnesium and this was the LAST time magnesium was ever
used on an aircraft engine again. These engines were used as they were
the largest displacement engines at that time.
Wright saved weight in the engines light-weight crankcase of the R3350
by making it out of very flammable magnesium crankcase, and when they
went up like shooting stars, they could quickly burn right through a
wing spar. What their thinking was, I have no idea.
And while magnesium is light and very strong, it’s also highly
flammable, and once on fire, almost impossible to extinguish. In 87% of
B-29 engine fires, the onboard extinguishers were unable to cope,
couldn't douse magnesium fires, and the fire would burn out the whole
engine and eat through the wing. The loss stats speak for themselves –
of 414 B-29 losses in WWII, 147 of them were to flak and Japanese
fighters, 267 to engine fires.
Must have been quite a sight – the magnesium burned blindingly bright
with a core temperature approaching 5,600 °F (3,100 °C) – and were so
intense the main wing spar could burn through in seconds, resulting in
catastrophic wing failure.
And the magnesium was also incredibly brittle; reports often describe
engines starting and shaking themselves to pieces while still taking off
on the runway, and they didn’t handle damage well.
The B-29’s Wright R-3350 engines were lucky to survive for an average of
only 265 hours! before being literally thrown away. A few were
overhauled, but most were just junked, since Wright was cranking out
plenty of replacements. Small mountains of trashed R-3350 radials were
often standard features of B-29 bases in the PTO. For comparison, my
favorite and the best engine of WWII, the Pratt & Whitney R-2800
air-cooled radial could: “The R-2800 could survive 3,000 hours between
overhauls when in regular use and subject to skilled operation and good
maintenance.”-“R-2800 Pratt & Whitney’s Dependable Masterpiece”, Graham
White. 3,000 hours between overhauls vs totally scrapped at 265 hours.
Man, that's a life span shorter than the T-34/76!
Part of the problem was the B-29s weren't easy to fly. They had the
highest wing loading of any WWII airplane: 81.1 pounds per square foot
by the time the fully loaded Superforts took off for Japan. The B-29 was
so heavy that even taxiing was a task. Turns needed to be made
cautiously, to avoid rolling the tires right off the wheels, and the
B-29’s brakes were so weak they’d overheat if an anxious pilot taxied
even a bit too fast. Maximum ground-running time was 20 minutes, after
which the engines were too hot for takeoff.
And the B-29 – as such a revolutionary and advanced aircraft – also had
a huge crew training problem. There were no experienced instructors,
because experience of the type and the conditions it flew in were
literally non-existent and at the edge of human experience -so many
crews passing the test to fly it were actually very poor. The problem
was so bad that even the notoriously hard-assed Curtiss Le May stood
down the entire B-29 force in the Pacific for retraining for several months.
Here’s Why LeMay (and not MacArthur) Had Tactical Control of the Super
Weapon that Played a Pivotal Role in Defeating Imperial Japan - The
Aviation Geek Club
Here’s Why LeMay (and not MacArthur) Had Tactical Control of the Super
Weapon that Played a Pivotal Role in Defeating Imperial Japan
It was impossible to fly true formations in B-29s at altitude.
Superforts flew in “streams” or loose groups. Why? Climbing to altitude
was agonizing, painfully slow, with one eye always on the cylinder-head
temperatures, and once a B-29 got established in long-range cruise,
typically at an indicated airspeed of 210 mph, flying became a delicate
dance of slowly closing the cowl flaps to avoid too much drag yet not
letting the engine heads get too hot.
If an airplane began to fall back from its mates, a little more power
was needed. But then the head temps would rise. Open the cowl flaps some
to compensate. But then the speed would drop even more from the added
drag. Close the cowl flaps a little, but then more heat.That’s why.
Flying the B-29 in any kind of formation was a complicated dance.
(Above: Art for B-29 “Eddie Allan” named for the pilot who died test
flying the #2 B-29.)
