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Target Tokyo, part 1

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"TARGET TOKYO" This film is a documentary record of the first SUPERFORTRESS mission to Tokyo Photographed by Army Air Forces cameramen, it is respectfully dedicated to all personnel who participated in the mission ....and in the securing and preparation of the bases. This is where it began. Here, in the exact geographic center of the United States. Grand Island, Nebraska. The men were brought here from every corner of the country. And a few corners outside the country. They were a handpicked American mixture of draftees and West Pointers. Of butchers, teachers, and bankers. Of your sons, husbands, and fathers. They were men like Kenneth Gibson of Salt Lake City, who served in England and the Far East, who enlisted as a private and was now a full colonel. John Van Trake, of Ottowa, Illinois, and the South Pacific. Gordon Wong, of Boise, Idaho, and Canton, China. Fred Montgomery, a B-24 gunner from the Aleutians. Harry Brand, a B-17 flight chief decorated in the battles of Guadalcanal and Midway. They were men who had flown in Forts or Liberators in all of the combat theaters. But now they were introduced to a ship that was something else again. She was the B-29, the Super Fort. With 2200 horsepower, in each of four engines, with a fuel capacity equal to that of a railroad tankcar. A tail that climbed two stories into the air. A body longer than a Corvette. Designed to carry more destruction, and to carry it higher, faster, farther than any bomber ever built before. And to complete this mission, that's exactly what she was going to have to do. The day they first took up a '29 the men felt like the Wright brothers all over again. Better be good, fella. There goes a million bucks on the wing. By the second flight they were in love with the ship, and old hands, and starting to get impatient. But the Army told them nothing. Just kept them flying... and kept them wondering. They wondered about when they'd finally be off. Which way they'd go. How they'd do. And how long it would be before they'd be on their way home again. Well, while they were wondering, the big wheels decided. Almost the first the men knew about it, it was five in the morning and they were on their way. The chaplain gave each of the crews a St. Christopher medal. "Christopher is the patron saint of travelers," he explained before he blessed them. "And if there's one thing you boys are going to do, it's travel." The chaplain was right. This was the takeoff for one of the greatest mass flights in history. First lap: from Grand Island, 1,321 miles westward to Mather Field, California. Mather Field was their POAE: Port of Aerial Embarkation. Here the crews had to go through a final production line checkup. Then they were ready for the second lap. From Mather Field to Peal Harbor. 2,415 miles further west. When they passed over the Golden Gate Bridge, it was like having a door shut in their faces. So long, California. So long, USA. On this first over water hop, it was the navigators who were on the spot. With all their fancy equipment, their minds still had to make the final calculations. An error of two degrees would wind their ship up over nothing but ocean, with empty gas tanks. Diamond Head. Right on the nose. Good old navigator. The crews relaxed. Now they began to think about hula girls and the beach at Waikiki. At Pearl Harbor, however, they found themselves restricted to the airfield. The only hula girls they saw were painted on the doors of the PX, for something much bigger was in the making. In an office on that same field a new Bomber Command was being born. The XXIst, Brigadier General Haywood Hansell commanding. To include all the planes and all that crews that had left Nebraska. Hansell conferred with Lt. General Millard Harmon, General Arnold's deputy for B-29 activities in the Pacific. And the details were set for the XXI Bomber Command's initial strike. After briefing next morning, General Hansell and the men left Hawaii. Their final base was no longer a mystery. 4,000 miles farther west, with only one refueling stop on the way lay the island of Saipan. Less than four months before, it'd still been in the hands of the Japanese. That was something for the men to think about. It was for them that the battle of Saipan was fought. For a base big enough to hold their B-29's. Soldiers, sailors, and marines, paid a price for that base. Afterward, aviation engineers and service groups sweated over it. That too was for the B-29's. Realizing it made every man anxious to get there. To make Saipan pay off. "Do you have anything special you have to say?" Gen. Haywood Hansell: "Well, the first element of the XXI Bomber Command has arrived, when we've done some more fighting, we'll do some more talking. Thank you." The crews found Saipan to be a paradise. Free from any of the discomforts borne by war oppressed civilians at home. Plenty of airy apartments nicely decorated. Adjoining showers. No long lines at the local barbershop. Reasonably priced concerts. Private beach club. And elegant sundeck. Only trouble was, their neighbors got a little noisy.

Video Details

Duration: 10 minutes and 29 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 541
Posted by: japanairraids on Sep 9, 2010

1945 Army Air Forces film, narrated by Ronald Reagan, about the first B-29 strike on Tokyo, Japan

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