Aviation History

Did you know 414 B-29s were lost bombing Japan? For every Superfortress lost to the enemy, almost two were lost to accidents and crashes.

B-29s were primarily used in the Pacific theater during World War II. As many as 1,000 Superfortresses at a time bombed Tokyo, destroying large parts of the city.

One of the most technologically advanced airplanes of World War II, the B-29 Superfortress had many new features, including guns that could be fired by remote control. Two crew areas, fore and aft, were pressurized and connected by a long tube over the bomb bays, allowing crew members to crawl between them. The tail gunner had a separate pressurized area that could only be entered or left at altitudes that did not require pressurization.

The B-29 was also the world’s heaviest production plane because of increases in range, bomb load and defensive requirements.

B-29s were primarily used in the Pacific theater during World War II. As many as 1,000 Superfortresses at a time bombed Tokyo, destroying large parts of the city. Finally, on Aug. 6, 1945, the B-29 Enola Gay dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later a second B-29, Bockscar, dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Shortly thereafter, Japan surrendered.

How many B-29s were lost over Japan?

‘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,”’ Pete Feigal, Former Pro Military Artist, explains on Quora.

‘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 B-29 crewmen was that they were being killed more by Curtiss-Wright, the makers of the B-29’s big R3350 radial engines, 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, and they were terrible, and the LAST time magnesium was every used on an engine again.

‘The light-weight crankcase of the R3350 was made out of very flammable magnesium crankcase, and when they went up like shooting stars, they could quickly burn right through a wing spar.’

Feigal concludes;

‘With the unreliability of the incredibly complex remote-aimed guns, the severe engine problems and the many, many other issues in the very technical (and rushed, IMO,) aircraft, give me a B-17 every time.’

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force via Cool Old Photos and 7th Fighter.com

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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