B-29 “Superfortress”

B-29 “Superfortress”

SERIAL NUMBER:  42-65281

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Wing Span: 141 ft. 3 in.

  • Length: 99 ft. 0 in.

  • Height: 29 ft. 7 in.

  • Maximum Weight: 141,000 lbs.

  • Maximum Speed: 358 M.P.H. at 25,000 ft.

  • Service Ceiling: 31,850 ft.

  • Range:  4,100 Miles with 16,000 lbs. of Bombs

  • Crew/Passengers: 10 crew

  • Armament: 12 x .50 Cal. Machine Guns, 20,000 lbs. of Bombs

The B-29 "Superfortress" represented the state-of-the-art in bombardment technology of the 1940s.  Designed as a replacement for the famous B-17 "Flying Fortress", the B-29 incorporated many modern advances in aviation technology  No longer were the bomber crews exposed to freezing weather while attempting to fight off enemy fighters.  The "Super Fortress" featured pressurized crew compartments, remotely sighted gun turrets, and sophisticated radar that enabled the B-29 to bomb through overcast.  The airframe was flush riveted to reduce wind resistance.  The new 2,200 H.P. Wright R-3350 Radial engines enabled the B-29 to fly farther, faster and carry a larger bomb load than any other bomber during World War II.

During WW II, after the Marianas Islands were taken by U.S. forces in June of 1944, B-29 bases were constructed on Guam, Saipan and Tinian.  These bases put the B-29 and its 20,000 pound bomb load within 1500 miles of the Japanese homeland.

Our B-29 was delivered to the USAAF on December 11, 1944 and was assigned to the 20th Air Force, 6th Bombardment Group, 24th Bombardment Squadron on Tinian Island. It was assigned to pilot Bruce R. Alger who nicknamed it Miss America 62, for his new born daughter, who Alger figured would be eligible to be the winner of the Miss America pageant in 1962.  Being assigned to the 6th Bombardment group, it carried a "Circle R" on its tail. She flew combat missions from Tinian to Japan and Japanese held islands, and was credited with shooting down two Japanese aircraft. 

6th Bombardment B-29s on Pacific War bombing mission

The Enola Gay flew her atomic bomb missions from Tinian Island. She arrived with a "Circle arrow" on its tail,  the insignia of its parent unit 509th Composite Group. It was quickly changed to the "Circle R" to blend I with the other B-29s on Tinian and to mask its special status from Japanese observers.

 

In October 1945 Miss America '62 returned to the United States and as assigned to the 4196th Base Unit (Air Technical Services Command) at Victorville Field, CA. She was modified for weather reconnaissance and flew with the 373rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, Kindley Air Base, Bermuda during the Korean War. Finally, she served as a target tug, Randolph AFB Texas when its service ended. Afterwards, she was sent to NAS China Lake for use as a target and then stored at NAS China Lake from 1960 - 1985. In late 1985, the B-29 was dismantled and loaded into a C-5 for the flight to the Travis Heritage Center.  After its arrival at the museum, work began to reassemble the B-29.  The wing was mated to the fuselage and the task of stripping all of the old paint got underway.  As the layers of paint were removed, the last layer of paint yielded the her orginal nose art - Miss America '62.  Miss America 1962 and the Enola Gay (now in the USAF Museum) are the only two known restored "Circle R" aircraft.

"I was rather surprised to see it come back after being away from it for 40 years," said Robert Irvin. Irvin served as the Central Fire Control (CFC) gunner in the upper rear of the B-29 controlling the two top turrets.  He was a member of the second crew which flew "Miss America '62" during June, July and August of 1945.  He flew 12 missions on "Miss America '62" until his crew, commanded by Major James Sapp, was rotated back to the United States for command training.  During his 12 missions, they bombed an aircraft plant in Esashi where they were attacked by Japanese fighters flying four abreast firing cannons head on.  He was also on a number of night bombing raids, and parachute mining raids to the Inland Seas and the Tsugaru Strait.  When Irvin left for the states, "Miss America '62" had flown 43 missions and had accounted for two Japanese fighters destroyed.  MSgt. W. R. Patterson was "Miss America '62's" crew chief throughout her entire tour on Tinian.

Video narration by Dr. David G. Styles, PhD (deceased)
Video produced by Kim Bolan

Information derived from, “Travis Heritage Center” by Nick Veronico, copyright Travis AFB Historical Society and Travis AFB Heritage Center Foundation.

This book is available from the Travis Heritage Center gift shop.