Korean War: The Boeing B-29 Superfortress Served Throughout the Air War | HistoryNet

Korean War: The Boeing B-29 Superfortress Served Throughout the Air War

6/12/2006 • Military History

At 4 a.m. on June 25, 1950, North Korean troops poured across the 38th parallel into South Korea. The Soviet Union had supplied North Korea with large quantities of military equipment, including tanks, artillery, trucks, guns, ammunition, uniforms, rations and all the supporting elements necessary to field a modern military force. The North Korean air force was equipped with 62 Ilyushin-10 ground-attack aircraft, 70 Yakovlev Yak-3 and Yak-7B fighters, 22 Yak-16 transports and 8 Polikarpov Po-2 trainers. The force completely outclassed South Korea’s air force.

On June 27, 1950, the United Nations authorized the use of military force to stop North Korea’s attack. Eight hours after the authorization, the United States Far East Air Force (FEAF), the air element of the Far East Command (FEC), began flying the first combat air sorties over South Korea. President Harry S. Truman directed General Douglas MacArthur to supply South Korea’s military forces from U.S. quartermaster depots in Japan and to commit available U.S. forces to attack North Korean forces crossing the 38th parallel. American ground troops would be supported by land- and sea-based airstrikes. As the ground situation worsened for the retreating South Korean forces, Truman authorized MacArthur to expand airstrikes north of the 38th parallel against North Korean supply depots, railyards and supporting strategic targets.

On June 28, 1950, four Boeing B-29 Superfortresses of the 19th Bombardment Group (BG), which had been transferred from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, attacked Communist troops north of Seoul. On June 30, 15 B-29s of the 19th BG dropped 260-pound fragmentation bombs on suspected North Korean troops and equipment along the north bank of the Han River. After the strike, a close ground examination revealed there had been no North Korean troops or equipment within the designated bombing area. Either U.S. Intelligence had erred or the North Korean troops had shifted locations prior to the air attack. It was recommended that future direct-support bombing strikes by the B-29s be conducted only if the ground situation was absolutely hopeless. The B-29 was not designed to be a ground support or tactical aircraft.

In August, the 98th Bombardment Group arrived at Yakota Air Base on Okinawa from Fairchild Air Force Base in the United States. The 98th BG was temporarily quartered in a hastily built lean-to adjoining the base’s gymnasium. The majority of American military dependents at the base were shipped back to the States shortly after North Korea attacked the South, however, and their family housing units were then modified to serve as quarters for the B-29 aircrews. Many of the 98th’s initial complement of aircrews had flown combat missions during World War II and had completed five years of intense and specialized Strategic Command training between 1945 and 1950.

To reduce the flow of replacement military equipment, armament and supplies to North Korean forces south of the 38th parallel, B-29s were ordered to bomb enemy strategic and military targets in the north. The majority of those targets were concentrated around Pyongyang, Chongyin, Wonsan, Hungnam and Rashin. Militarily, it probably would have been better to use incendiary bombs on those targets, but for political reasons only general purpose (GP) bombs were used. The possible uproar over using incendiaries on North Korea so soon after the destruction of Japanese cities by Twentieth Air Force B-29s during World War II was something President Truman did not want to face at home. Consequently, it would require more B-29s per target, or repeated B-29 strikes, to knock out a target. The GP bombs were fitted with delayed-action fuses to thwart North Korean attempts to repair bomb damage or defuse unexploded munitions.

A typical B-29 load consisted of 40 500-pound GP bombs. Each bomb was fitted with a delayed-action fuse, consisting of a propeller on the bomb’s nose. After the bomb was released from the B-29’s bomb bay, the propeller turned and tightened a threaded rod running through the bomb’s nose. The rod continued turning until it ruptured an acetone-filled vial. The nose fuse was filled with Plexiglas disks surrounding the acetone vial–the number of disks determined the detonation delay time. When the acetone vial was broken, the acetone began to dissolve the Plexiglas disks, triggering the bomb’s predetermined detonation time–from one to 144 hours.

To prevent the North Koreans from easily defusing the delayed-action bombs, a groove was milled into the main body of the fuse. As the fuse was screwed into the bomb by B-29 armaments specialists, the ball bearing was forced into the deepest section of the bomb’s milled groove. Any attempt to remove the fuse after the bomb was dropped caused the ball bearing to rotate into the shallow section of the fuse, locking it into position. To further frustrate bomb disarmament efforts, a small rod was connected to the end of the fuse, and any attempt to remove the fuse triggered the bomb’s explosion. A 500 GP bomb was filled with 250 pounds of RDX composition D explosive, which is more powerful than TNT. The external casing of the GP bomb was scored so that, when detonated, metal fragments (shrapnel) would shower the area around the explosion.

