Biggest Birds in the CBI

B-29 Operations

Ex-CBI Roundup
February 1985 Issue

By Mr. Dwight O. King

Editor's Note: This short synopsis of the B-29 tells of the part played by this airplane in the CBI. The writer was a member of the 468th Bomb Group and served as a bombardier. The maps accompanying this account were graciously provided by Harry Chagnon who was a member of the 40th Bomb Group.

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress was the largest bomber to enter production during World War II. Fully laden, it weighed well over 60 tons. It was equipped with the most powerful engines of its day, and was the first production aircraft to have fully-pressurized crew compartments. It was also the first to have a central gunnery control system, operated by remote control. The Superfortress was designed to fly unladen at 400 mph, to be stable at 30,000 feet, and to carry a 2,000 Ib. bomb load 5,000 miles. It was rushed into production, and contained several faults which had to be corrected in service. The Superfortress was heavily armoured and carried three twin 50 calibre machine gun turrets in upper and lower fuselage positions. It also was equipped with twin 50 calibre machine guns in the tail position. Each gun was served by a belt containing 1,000 rounds. The center wing section was built in one piece, including engine nacelles and fuel tanks; the massive Wright Cyclone engines rated 2,200hp each. Provision was made for the comfort of the 11 crew members on the long flights to and from the targets.

On June 1, 1943, the first Superfort unit - the 58th Bombardment Wing - was activated at Marietta, Georgia, near Bell's Superfortress plant. One hundred and fifty Superfortresses had been promised for early 1944, enough for four VHB groups, and on Sept. 15, 1943, the Wing Headquarters was re-established at Salina, Kansas. The first Superfortress Wing initially comprised five groups - the 40th, 444th, 462nd, 468th and 472nd - but the last of these was scheduled to remain at Smoky Hill Field, Salina, as an operational training unit. On November 27, 1943, the XX Bomber Command was formed at Salina for overall control of the Superfortress units.

The planes and their crews soon started the long flight to bases in India during the Spring of 1944. The airfields were to be clustered around the Calcutta area. The 40th found its way to Chakulia, India; the 444th was to operate out of Dudkundi, India; the 462nd was based at Piardoba, India; and the 468th was headquartered at Kharagpur, India.

POSTVILLE EXPRESS, B-29 with red tail stripes and nose motif of the 794th Squadron of the 468th "General Billy Mitchell" Group.

After shakedown flights and practice bombing missions to Halliday Island, the big birds were ready to take on the Japanese. On June 5, 1944, the first combat missions were flown by all four groups. After distinguished service in the CBI flying combat missions and numerous "hump" trips, the 58th Wing was transferred in the Spring of 1945 to Tinian Island in the Pacific. It was from these Mariana Islands that the 58th completed its devastation of the Japanese mainland. All four groups compiled enviable combat records.

The 40th Bomb Group flew first mission June 5, 1944, attacking railroad shops at Bangkok, Thailand. Awarded a Distinguished Citation for the attack on Yawata iron and steel works on August 20, 1944, and a second DUC for the industrial area of Nagoya between May 5 and 14, 1945. A third DUC was given for raids on light metal industries in Osaka on July 24, 1945. The 40th Group squadrons were the 25th, 44th, 45th and 395th, the latter disbanded in October 1944. Overseas bases were Chakulia, India, from April 2, 1944 until February 25, 1945.

The 444th Bomb Group flew first mission against Bangkok, June 5, 1944. Received first Distinguished Unit Citation for the Yawata mission of August 20, 1944, a second for strikes on oil storage facilities at Oshima, an aircraft factory near Kobe, and an incendiary raid on Nagoya between May 10 and 14, 1945. Won third DUC for Osaka mission, July 24, 1945. The squadrons were the 676th, 677th, 678th and 679th, the latter disbanded October, 1944. Based at Charra, India, from April 11, 1944, then Dudhkundi, India, from July 1, 1944, until March 1,1945.

The 462nd Bomb Group flew first mission June 5, 1944, to Bangkok. Distinguished Unit Citation for Yawata mission, August 20, 1944, second award for strikes on industrial areas of Tokyo and Yokohama May 23, 25, 29, 1945, third DUC for daylight attack on aircraft factory at Takarazuka on July 24, 1945. Squadrons were 768th, 769th, 770th and 771st, the latter disbanded October 1944. From April 7, 1944, was based at Piardoba, India, until February 26, 1945.

The 468th Bomb Group flew first mission Bangkok, June 5, 1944. Distinguished Unit Citation for Yawata daylight mission, August 20, 1944, when the 58th Wing lost 14 B-29s. Second award for incendiary missions against Tokyo and Yokohama between May 23 and 29, 1945, the third DUC for mission against Takarazuka on July 24, 1945. Squadrons were 792nd, 793d, 794th and 795th, the latter disbanded in October 1944. The 468th was based at Kharagpur, India, from April 13, 1944, until February 24, 1945.

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