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Birth of the B-29

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"Birth of the B-29" Out of just such an eruption of the earth a million or more year ago was born Japan. land of the little people who grew to believe that in blood and iron lay the shortcut to greatness. Land of philosophies and religions stranger than their names, like "Bushido" the medieval code of slicing a victim with a samurai sword. "HakkĊ ichiu" which means "the four corners of the world under a Japanese roof." And "Shinto" which assures its people that the answer to all things comes from the skies. The truth of that one they were to discover. Old Japan was primitive. The history of the new Japan is the story of successful copying. On the tradition of peace and love of the soil, the new Japan suddenly turned its back, and copied our locomotives, our planes, our great ocean-going liners. Even Tokyo might have been transplanted bodily from the western world. Japan's plans for world conquest were financed by the fine thread of an industrious caterpillar, woven into silk and stamped "Made in Japan" for its English-speaking customers. Soft silk sent away for our scrap iron, to be forged into weapons and returned to us, eventually, in hate. "Made in Japan" became a sentence of death. How will it end for the little people who wanted to enslave the world? The answer to that was to come, like the answer to all things, from the skies. Only when it came, it was to be stamped "Made in America". As it was for instance on Doolittle Day, when the Hornet, the first Shangri-La, pointed her prow right at the heart of Tokyo. This was the first brief answer to Japan that came from the skies. It was not to be the last. General Doolittle vowed, "We are going back to Tokyo, and we shall go in full array and with might allies." A weapon was ready. Through these forbidding doors, ceaselessly day and night, come trains bearing the materials that skilled workers weld, forge, and rivet into an instrument dedicated to the destruction of the enemy. This is only one of many plants that one day appeared where just the day before it seemed was pasture land, was a place where they were building washing machines. When the workers reported for the first time, few of them guessed the exact nature of what they were building. They knew that a giant plane would result, but beyond that it was largely conjecture. But then the day came, inevitably, when the pieces of their jigsaw began to fit together. The day when the mountains of material and the millions of man-hours all combined to confirm the assembly line rumor, the washroom gossip and their honest-to-god American curiosity. They were building the mightiest aircraft in history. They were building a plane for the Army Air Forces that would reduce the huge Fortresses and Liberators to medium bombers. They were building the Boeing-designed B-29 Super Fortress. And this is how they built it. Enough aluminum is stored here to lay a silver carpet over every street in Tokyo. Aluminum sheets to be brought to life by these machines and the workers who operate them. They give it shape and personality. Their stamping machines, their presses, lathes and drills coax it and pound it and pierce it into the multiple patterns prescribed in 50 tons of blueprints. It was bauxite a month ago, dead in the ground. Miners dug it out of the Arkansas hills. And then in some distant factory bauxite came in at one end and aluminum sheet rolled out the other. One day from now, in the stratosphere above the clouds, it will mirror the sun. In a month, out of the ground and into the sky. These will be the wings to take it there. From the confusion of manpower and equipment within this massive jig, will emerge the fabulous 117, a wing of completely new design, which will carry more weight, faster and higher than any other wing. The jigs themselves, the fixtures and the tools were designed so that unskilled workers could be expert with them in a week. Whether they were farmers or clerks, cotton pickers or housewives, salesmen or ex-soldiers. The wing is an awesome weight and dimension. Yet a girl can lift it with about the same effort that she would need to adjust the flower in her hair. Space and the handling of bulky parts have always been problems in assembly production. The engineers who designed this plant solved both problems at once with a few strokes on their drafting boards. They moved traffic to the ceiling. Thus they allowed workers more time at the machines, and machines more time at work. Here is the wing in a more advanced stage. If the workers imagine for a moment that they were in a shipyard, it would be understandable. The Mayflower was shorter from stem to stern than each of these wings from tip to tip. All the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock could curl up within the gasoline compartments in the wing and sleep no less comfortably than on their long Atlantic crossing. Each of these...will encase an engine of 2200 horsepower. Four of them harnessed to one Super Fortress - 8800 horsepower. What does that mean? Horsepower means more than 300 miles an hour. Horsepower means flying high enough to see all the New England states at once. Horsepower means victory in the air. When these skeleton nose sections are enclosed in aluminum and glass, they will be the most comfortable cockpits a bomber ever had. The windows cannot cloud or frost. The pilot's instrument panel is less complex than the dashboard of an automobile. Soundproofing allows talk without the inter-phone. And because the entire compartment is a pressurized tank, the air remains practically constant, from prarie level to the rarified atmosphere over the Himalayas. Back at the control cabin is the huge center section. Here the wings will be set. Here the bomb bays will hold the greatest weight of death ever lifted into the skies. Toward the tail, another big pressurized chamber will house the rest of the crew. Except the real gunner, who has a cabin to himself. If, in some stratospheric emergency, a crew member must travel between front and rear pressurized compartments, he