B-29 operations were not restricted to visual bombing conditions. When clouds obscured a target, radar located the offset aiming points (OAPs) that set up the correct bomb release run into the target. Although weather conditions in Korea were better than B-29 aircrews had expected, weather forecasting for Korea was difficult because the country’s weather patterns were generated in the Mongolian steppes, outside of FEAF’s weather reporting area. At first, FEAF weathermen tuned in to Russian weather broadcasts from Vladivostok, but eventually they decided not to put too much faith in the validity of those reports.

Using visual and radar bombing releases, B-29s had destroyed North Korea’s strategic targets by September 15, and the decision was made to halt further attacks on those targets. In response to the B-29 attacks, North Korea increased the number of anti-aircraft defenses against the B-29s. The Soviet Union and China shipped in large numbers of anti-aircraft artillery and ammunition, and the probable B-29 attack routes were more effectively defended. By late November 1950, increased numbers of Communist flak batteries along the bomber routes forced the B-29s to fly at 20,000 feet in an attempt to avoid the flak. In doing so, however, the B-29s faced a new threat–MiG-15 fighters.

On November 12, the 98th BG attacked Nampojin. Flak hit B-29 No. 6371 in the No. 2 engine, holing the propeller and producing a runaway (out of control) engine that could not be feathered. The bomber’s crew began preparations to bail out of the aircraft while the navigator hurriedly gave the pilot a heading toward the nearest emergency airfield. Other B-29s of the 98th BG flew near the damaged bomber in case the crew did bail out, so they could watch the crew’s exit from the aircraft, provide rescue directions and coordinate air cover support. The pilot brought the damaged B-29 in for an emergency landing at the Marine Corps fighter airfield at Yanpo. The base’s Marine Corps commander informed the crew members that Chinese soldiers were approaching the air base and that he did not know if the field could be defended. The commander told the crewmen they had two options: They could be issued weapons and help defend the airfield, or they could leave for Japan on a Douglas C-54 that was due to land at the base shortly. The crew choose to fly to Japan. Without the help of the crewmen, the Marines at Yanpo repulsed the Chinese assault. When no Air Force personnel returned for the damaged B-29, the Marine Corps commander wondered if the damaged engine could be repaired. The Marines were able to locate a P2V R-3350 engine, but before it could be flown to the base, a C-54 landed with an Air Force maintenance crew and the replacement bomber engine. Once that was installed and ground tested, a ferry crew flew the damaged B-29 to Japan for a complete rework.

B-29s were used in a wide variety of missions during the Korean War. One B-29 of the 19th BG flew a decoy mission over the Korean Bay in the North Yellow Sea. Flying a racetrack pattern toward the mouth of the Yalu River, the B-29 would turn 180 degrees as it neared the river, coming no closer than five miles to the North Korean coastline. Meanwhile, the rest of the 19th was attacking a target near Pyongyang. The 19th BG’s Intelligence officer had told the crew of the decoy B-29 that Chinese Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 jet fighters would probably not venture over the Yellow Sea. As the B-29 approached the coastline, however, the radar officer identified a blip on the radar coming toward the bomber at 12 o’clock and from below. The MiG did not attack and flew away at the 6 o’clock position. This cat-and-mouse game continued for approximately five hours, during which time the decoy B-29 completed 12 orbits. The B-29 also received reports from ground-based radar that there were 20 to 30 MiGs circling inland, directly opposite the decoy B-29’s orbit area.

The growing danger of being stalked by MiGs and the large number of Communist flak batteries made it necessary for the B-29s to fly at night. The bombers usually flew in a stream formation with a 500-foot altitude separation, stepped up and at three-minute intervals. North Korean anti-aircraft gunners soon began to anticipate where the bombers might fly, however, so the Americans modified their target approach tactics. B-29 intervals were altered to between one and five minutes, and the separations between aircraft in the same bomber stream were mixed.

Lieutenant General James V. Edmundson, commander of the 22nd BG, stated that fighter opposition was no problem in 1950 but that it increased as the war progressed. Initially, the flak encountered by the 22nd BG was generally meager and inaccurate. Later, though, the Communists increased their number of flak batteries.

