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The Last Bomb, part1

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The Last Bomb Early in 1945 our B-29's began full-scale operations against Japan. 1500 miles to targets, and 1500 miles back from bases at Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. Here XXI Bomber Command concentrated its massive air power. And planned the ultimate crushing defeat of Japan. Down to the last bomb. Here was the beginning of the end of the road to Tokyo. After six months of re-occupation, there were few signs of war along the quiet summer shores of Guam. The liberated Chammorans were back in their clean native villages, American citizens again. Smiling and friendly. Unaware that a miracle had happened around them. A miracle that moved mountains of material equipment and supplies across the Pacific. That changed their dirt roads into broad highways. That manicured their jungles into acres of blacktop air fields. And nearby, new communities of American citizens had set up housekeeping. With various types of self-service. The latest labor-saving devices. Few laundry problems. And not modern inconveniences. By midsummer, XXI Bomber Command was in business. Big business. Under General LeMay's direction the long arm of Bomber Command began punching the enemy with appalling power. From Guam, Tinian and Saipan, 600 plane missions increased the bombing weight 100% in two months. Behind this expanding power was planning. The LeMay plan began on the ground with maintenance. Assembly-line technique cut engine change time from 3 days to less than half a day. In shops and hard-stands ground crews worked day and night during the blitz weeks to keep more B-29s on the line. By July, LeMay's Bomber Command is an efficient, well-oiled, well-drilled machine of destruction. Here's a vital cog of that machine: 11 men and a bomber. While they wind up for action, let's find out where they're going and some of the things they're going to do and why, and with what. How do they set up the longest, toughest bomber mission in history? It began about 12 hours ago in the war room at Guam. With General LeMay and his staff receiving a report on tomorrow's weather in Japan. Tomorrow's forecast is typical. Nagoya, eight-tenths cloud above 10,000 feet. In the east, Tokyo area, will be be six-tenths at 22,000, three-tenths at 14,000 feet, closing up solid after 11AM. Osaka and everything west is reported completely socked in. How will the general solve that one? His B-29's are up against a blank wall except for a possible opening around Tokyo. The old man considers every vital factor and makes his decision. 4 wings will strike Tokyo at 10:00. They'll go in under that weather and bomb at 12,000. Now it's a question of target selection. First priority in the Tokyo area in number 5-7-3. Intelligence informs the general the 5-7-3 is already three-quarters destroyed. At the moment number 5-7-4, still untouched, would seem more important. Operations checks the tactical plan for 5-7-4. General LeMay orders the required changes, okays the target, and commits all executive details to his staff. Operations, with his deputy chief of staff and projects officer, goes to work setting up the changes. In that plan's folder is a mountain of preparation by special sections of Intelligence and Operations. A 1,000 hours of research, collated facts and figures had been distilled into Tactical Plan 5-7-4. Aircraft will assemble as briefed with 3 groups of P-51's for escort. Smoke markers of 1-minute intervals will be dropped by lead planes to expedite departure from assembly point. One squadron on each wing will carry M-47 incendiary clusters. Balance of squadrons: 500- and 1000-lb. GP bombs fused a quarter-second nose and tail. Altitude of attack: 12,000 feet. Planes of 314th Wing will carry capacity fuel loads of approximately7,300 gallons per plane. Calibrated air speed of 210 mph will be flown by all aircraft on bombing run. Radar landfall: 34 50 north and 140 east will be the same for all planes to afford a good land-water contrast checkpoint. The Navy is requested to furnish the following facilities for air-sea rescue purposes: 3 surface vessels to proceed to positions X. 4 submarines assigned to lifeguard duties at positions Y. 2 Dumbos to orbit at stations Z. 4 B-29's will orbit as Super Dumbos at the following positions. Each section of the plan is double checked. To supervise certain aspects of planning, Lt. Colonel Catten, a former lead crew pilot, was recently brought over to staff as project officer. This officer's extensive combat experience now helps to iron out operational kinks. He will accompany this mission to observe new smoke signals at assembly point. A field order is now dispatched to the wings. Takeoff time is flashed to the controller, who coordinates the vast network of communications gathered here at the heart and nerve center of command. Here, in the control room, status panels and a mission board are maintained to show at a glance the countless, up-to-the-minute details of all daily operations. Prior to takeoff, each mission is set up on the board to afford a visual progress of the flight. From takeoff to target and return. Colored yarns, one for each wing, are laid out to indicate the flight lines, which pass close to Iwo Jima, the halfway point, and proceed as specified in the field order to the proper target. Other symbols are used to mark air-sea rescue positions. A timetable of statistics for each wing as planned and flown is recorded from hourly reports on the status panel, beginning with takeoff time. To veteran crews, it's just another days work. One more 1,500 mile haul up and down the ruddy Pacific. 