can slither through this connecting tunnel. An armor glass observation blister. Durable, crystal clear, eyes of every Super Fortress. The prefabricated sub-assemblies are manufactured by other contractors, and shipped to this plant by the car-load. What has been shown here is being duplicated in plants all across the country. Identical miracles of modern machinery nursed and tended and made productive by people who look and think like these people. The fair, the dark, people with deft hands, and unblinking eyes. The strong, with their their willing muscles. And those less strong, but as willing. The braided schoolgirls the white-haired grandmothers the old young, the young old the little ones and the less little ones working together in intimate harmony. Their product: death. Their goal: peace. These workers are the lucky ones who see the finished product of their labor role off the line. Every hour of every day they are witness to this awe-inspiring ceremony. This tremendous wedding of material and man-hours. This climax in the history of man's conquest of the air. But what of the others who helped, however remotely, to create an aerial weapon they have never seen? The lumberjack who felled that trees that become the blueprints of the B-29? The bauxite miner in the Arkansas hills, and the miner of iron and coal? The builder of guns and engines and propellers? The grimy, sweaty men who cast the cylinders and forged the crankshafts? The maker of tires, electrical equipment, instruments and safety wires? The citizens who paid for the Super Fortress with their purchases of war bonds? Theirs are isolated lines of effort. Initiated all across the land and converging eventually beneath this vaulted roof. Here, the sum of their energies assumes shape and stature and meaning. Here is the final meeting of every effort and every part. A bold insignia will proclaim to the enemy that this is the proud new weapon of the United States Army Air Forces. But it is our plane, too. Because we the people built it. We conceived it, financed it, gave it wings. We powered it, and armed it. And our sons and brothers fly it. The function of the people's Super Fortress is to break the race who turned their backs on reason. To spin them around to face a peaceful way of living. It is the people's answer to all the sneak raids, all the death marches, all the stabs in the back. It is our memorial to the fighting men who were not afraid to die. Who bought with their lives the time we needed to make the weapons to win the war. Like this weapon, which 50 hours after its tests will be landing in India or China, or some other far away Shangri-La, to regain its breath before the final assault for which the people destined it. Within the plant, work proceeds. But the workers cup their ears for the sound that regularly drowns the clatter of their tools. It's more than a sound. It is a song. This is the song they hear. The story begins in 1939, when the far-sighted Army Air Forces said: We want a plane for our defense that can fly a bomb load thousand of miles out to see and return. After 6 months work, there was a tiny model which spent the next 6 months in a wind tunnel. And then there was a full-scale model which was subjected to every punishment man could devise for it. Only after a year of such tests did the Air Forces let contracts for planes that would be built to fight. The B-25 Mitchell is a big, strapping bomber. 67 feet across the wings, but it could reach Japan only if it took off from an aircraft carrier. Much bigger is the famed B-17 Fortress. 104 feet from wing tip to wing tip, it has ranged 1,400 miles over Japan's island conquests. But it cannot reach Japan itself from any base we now hold. The Super Fortress: Wingspan, 141 feet. Longer than the Wright's first flight through the air at Kitty Hawk. Range, altitude and bomb load: secret. Though the Air Forces do say of them laconically, "Very long, very high, and very large." Because it is a global bomber, around it has been built an entire new Air Force: the Twentieth. The Twentieth's war theater is the world itself. Its operations room is the war room of the Chiefs of Staff in Washington. Its planes will be treated as a major task force, in the same manner as a naval task force is directed against a specific objective. Watch it come in for a landing. A revolutionary set of flaps that constitutes nearly 1/5 of the wing area gives the ship a low landing speed and a shorter landing run than many a plane half its size. All this great weight of Super Fortress is supported by a tricycle gear whose tires require less pressure than a child's bicycle. Somewhere in western China, half a million nameless people wrote their magnificent chapter in the saga of the Super Fortress. 2,000 years after their ancestors built the Great Wall for the defense of China, these farmers transformed saturated rice paddies into air fields, for offense against a new invader. They had no machinery as we know it. Only their million hands and a searing memory of anguished years since Japan set out to annihilate them. Stone by stone, layer after layer, bound together not just with muddy water but with the blood of their brothers who died under the samurai sword. And soon there were runways to bear the weight of a whole fleet of Super Fortresses. Revenge for the nameless people was close at hand. Even in China, land of miracles, the arrival of the Super Fortress is an occasion for everyone to turn out in curiosity and in welcome. A welcome now, but journey's end on the other side of the globe is only the beginning of another, grimmer, journey. The tanks will have to be filled, the engines given a final check, the guns armed, the bombs set in the racks, and then, briefings. And the assembled airmen will listen to words that a few years ago would've been fantastic. For today roll casually off of briefing officers' lips: "The target, gentlemen, is Japan." THE END

Video Details

Duration: 20 minutes and 10 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 461
Posted by: japanairraids on Sep 7, 2010

U.S. Army Air Forces film.

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