The B-29s were still able to achieve remarkable success when bombing North Korean targets. On one nighttime mission, the third B-29 in the 19th BG’s bomber stream dropped its bombs on a bridge and completed a 60-degree turn away from the target. In order to take photographs of the strike, each B-29 was carrying two photoflash bombs mixed within the bombload. The photographs from the first two B-29s showed a supply train crossing the bridge. Bombs from the first two B-29s straddled the bridge while the trailing B-29’s bombs struck the bridge dead center. The trailing bomber’s tail gunner had a bird’s-eye view of the spectacular result: The train crossing the bridge disappeared in a series of explosions and the violent secondary detonation of its load of ammunition. The tail gunner reported that the explosions turned the black night into day for almost 30 seconds.

As North Korean targets became scarce, B-29s began attacking more hazardous areas. In September 1952, the 96th, 19th and 307th BGs were directed to attack the Siuho Dam on the Yalu River. Up until that time, B-29 targets were never located within 12 miles of the Yalu River. The bombers’ approach tactics were altered for the dangerous mission. The B-29s flew low until they reached the southern tip of Korea; then they climbed to their bombing altitude. Upon reaching 16,000 feet, one B-29 of the 19th BG reported severe icing on its wings, making the plane difficult to control and keep in formation. The aircraft commander decided to abort the mission and notified Seoul Command of his decision. Seoul Command informed him not to abort, however, but to head east toward the coastline and then north to rejoin the bomber stream. Weather officers believed they had identified a possible warm air trough near the coast that should melt the ice on the bomber’s wings. The warmer air did melt the ice, permitting the bomber to turn back north. When the B-29 reached Wonsan Harbor, it turned onto a westerly heading and slowly worked its way back into the bomber stream.

As the bombers approached the Siuho Dam, they were illuminated by radar-directed searchlights, followed a few seconds later by anti-aircraft fire. They continued toward the target while being buffeted by both flak bursts and variations in jet stream winds. The B-29s were able to drop their bombs and damage the dam, although not enough to put it out of operation. The flak was intense throughout the bomb run to and from the target, with 18 of the 19 B-29s holed by flak.

When targets were located in the western part of North Korea, B-29s turned toward the east after their bombs were dropped and then continued toward the central part of Korea, where they turned south for Okinawa. One confused 19th BG navigator directed a pilot to make a 360-degree turn. The pilot automatically followed the navigator’s instructions, but on rollout the pilot and crew recognized the heading error. They quickly completed a 180-degree turn to get back onto the proper course.

Meanwhile, the B-29 that had been behind the off-course bomber reached its post-target turn point and executed the correct heading toward the central part of Korea. That B-29’s flight engineer was tired, however, and did not properly monitor the bomber’s engines, allowing them to torch. (When the fuel-air mixture becomes too rich, it causes the fuel at the end of the exhaust pipes to burn.) The bombardier on the B-29 that had made the incorrect turn saw the four exhaust plumes of the torching engines. Believing he had four MiGs in his gunsights, he began firing 50-caliber shells toward the flames, holing the higher B-29, with one spent shell landing within the navigator­radio operator’s compartment. Even experienced B-29 crews had problems on combat missions, and there never seemed to be enough trained crews.

From the very start of the Korean War, it was apparent that B-29 strength in the FEAF had to be increased and a qualified crew replacement source established. It took three months to produce an 11-man B-29 combat crew. The three-month training program was divided into two phases–one 30- day transition period (becoming familiar with and able to fly the B-29) and then a 60-day combat-training period. Virtually all crews were assigned to Strategic Air Command (SAC) after graduation and were shipped to the FEAF.

As the replacement crews arrived and became combat qualified, veteran crews were shipped home, although there was one exception. General MacArthur retained five atomic bomb­qualified B-29 bomber crews within the combat zone so that, if the war escalated, U.S. forces could respond with nuclear weapons. President Truman and his military and foreign-policy advisers, however, were firmly committed to keeping the war limited because they were more concerned with a potential Soviet armed incursion into Western Europe. It would have been unrealistic for MacArthur to initiate a widened ground offensive or launch airstrikes north of the Yalu River, but just in case, the five atomic bomb­qualified crews alternated on 10-day ground alert and 10-day off status. The retained crews also served as combat instructors for newly arrived replacement aircrews. Even though atomic bombs were never used in the Korean War, MacArthur’s contingency plans provided grist for speculation about what might have happened if they had been used.