15 hours, 7,000 gallons, 4 engines, 11 guys. Knock wood. A water jump across 20 degrees of the globe. A continent of ocean. Destination: Tokyo. It's like taking off in Mexico for targets in Canada. The 314th is airborne. 145 planes, 1 minute apart, 67 tons each. Those B-29 takeoffs are a tough sweat. That first long moment is the worst. Some swear it takes luck, like a wife's stocking, to beat it. At Tinian a 100 miles north two more B-29 wings prepare for takeoff. 134 aircraft from the 58th Wing. A 100 more from the 313th Wing. At Saipan a few minutes later the veteran 73rd Wing lines up for takeoff. 153 more bombers are added to the mission's striking force. The last B-29 is airborne at 1540. The tower at Saipan relays this information to the controller back at Guam. First and last takeoff times of each wing are recorded here, and go to make up the first of a series of tabulated Mission Reports. Copies of these reports are dispatched to headquarters, Washington. And posted on the control room report board. During that first the B-29's have settled down for the big grind, saving precious gas, cruising a 1000 feet off the water. Ability, experience, confidence ride in each plane. A plan of action for 11 men trained and tested to function as one. The navigator sets the course, logging island checkpoints as they climb past the northern Marianas. Pagan, Asuncion, Maug, the Pajaros.... After about 4 hours of flight, the bombers pass close to Iwo Jima, the hot rock; a black gritty pork chop halfway to Honshu. 8 square miles bought and paid for by our Marines. We made some quick changes. Cutting away that sulfurous volcanic crust and rolling Iwo's surface into one enormous flat top. Three big air strips now launch our P-51's for bomber escort over Japan. General Moore and his staff of 7th Fighter Command run the show and direct all air-sea rescue operations in close collaboration with Bomber Command. A last minute briefing check, just to make sure today's fighter escort knows all air-sea rescue positions. Out on the line, Gen. Moore's P-51's are warming up for the longest fighter flight on record. 7 hours on one engine. Extra belly tanks. Extra nerve and stamina in the cockpit. About the time our bomber wings are passing Iwo Jima, the Peashooters are taking off, scheduled to join them 3 1/2 hours later off the shores of Japan. After a rendezvous at Kita, the P-51's head for assembly point led by B-29's designated as navigator ships. Farther west our bomber wings grind ahead on the last lap to the empire. Reports to the controller back at Guam give their flight position, which is kept up to the hour on the mission board. Still at low altitude, the B-29's are approaching the bad weather belt, where unreported storms and cold fronts appear suddenly across the bomber course. "Pilot to crew, we're gonna start our climb." "Check oxygen equipment." "Tell Buck he'd better get out to his doghouse." As they begin their slow climb to altitude the crews prepare for the vital business ahead. And from now on till they come off target and head home, it's all business. The central fire control system is warmed up. Super-human brain power at the flick of a switch. Each gunner flexes his sights and tries the coordinated fire controls, with a few short bursts to clear the guns. After pushing up to altitude the bombers arrive close to assembly point. Air in the pressurized cabin is comparable to 8,000 feet, but oxygen masks are adjusted and ready for instant use. From the southeast our fighter escort appears, with its navigator ships. which now turn off to wait for the fighters' return at rally point. The Mustangs climb in formation to take positions above the boxes of B-29's. Lead bombers begin to circle, dropping the new smoke markers for assembly. The project officer observes this part of the tactical plan and action. From various zone positions the groups separate, and form on their lead ships in 9- or 11-plane waves, which head for initial point. The big parade is on. Landfall is picked up, along with the first flak bursts from enemy coastal batteries. Fuji-yama, the familiar white beacon, marks the turn for initial point. Flak becomes heavier and more accurate. And now the first Jap snoopers appear, diving head-on into the formations. Some are suicide fighters trying to ram our bombers. Other Jap fighters drop phosphorus bombs, set to explode in front of the oncoming B-29's. Our P-51's go out after them, and know they're tangling with experts. The P-51's job is the protect the B-29's. But some of those Jap fighters filter through and meet the blast of bomber guns. A tail-gunner pleads with a Nip fighter to come in a little closer.

Video Details

Duration: 18 minutes and 8 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 666
Posted by: japanairraids on Sep 19, 2010

1945 U.S. Army Air Forces propaganda film- filmed in color and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary - about B-29 bases in the Marianas Islands and air raids on Tokyo, Japan. Source: The National Archives, College Park, Maryland.

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