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Boeing B-29, the last heavy bomber produced by the United States during World War II, an aircraft that has lived in history because of decisive role it played in bringing that war to swift and stunning close. Known as the Superfortress, the big Boeing bomber soon proved worthy of its nickname.
The long-range B-29 flew for the first time on September 21, 1942, but it was not until mid-June 1944 that it began its aerial assaults on the Japanese home islands. It was the largest, heaviest, most powerful bomber to fight in World War II. It was also the first pressurized bomber ever built. Its five gun turrets were operated by remote control by the gunners of its 11-man crew .
For its day the Superfortress was a truly impressive aircraft. It had a wingspan of 141 feet, a length of 99 feet and was nearly 30 feet high. Fully loaded, the B-29 weighed 140,000 pounds, could carry almost 10,000 gallons of fuel and 20,000 pounds of bombs and had an extreme range of nearly 6,000 miles. Powered by four 2,200-horsepower Wright Cyclone engines, it had a top speed of 358 miles per hour--faster than the original British Spitfire fighter--and its service ceiling was over 30,000 feet.
The B-29 was originally intended for use as a strategic bomber against Germany. But by the time it became operational, the Allies had already landed in Normandy, and the availability of air bases on the continent removed the need for the long-range B-29 in Europe. Instead the advanced new bomber was deployed in the Pacific theater.
Long before dawn on August 6, 1945, a B-29 named the Enola Gay took off from the tiny Pacific island of Tinian with Colonel Paul W. Tibbets Jr. at the controls and set a course for the Japanese island of Honshu. In the bomb bay of the Superfortress was a single 9,000-pound atomic bomb called "Little Boy."
At 8:15 a.m, Colonel Tibbets ordered "Little
Boy" released from 31,600 feet over the city of Hiroshima. And precisely 47 seconds
later most of that city of 240,000 people disappeared in a blinding ball of fire.
Nine days later, after a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan surrendered
and World War II was over.
The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
Permission was granted to ALLSTAR by The Franklin Mint to use the preceding materials.
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Updated: March 12, 2004