When U.N. troops retreated from North Korea, FEAF aircrews were called upon to provide tactical interdiction. Using conventional bombs, the aircrews greatly delayed the southward advance of the Chinese Fourth Field Army, giving the U.S. Eighth Army time to prepare defenses. The FEAF inflicted an estimated 40,000 causalities on the advancing Chinese, decimating a force equivalent to five divisions.

Although B-29 atomic-qualified crews had demonstrated their ability to attack fixed positions (permanent strategic targets), there was still some reason to believe that the U.N. command forces were not well enough prepared to use atomic weapons effectively against moving ground troops (tactical targets). In any case, U.S. Intelligence did not identify hostile concentrations at Taechon and in the Iron Triangle in November 1950 until they were breaking up. And atomic attacks against Imjin and Wonju would have been close enough to U.N. troop elements to cause casualties.

The threat of using atomic weapons, however, did help to end the war. On May 22, 1953, U.S. Secretary of State John Dulles sent a message to the Chinese leadership via the Indian diplomatic corps. The Chinese were raising unnecessary barriers to an armistice agreement ending the Korean War, said Dulles, and if peace was not forthcoming, the United States would bring in atomic weapons. Within 11 days, the Chinese accepted the armistice plan, with minor changes.

By January 1951, it was necessary to restrict B-29 operations to steer clear of ‘MiG Alley’–the area between the Chongchon and Yalu rivers where MiG-15s based in the Antung complex in Manchuria constituted a particular threat. B-29s were withdrawn after Chinese troops captured the U.S. Air Force fighter airfields at Kimpo and Suwon, compelling the Americans to withdraw their North American F-86 Sabres to air bases in Japan. Since the B-29s were highly vulnerable to MiG attack, they required supporting fighters.

Nevertheless, the B-29s continued to pound other Communist targets with effective results. During November 1952, B-29s attacked three airfields that the Chinese were trying to build at the southern end of MiG Alley, north of the Chongchon River. Repeated B-29 attacks forced the Chinese engineers to stop work on those three airfields, as well as their attempts to repair previously damaged airfields.

In order to keep up such devastating attacks, the B-29s required extensive post-mission maintenance to make their three-day turnaround times. Post-mission maintenance consisted of inspecting the bomber’s engines and skin for flak damage, washing dirt and oil off the aircraft to maintain maximum aircraft speed, tightening oil connections and any loose equipment, and checking oil sump plugs for metallic shavings, the presence of which indicated the onset of engine wear and probable future engine failure. Maintenance personnel also had to clear bomber crew post-mission write-ups and then complete engine tests to monitor correct operational limits. B-29s needed 7,000 gallons of aviation fuel, and oil reservoir tanks and lines had to be topped off prior to the next mission.

Weather was an important factor in the aircraft mechanics’ work–Korea tended to be mild in the fall and spring, bitterly cold in the winter and oppressively hot in the summer. Typhoons were a severe threat to the B-29 bombers on Okinawa. One typhoon warning forced an evacuation of the B-29s and supporting aircraft to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam. The majority of the ground personnel remained behind and waited out the storm. When the B-29s returned, maintenance personnel identified critical fuel-feed problems in the engines. The higher octane fuel used on Guam was eating into the seals of engine fuel-pump gaskets and causing them to leak. The B-29 fuel tanks had to be drained and the fuel-pump gaskets changed prior to the bombers being certified for the next mission.

During another typhoon alert, the winds were determined to be within the B-29’s structural tolerance, so the bombers were not evacuated to Guam. The B-29s were lined up on the runway, and the crews and maintenance climbed on board to ride out the storm. Sandbags were piled to wing level around one landing gear, while hydraulic lines were disconnected from the brakes on the other landing gear to let the bombers swing into the changing wind. The force of the winds, which reached 91 mph, caused the B-29’s propellers to turn. The crews reported it was an awesome experience, and the damage to the base was approximately $1 million. The next evening, the B-29s were ready to strike North Korean targets. Riding out the storm saved maintenance personnel three to six days of work.

