Last Flight Of The Kee Bird

In WW2, the B-29 was a technological marvel. I am bringing these facts from my old memory, but they probably came from James Bradley’s great book, Flyboys. To develop and produce 4,000 B-29s, the government spent as much money as the Manhattan Project.

We learned about the jet stream from the B-29. Even with the Norden bombsight at high altitudes, bombardiers were missing the targets by a wide margin.

When General Curtis LeMay took over the 21st Bomber Command,  he developed the low-level fire bombing tactics for Japan that were even more devastating than the atomic bomb attacks. On March 9, 1945 during just 1 night over Tokyo, 105,400 Japanese lost their lives.

A picture I kept in my mind from the Bradley book was the image of these low-level bombers over the inferno at night, with the flames reflecting off the bottoms of the aluminum fuselages visible from the ground.

It was a 14 hour flight from Saipan or Tinian to Japan and back.

We used to have a member in my car club who was a B-29 crewman in the immediate post war. He said that most B-29 crews hated LeMay.

When those planes came back from their 14 hour journey if they had too much remaining fuel, for the next mission LeMay would order a calculated fewer gallons into those planes, and more bombs.

There were a lot of fuel-starved B-29s that had to ditch in the ocean on their return trip.

Until recently, there was only 1 B-29 flying in the world, the Commemorative Air Force’s FiFi.

After years of volunteer work, a 2nd one, Doc, is now on flying status.

There could have been a 3rd one, but for a heartbreaking event. You’ve probably seen the PBS Nova program on Darryl Greenamyer’s effort to save the Kee Bird on a Greenland ice field, but in case you haven’t, here is a condensed 9 minute video.

Here’s how it looks as of 2014.


Update 04/28/19: At least where I am, the PBS link above requires one to have donated to my local PBS station to view the original full video. As of today, here is a link off YouTube that is the same 55 minutes.

It’s worth seeing.

 

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