Plus the B-29 flew so high that an unknown new phenomenon – “the jet
stream”- 140 mph winds at high altitude— also made formation flying
almost impossible and one gust of wind could potentially shatter the
mutually supporting defensive boxes US bomber doctrine relied upon.
Additionally bombing accuracy with the B-29 as initially deployed up in
the Jet Stream was terrible. Bombs were dropped into 100 mph+ winds at
high altitudes with predictably UNpredictable results, rendering the
Norden bombsight – (NOT able, as Mr. Norden claimed, “to drop a bomb
down a pickle barrel from 20,000 feet,”—Myths and lies, folks,) – the
heart of USAAF precision bombing doctrine – utterly and completely useless.
In ‘44, only 1 in 3 B-29s was getting a hit by RAF standards, i.e.
within 5 miles of the aiming point, in daylight, and in clear
visibility. The truth was it took painful experience to realize the
doctrinally prescribed bombing height of 27–30,000 feet was completely
The B-29 was the ultimate weapon in The Bomber Mafia’s,
Bomber Mafia - Wikipedia
Group of soldiers arguing that long-range bombers could win wars The
Bomber Mafia were a close-knit group of American military men who
believed that long-range heavy bomber aircraft in large numbers were
able to win a war . The derogatory term "Bomber Mafia" was used before
and after World War II by those in the military who did not share their
belief, and who were frustrated by the insistence of the men that the
heavy bomber should take a primary position in planning and funding. The
bomber mafia succeeded in their goal to have extensive bomber fleets in
the US military, but they failed in their wish to achieve pinpoint
targeting precision during World War II. Instead, the bomber fleets were
a major factor in the general American war effort, helping to reduce the
enemy fighting power, especially in Japan where they destroyed the
largest cities by shifting to area incendiary bombing tactics. After the
war, the 20 years of foundational work by the bomber mafia resulted in
the separation of the United States Air Force from the Army to become an
independent military arm.  The bomber mafia's strategic doctrine,
changed by war and experience, helped shape the mission of the new Air
Force and its Strategic Air Command .  Many years later a related
term " Fighter Mafia " described those within the Air Force that favored
lightweight fighters good at dog-fighting instead of heavy
missile-firing fighters. Origins [ edit ] Developed over the years
1926–1929 at Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS) at Langley Field in
Virginia , a forward-looking doctrine of daylight precision bombing was
promulgated by Brigadier General William "Billy" Mitchell who advocated
a greatly expanded role for the bomber force. After graduating from ACTS
in 1931, Mitchell protégée Harold L. George stayed at the school to
refine and teach the new bombing theory, soon recruiting as teachers his
former students Haywood S. Hansell , Donald Wilson and Laurence S. Kuter
as fellow bomber advocates. These four instructors, the core of US
bomber advocacy, argued that an enemy's army and navy could be defeated
intact due to the destruction of industrial and military targets deep
within enemy-held territory.  This theory was first espoused by
Italian General Giulio Douhet , though his ideas included the terror
bombing of population centers that the American theorists eschewed. 
 In contrast, American theorists devised a strategy of pin-point
bombing that targeted the enemy economy and the production of weapons.