Regardless of careful mission planning, fighter protection and night bombing attacks, B-29 aircrews operated in a dangerous environment. Communist anti-aircraft gunners and MiGs unloaded their vengeance on the B-29s. After the war, U.S. Intelligence studies indicated that the Communists’ inexperience in aerial warfare prevented them from making the most of their fighter force. F-86 pilots believed that most of the experienced pilots they encountered were probably from the Soviet Union or Eastern bloc countries, while the newer pilots were Chinese and North Korean. With the end of the Cold War, Air Force Intelligence was able to use Soviet records to confirm that many MiGs encountered by U.S. pilots in MiG Alley and officially reported to be Chinese and North Korean were, in fact, flown by Russian and Polish pilots. Those pilots were rotated through Chinese fighter squadrons for six weeks to gain practical combat experience against U.S. pilots. The Soviet involvement was heavily classified, but early in the war Soviet pilots were heard on radio during combat engagements. Some Soviet pilots were shot down, but the exact number has never been officially confirmed by either U.S. or Soviet air force records.

On January 10, 1953, one B-29 from the 307th BG was badly damaged by a MiG. The aircraft commander kept the bomber flying straight and level so that the crew could bail out. He stayed with the damaged bomber too long, however, and was unable to bail out. (The commander was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for saving the crew.) When the B-29’s left gunner reached the ground, a compassionate North Korean farm woman took care of his wounds before North Korean troops captured him. The gunner was then placed in solitary prison confinement until early May 1953. At that time, with about 10 or 12 other captured B-29 crewmen, he was transported to a larger prisoner of war (POW) camp.

The downed radar operator had also been quickly captured and spent three months in solitary confinement. Since he was an officer, the North Koreans made an exceptional effort to play mind games with him. At one point, he was dragged in front of a firing squad in the compound’s center courtyard. A North Korean officer barked a command, the soldiers raised their rifles at him and then held that position for several minutes. Of course, the radar officer thought he was about to be killed–as many downed crewmen were. Unexpectedly, however, the North Korean officer barked another command that made the soldiers lower their rifles and laugh at the badly shaken American officer. The radar officer was then dragged back to his cell.

American airmen suffered greatly while in Communist captivity. The food was bad and medical care practically nonexistent. Captured B-29 crewmen were usually held in isolated or solitary confinement for approximately three months and were fed two cups of rice a day. The prisoners wore the clothing they had on when captured, regardless of the condition, and slept on a dirt floor, usually without blankets. The Korean winters are very harsh and cold, and POWs suffered from all the effects of exposure. Periodically, the captured crewmen would be removed from solitary for interrogation, usually lasting three hours, and then were returned to their cells.

When the three-month initial confinement and interrogation phase was completed, the airmen were transported to a central, Chinese-run POW camp. Life was somewhat better there, but not much. Prisoners were allowed limited exercise, which had been prohibited in the North Korean­run prison. They were still completely isolated from any outside contact, including non-Communist radio broadcasts, newspapers, magazines and letters, and were not allowed to have writing materials. In the Chinese camps POWs were issued some clothing, and crude shelter was provided, but captured U.N. personnel certainly were not treated according to the rules and standards set by the Geneva Convention. The 19th BG personnel who had survived when their B-29 was shot down on January 10, 1953, remained in Communist captivity until August 21, 1953. On that date, they were loaded in trucks along with other POWs and taken to the U.N.­Communist POW exchange point.

Responding to Communist propaganda techniques, the United States used B-29s to drop leaflets to persuade North Korean troops to surrender. In early April 1953, for example, a B-29 propaganda drop scattered thousands of leaflets that stated: ‘Many thousands of North Korean soldiers have been killed! Many thousands of young North Korean women will never have husbands! Blame the Communists!’ Those leaflets were designed to arouse homesickness among the North Korean soldiers and to incite them to rebel against their commanders and leaders for continuing the war in the face of relentless air and ground attacks. The leaflet drops were only an occasional diversion, however, from the main bombing campaign.

A 98th BG mission on July 20, 1953, was typical of the late war attacks against North Korean targets. On the afternoon of the 20th, more than 180 aircrews sat in the briefing room, waiting for the mission briefing to begin. The wing commander quickly walked onto the platform, took his seat in front of the crewmen and ordered them to take their seats. The operations officer waited behind the podium while another officer stood to the right of a large, drape-covered wall map. The crews drew a quick breath as the drape was pulled to one side, revealing their evening targets–two airfields near Pyongyang. The operations officer began describing the mission, ‘First aircraft takeoff will be to the north at 1830 hours,’ and as he gave locations and routes, the second officer pointed each out on the map. The Intelligence officer then briefed the crews on the general shape, size and location of the two targets, mentioning what the pre-strike reconnaissance photographs revealed about the target, its defenses, landmarks and the selected offset aiming points (OAPs). When the Intelligence officer was finished, the communications, weather and engineering officers added their information to the briefing.

