Meet Miss Liberty Belle, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress who served throughout the Korean War and beyond. Follow her career and find out more about MotoArt’s latest aircraft: Boeing B-29 Superfortress.
The B-29 Superfortress was an American-made heavy bomber used during World War II and the Korean War. It was built to fill the need for a heavy bomber that could carry a large payload for further distances, something that the B-17 Flying Fortress could not do. The U.S. Army Air Corps requested this “superbomber” had to have the ability to:
In 1940, Boeing submitted the proposal for Model 345, which would eventually become the XB-29 and finally the B-29. After three flying prototypes, Boeing received an order in May 1941 for 14 test aircraft, followed by an initial 250 production bombers.
During World War II they were mainly used in the Pacific. Notably, in the Bombing of Tokyo, on March 10, 1945, 334 B-29s dropped 2,000 tons of incendiary bombs over Tokyo, creating a firestorm that decimated miles of the city and killed tens of thousands of Japanese citizens. Just six months later, on August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay, a B-29, dropped the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima. On August 9, 1945, the B-29 Bockscar dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Japan surrendered to the Allies on September 2, 1945, ending World War II. The B-29 is the only aircraft that has used nuclear weapons in combat.
From the B-29 Combat Crew Manual, courtesy the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
The B-29 was the most technologically advanced aircraft of its time. It featured:
Prior heavy bombers like the B-17 had gunners who were exposed to cold open air that could reach -40F at high altitudes even in enclosed turrets. The B-29 included pressurized compartments for the crew, but rather than pressurizing a revolving turret, the gunner would now aim and fire from inside the pressurized compartment, using a computer controlled guidance system. Analog electromechanical computers, which used small mechanical switches called relays, were now used to remotely aim and fire the gun turrets.
A central, integrated fire control system allowed the crew to cover the turrets based on where the attack was coming from. It also allowed the other crew members to operate the turrets of an incapacitated gunner.
Photo by US Air Force
Want to know more about operating the weaponry aboard a B-29? Take a look at this WWII era Bombadiers' Information File.
Drawing by Rob Schneider
By the time production ended in 1946, 3,970 had been built by the following manufacturers:
Although many were scrapped, several became the first bomber fleet of the newly formed Strategic Air Command. Strategic Air Command (SAC) was part of the U.S. military’s strategic nuclear strike forces, in command over land-based strategic bomber aircraft and ICBMs. They also controlled all strategic reconnaissance aircraft, strategic airborne command post aircraft, and USAF aerial refueling aircraft.
This plane was produced in Boeing’s Renton, Washington factory and delivered to the USAAF on September 4, 1945. This detailed history, provided by Questmasters, shows its timeline as one of the aircraft that made up SAC’s initial inventory of bombers.
62208 was christened Miss Liberty Belle and her nose art portrayed her patriotic pinup image during her service starting with the 92nd Bomb Group. Let’s take a closer look at the B-29s of the Strategic Air Command units she was a part of.
The 92nd Bombardment Group was established in 1947 in Spokane, Washington, at what is now Fairchild AFB, and consisted of two groups, the 92nd and 98th, both flying B-29 Superfortresses. Miss Liberty Belle was stationed with the 92nd beginning in October 1947. According to this post, the 92nd were deployed to Skulthorpe Air Base, England from February to May 1949.
On July 3, 1950, just days after the start of the Korean War, the 92nd Bomb Wing was ordered detached from SAC and sent to the Far East Air Force (FEAT). The 92nd was stationed at Yokota AB, Japan for a few months, then was released to return to the states. Read more about the 92nd Bombardment Wing.
In July 1952, Miss Liberty Bell was then assigned to the 106th Bombardment Wing at March AFB, Riverside, California. During WWII March AFB trained many bombardment groups right before they left for duty in the Pacific.
In December of 1952, she then joined the newly established 320th Bombardment Wing, also at March AFB. The 320th replaced the 106th and took over its fleet of B-29s and KC-97s. It was responsible for conducting global bombardment training and air refueling operations. It operated the B-47 Stratojet, and later the B-52 Stratofortress and KC-135 Stratotankers.
In May 1953, she became part of the 307th Bombardment Wing, under the operations of the Far East Air Forces Bomber Command and was stationed at Kadena AB near Okinawa, Japan. From July 11th to 27th, 1953 the 307th Bomb Wing flew 93 sorties and dropped 860 tons of bombs at the North Korean Simaju Airfield, rendering the airfield completely destroyed. The Wing received a Presidential Unit Citation for its extraordinary heroism in action against an enemy. It also flew the last B-29 Superfortress combat mission on July 23, 1953. In November 1954, the 307th returned to the U.S. and left its B-29s at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, including Miss Liberty Belle.
After the war, she was converted to a TB-29 and spent the next portion of her life in non combat roles. For example, she served with the 15th Tow Target Squadron in Alaska, towing aerial targets and later with the 3510th Combat Crew Training Wing. She was dropped from USAF inventory in November 1956, then transferred to the US Navy for use as a ground target.
Author and PlaneTags collector Nick Veronico reached out to MotoArt owner Dave Hall earlier this year about Miss Liberty Belle. In addition to collecting PlaneTags, Nick also collects aircraft armament. He ended up with three B-29 tail gunner compartments, including some original skin that had been trimmed off the tail section of B-29A-65-BN 44-62208. Hall was thrilled to accept the material for a small run of B-29 PlaneTags. Below are some photos of the skin that Nick sent to Dave.
The PlaneTags produced from this material bear the battle scars and wear and tear from its years in action. "We're just so honored to preserve this small piece of history," says Hall. "This B-29 meant everything to its crew and we're glad to put it in the hands of other folks who will cherish Miss Liberty Belle for years to come."
We are excited to add a new bomber to our fleet. Our B-29 PlaneTags are numbered to 750 and will be available in shades of metal and black. Our military aircraft are some of our most cherished PlaneTags. We often receive the original fuselage material from restoration projects or finds such as this, generally giving us enough for a very small run. They are also our most unique, usually battered and scratched from wartime action or covered in a rich patina from sitting in an Ohio grove or under the elements for years. Many of our military planes are sought after by servicemen and women who flew or worked on these incredible machines, with their own stories and memories to share. They make great gifts and will be a treasured part of any PlaneTags or aviation collection.
The Miss Liberty Belle B-29 PlaneTags are available on planetags.com.