 Though unproven, the major attraction of this sort of strategic
bombing doctrine was that a war was expected to be won relatively
quickly, with minimal casualties, and that grinding, static trench
warfare as seen in World War I could be avoided.  In November 1932
when British Lord President of the Council Stanley Baldwin said " the
bomber will always get through ", he was talking about the terror
bombing of cities. The US Bomber Mafia agreed with Baldwin only in that t
(the US Army Air Corps officers who had come to power on the theory of
fast, self-defended bombers, powered by the new supercharged engines and
protected by masses of the Browning M2 .50 caliber machine guns, getting
to the target, bombing it with accuracy and getting home, all self
protected without the need for fighter escort,) determination to test
and prove their theory of self-defending bombers once and for all, damn
it, literally to destruction, and the B-29 in its full turret
configuration was the Great White Hope of this theory. They had been
proven wrong and humiliated in the flaming wrecks of hundreds of downed
B-17s in the Schweinfurt–Regensburg raids…
Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission - Wikipedia
1943 U.S. Army Air Forces strategic bombing mission during World War II
The Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission was a strategic bombing mission
during World War II carried out by Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy
bombers of the U.S. Army Air Forces on August 17, 1943. The mission was
an ambitious plan to cripple the German aircraft industry; it was also
known as the "double-strike mission" because it entailed two large
forces of bombers attacking separate targets in order to disperse
fighter reaction by the Luftwaffe . It was also the first American
"shuttle" mission, in which all or part of a mission landed at a
different field and later bombed another target before returning to its
base. After being postponed several times by unfavorable weather, the
operation, known within the Eighth Air Force as "Mission No. 84", was
flown on the anniversary of the first daylight raid by the Eighth Air
Force .  Mission No. 84 was a strike by 376 bombers of 16 bomb groups
against German heavy industry well beyond the range of escorting
fighters. The mission inflicted heavy damage on the Regensburg target,
but at catastrophic loss to the force, with 60 bombers lost and many
more damaged beyond economical repair. As a result, the Eighth Air Force
was unable to follow up immediately with a second attack that might have
seriously crippled German industry. When Schweinfurt was finally
attacked again two months later, the lack of long-range fighter escort
had still not been addressed and losses were even higher. As a
consequence, deep penetration strategic bombing was curtailed for five
months. As soon as the reconnaissance photographs were received on the
evening of the 17th, Generals Eaker and Anderson knew that the
Schweinfurt raid had been a failure. The excellent results at Regensburg
were small consolation for the loss of 60 B-17s. The results of the
bombing were exaggerated, and the high losses were well disguised in
after-mission reports. Everyone who flew the mission stressed the
importance of the escorts in reducing losses; the planners grasped only
that Schweinfurt would have to be bombed again, soon, in another
deep-penetration, unescorted mission.  — Donald Caldwell The mission
plan [ edit ] Track chart of the Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission Because
of diversions of groups to the invasion of North Africa , the bomber
force in England had been limited in size to four groups of B-17s and
two of B-24s until May 1943. At that time, and in conjunction with the
Pointblank Directive to destroy the Luftwaffe in preparation for
Operation Overlord , the B-17 force had expanded fourfold and was
organized into the 1st and 4th Bombardment Wings (which due to their
large size would soon be re-designated Bomb Divisions). The 1st
Bombardment Wing, which included all of the original B-17 groups, was
based in the English Midlands while the 4th Bombardment Wing stations
were located in East Anglia . Pointblank operations in April and July
1943 had concentrated solely on t
…where bombers were sent in to German targets almost unprotected and had
suffered terrible losses. The Faster, Higher, Bigger, Better Defended
B-29 was their second chance to prove fast, high bombers, esp. at night,
would prove their theory. It didn’t.
While the B-29 was a revolutionary aircraft and a truly advanced wonder
for the time, it contained several technological dead ends (magnesium
engines and remote gun turrets, to name just two) but its flaws showed
up in catastrophic ways.
The B-29 had one of the shortest combat careers of any US warplane—just
14 months in WW2 and Korea—(yes, WIKI says it “served” till 1960,) and
suffered losses of one a day, every day, during that career. Its simply
criminal deficiencies remained so little understood by the US public
only because of creative spinning by Boeing and Army Air Forces
publicists and the existence of a captive press corps while hostilities
raged. Even the much-admired Ernie Pyle wrote a newspaper piece: “Pilots
Adore Cramped B-29,” and in it he gushed, “I’ve never heard pilots so
unanimous in their praise of an aeroplane.”
Was she beautiful? Completely. Did she modernize the Air Force?
Probably. Did she win the war in the Pacific? I knew a few Marines, Navy
and Army vets that might dispute that. But Boeing went on to
ever-increasing greatness, while the R-3350 engine ended up being the
death of Curtiss-Wright. Though the ultra-complex radial soldiered on
until the fast-approaching end of the piston-engine era, neither Curtiss
nor Wright were invited to join the U.S. Air Force and Navy in the new
jet age, and time just passed them by.
Thanks for the time!
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