As the crews exited the briefing room, many crewmen were asking each other: ‘What do you think? Will this be the last mission?’

At 4 p.m., the crews began reassembling to be issued personal equipment–parachutes, side arms, flight helmets, earphones and other equipment needed to perform the mission. The crews then boarded trucks for the trip to the B-29s parked on the steel and cement runways. Each B-29 was a beehive of activity as flight crews began their preflight aircraft inspection. Crews examined every inch of their bomber’s fuselage, wings, tires, guns, propellers and all the other items on their preflight checklist. Each aircraft commander then lined up his crew with their equipment piled behind. He slowly moved down the line of men, inspecting each piece of equipment to verify everything was combat ready. At his command, the crewmen donned their Mae West life jackets and parachutes and began loading all the equipment into the waiting bomber.

‘How about it, Captain, is this the last mission?’ the crewmen asked. He could only answer, ‘It’s the last one…for tonight!’ But all questions were soon put aside as the control tower cleared the crew’s B-29 for takeoff.

As the B-29 rumbled off its assigned parking hardstand and taxied to position on the runway, the crewmen’s anticipation grew. The B-29 turned onto the end of the runway, and the pilot put on the bomber’s brakes and ran the engines up to full power. The aircraft was vibrating, then it surged forward as takeoff power was applied and the brakes released. The four screaming engines pulled the heavy bomber down the runway into the air toward its assigned target near Pyongyang.

The B-29s encountered heavy clouds that obscured the target, even though they were flying under the light from the moon. That was a very dangerous time for the bombers because they had to fly straight and level and could be tracked by prowling Communist night fighters. The bombardiers used radar to locate their target, releasing their 500-pound bombs through the clouds. Even with the thick cloud base, brilliant flashes of flame could be seen through the cloud layer. The B-29s were being tracked by radar-directed anti-aircraft artillery, and flak burst among the bombers. All B-29 crewmen scanned the night sky looking for enemy fighters, but on this mission none approached the bombers. As each B-29 dropped its bombs, it turned away from the target and headed back to base. The crews relaxed when the aircraft landed and were parked back on their hardstand, but the evening’s mission was not over until after the post-mission debriefing.

In the trucks heading for the debriefing, the crewmen returned to the question of whether they had just flown the war’s last mission. As each crew entered the debriefing room, chaplains met them, welcoming them home and giving each a cup of hot chocolate. The crewmen unzipped their flight suits, wet with sweat and stained with dirt, as they went to the assigned debriefing table, where the Intelligence specialist tried to draw out as much information about the mission as possible. Dawn streaked the eastern horizon as the crewmen finally exited the building, moving slowly toward their quarters. At the same time, other men were getting up, ready for the heavy work of preparing the bombers for the next mission.

The mission had been part of the FEAF’s airfield neutralization program, which Brig. Gen. Richard Carmichael called a ‘blaze of glory.’ Those bombing raids against North Korea’s airfields were designed to render them unserviceable for conventional and jet aircraft. The Chinese, under the cover of inclement weather, had flown in approximately 200 aircraft to Uiju airfield in early July 1953. Once the planes had landed, they had been quickly towed to scattered dispersal revetments in the hills adjoining the hard surface highway between Uiju and Sinuiju. Most of these aircraft received some shrapnel damage during the B-29s’ airfield bombing raids.

The Chinese could still ferry in replacement aircraft before the neutral nations’ inspection teams arrived at the various North Korean airfields to record how many aircraft were at the base. Communist combat engineers were authorized to repair the dirt-surfaced runways after the bombings to permit landings of replacement aircraft, but they could not maintain full combat operations. The replacement aircraft were towed into the aircraft revetments to wait for the inspection team’s visit. Once the inspection team counted the number of aircraft on the North Korean airfields, the fields could be brought up to full operational capabilities. The armistice agreement between the U.N. and the Communists included a statement that guaranteed North Korea the right to retain the number of aircraft that were on the airfields and operational at the time the armistice agreement became effective. On July 27, 1953, the last day of the war, two B-29s of the 98th BG and two of the 91st BG flew over North Korea delivering a final round of psychological leaflets.

