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The B-29: Decisive Factor in the Defeat of Japan
Dr. Vic Durrance

The B-29 Superfortress was the most complicated and the most expensive weapon of WWII. This big bomber with long legs brought the war to the home islands of Japan. In its early development the B-29 bad a number of problems with the major ones connected to unreliable engines that had a nasty habit of catching fire on a moment's notice. After much work the engine problems were solved and the B-29 went on to become a fearsome weapon of destruction. The 20th Air Force flew the longest combat missions ever attempted under demanding conditions such as very long distances over water and troublesome weather fronts.

During the last nine months of the war the 20th Air Force flew 3331 combat missions (24,665 bombing sorties) dropping 155,041 tons of bombs and mines; 318 B-29's were lost. The Japanese Air Force lost 377 planes with 245 probables, and 417 aircraft badly damaged.

In addition to the combat missions, the following sorties were flown against Japan: 405 weather sorties, 180 weather and recon sorties, 106 weather and leaflet sorties, 110 sea search sorties, 150 radar and photo recon sorties, 73 radar scope sorties and 9 photo recon sorties. Seven additional B-29's were lost on weather and leaflet sorties.

The Third Photo Recon Squadron flew 427 photo recon sorties and lost 6 aircraft. Thirty-one recon sorties were flow by B-24's.

Between June of 1944 and August 1945, B-29's flew a combined 380 bombing missions (26,611 bomb sorties) and dropped 167,448 tons of bombs and mines and lost 402 B-29's while shooting down 871 enemy aircraft as well as 565 probables and damaging 1,090.

Perhaps the greatest accomplishments of the 20th AF was during the last five months of the war. Five major industrial areas received 44.1 percent of all the 20th Air Force tonnage. These industrial centers were Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Yokohoma, and Kobe. Damage to these areas ranged from 25 per cent in Osaka to 43 per cent in Nagoya. The aircraft industry in those areas was 50 per cent destroyed. The industrial area of Kobe was 41 per cent destroyed. The area gutted by these strikes was 103.22 square miles. These major industries were considered to be essentially out of the war.

Sixty-four other cities were burned to the ground. About 72 square miles of urban areas in these cities were completely destroyed. Takamatsu was 89.3 per cent destroyed. Low level raids ordered by General Curtis Le May burned out 175 square miles of urban area in 69 cities leaving over 9,000,000 people homeless.

The 20th Air Force had taken a promising but untried bomber and turned it into an efficient and awesome weapon of destruction. Such a capacity to wage war and the terrible destruction that the B-29 brought to the Japanese Empire brought unconditional surrender to Japan. The two atomic bombs ended the war and were a "face-saver" to a nation that was totally beaten and demoralized.

The accomplishments of the 20th Air Force will stand as a high point in military aviation.

*Material taken from Over and Under, John Misterly, Jr. Carlton Press, Inc. New York, New York.


Email: Dr. Vic Durrance
This page was created on 28 December 2001
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