B-29s flew 1,076 days during the 1,106-day air war in Korea, dropping 160,000 tons of bombs on Communist targets–a greater bomb tonnage than had been dropped on Japan during World War II. Regardless of the many obstacles they faced, B-29 crews performed brilliantly, destroying industrial and military strategic targets in North Korea and supporting U.N. ground troops. The FEAF lost a grand total of 1,406 aircraft and suffered 1,144 men killed and 306 wounded during the war. Thirty FEAF men who had been declared missing were eventually returned to military control, 214 POWs were repatriated under the terms of the armistice agreement, while 35 men were still being held in Communist captivity as of June 1954. The men who flew and supported the B-29s in the Far East Command were an important part of the air war over Korea, but their contribution has seldom been recognized.

This article was written by George Larson and originally published in the March 1998 issue of Military History magazine. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Military History magazine today!

31 Responses to Korean War: The Boeing B-29 Superfortress Served Throughout the Air War

  1. Earl J. McGill, Lt. Col.USAF (ret.) says:

    A lot of good material in this article–also a lot left out. Much of what is left out is chronicled in my book, Black Tuesday Over Namsi, a True History of the Epic Air Battle of the Korean War (Heritage 2008).

    To put together, in narrative form, a 15-minute battle between MiG-15s and B-29s escorted by F-86s and F-84s took over seven years and several hundred pages of notes taken from both American and Russian eyewitnesses (including my own observations). The result is an accurate, detailed account of what was perhaps the greatest jet engagement in the history of air warfare, one that forever changed the nature of aerial bombardment. Until this book, Namsi was just another forgotten battle in a forgotten war.

    Details of Black Tuesday are available on the Google Preview page.


  2. J. McKinney says:

    Interesting read.
    My father, Floyd George McKinney, 1stLt, was on the Sept 1952 bombing mission at Siuho Dam mentioned above and was awarded at least one medal for that run.
    With 307th Bomb Wing, 372nd Squadron.
    Would be nice to hear from others connected to that group.

    • Roy S. Emberland says:

      I was the tail gunner on your Dads crew,Capt. J. Sheppard was our (AC) Air Craft Commander. Dave Streett the CFC gunner and I have been searching for your Dad. We would like too hear from you.
      Roy S. Emberland
      805 493 9122

      • J McKinney says:


        Sorry I missed your call.
        I’ll try to call this week.
        I do need to tell you that dad passed away Memorial Day weekend 2010.

        Jim McKinney

    • ron costello says:

      I would like to add to this item. Also on this mission were the 343 344 345 bom squadron from Yakota air base in Japan. In my book Diary of a tailgunner there is an accurate account of this mission. I dont recall off hand what actual date it was. This book can be purchaced at amazon. com or barns and noble. If you would like more information please e mail me at louroncoz@msn.com.

  3. Ralph W. Hayes says:

    I remember well that day the day of the Sui-ho mission fifty-eight years ago. I was a Tail Gunner on The Lonesome PolecatII #562 with the 98th Bomb Wing. We experience Mag-drop and didn’t get off the ground. I remember other mission we made. We went on the big “Oriental Light Metals Company mission and the Nansam-ni Chemical Plant Raid. I will inculde an Artilce I wrote concerning one of our experiences. This was published in a couple of years ago in The Pyramidiers, The Newsletter of the 98th Bomb Group/Wing Veterans Association.


    It was usually around 8:00 a.m., shortly after breakfast, that Capt. Leonard L. (Honcho) Barber stopped by the 343rd Bomb Squadron enlisted men’s barracks to inform them that they would be going that evening and must be at briefing at a given time in the afternoon. However, on October 8, 1952, something different was in the wind. Honcho informed us that our briefing was rather early that morning.
    Robert F. Furtell’s book The United States Air Force in Korea 1950-1953 refers to the damage inflicted on the Bomber Command’s B-29s by the MiGs, and this is confirmed on the web site http://afhra.maxwell.af.mil/korean-war/korean-war-chronology/kwc. Referring to the situation in 1951, the website states; “Then, in the last ten days of October MiG-15s downed five medium bombers and damaged eight others, forcing Far East Air Forces to end daylight B-29 raids.” When my crew arrived at Yakota AFB in July of 1952, all our missions were being flown at night.
    When Honcho Barber told us to be at briefing early, we knew that something unusual was happening. On that day the 98th Bomb Wing B-29s were to conduct a daylight raid on the supply area at Kowon, North Korea, and we were assigned to go on that mission.
    The briefing went as usual, and afterwards, crew members had an opportunity to meet with their Chaplains before going back to the barracks to get ready to go. After finishing our pre-flight, we boarded the Lonesome Polecat II and fell into our slot to await take off. The old 3350 Wright engines seemed to be okay, and we finally started our take off roll down the 7,000-foot runway at Yakota.
    Our crew was composed of Captain Barber, AC; 1/LT Vernon Plass, Pilot; 1/LT Edgar Root, Bombardier; CAPT. James Keane, Navigator; 1/LT Robert Beckman, Radar Operator; M/SGT Roy Maltby, Flight Engineer; A/1c Philip Little, Radio Operator; S/SGT Richard Stewart, CFC Gunner, A/1c John Goodloe, Left Gunner, A/1c James Hansen, Right Gunner, and I A/1c Ralph W. Hayes was the Tail Gunner.
    My position for takeoff was with my back against the bulkhead in the Aft Unpressurized Area. Lt. Beckman sat next to me on takeoff. Because of my responsibility for maintaining the Auxiliary Power Unit, I always had to be able to communicate on the intercom. About halfway down the runway the Left Gunner shouted, “We go! smoke and Flames from number 1!” Immediately, Beck and I felt the pressure on our backs as we were pressed against the bulkhead by the quick effort of the AC in cutting the power and applying the brakes. I yelled to Beck to let him know what was happening.
    Just to the rear of the bulkhead was a very large and heavy camera. Beck told me to put my feet up on the camera with his to keep it from coming forward on him if we couldn’t get stopped in time. After what seemed to be an eternity, we felt a jolt, and I exclaimed, “There went the runway; we’re on the over run now!” Yakota had 7,000 feet of paved runway with a 500-foot over run on each end. With a final jerk the craft stopped. Honcho shouted over the intercom: “Bail out!s She’s burning!” We of course knew that in the bomb bays we had a lighter load than usual: 40 five hundred pound bombs: however, the 16 five-hundred-pound we carried were firebombs.
    I jerked open the rear main entrance door, swung out, and made five steps before I even hit the ground. I nearly tore my ears off because I hadn’t taken off my headset. As I was running from the Polecat, I looked back and saw a ring of fire around the wheels. The main gear was on the edge of the runway, and the nose wheels were on the grass beyond the runway.
    The crew all got out in quick order, and of course we put distance between the plane and us. The fire trucks had been following us down the runway, and they foamed the engines and put out the fire. The report was that we were halfway down the runway at 138 miles an hour when the power was cut, and the brakes were applied.
    My ears didn’t hurt long: the camera didn’t crush Beck: and Honcho got a commendation for stopping the aircraft and getting his crew out safely. The Polecat was out of commission for a few days, and we had to fly other planes during that time.

    • Julia Farren says:

      How exciting to read this account in which my father, Robert Beckman, was involved. I remember him telling us this exciting story. I’m sorry to report that he has passed away but reading this has made me very proud of him and his service once again. Thank you so much.

      • Ralph W. Hayes says:

        Dear Julia,
        I just now saw your note stating that you were Lt. Beckmans daughter. Your dad was an officer and I the youngest crewmember was an enlisted man. I flew 22 missions, most of them with your dad, and was back home before my 20th birthday. After we got home in January of 53 we were split up and though I tried to find some of our old crew members the only ones with whom I had any contact were Phil Little, Radio Operator, and John Goodloe, our Left Gunner.
        As the Tail Gunner, I always took off in the aft unpressurized area and Beck set next to me. After our take off and the gear and flaps were up and the cowl flaps adjusted your dad went on into the Radar Operators compartment and I shut down the Auxiliary Power Unit before joining him in his area. I would usually go to sleep for the first couple of hours until we were ready to coast into South Korea south of the 38th parallel. The plan stayed at 10,000 feet until Beck woke me and told me to get ready to go back to the tail. I had a cup of soup or C Rations, relieved myself and took my Chest Pack Parachute and crawled through the aft unpressurized area to the Tail Gunner’s Compartment where I would be for the next four or five hours. When I was in I shut the Bulkhead door, got on the intercom and reported the Tail Gunner was in position. We then coasted into South Korea and began the climb for altitude. The cabins were pressurized as we climbed to the bombing altitude of somewhere between 26,000 and 32,000 feet. From this point on until the Bombs were dropped and we were out of North Korea my job was to scan the sky looking for fighter inteceptor planes that wanted to shoot us down.
        However, after I left and went to the Tail Lt. Beckman went to work. He had a major responsibility. He had to get us onto the Shoran Arc and talk the Aircraft Commander to the Target. Though at that time it was often frightening it was a smooth operation to hear Beck telling the AC “You’re on the Arc. Your 20 miles from the Target and you’re on the Arc.”
        I’m sure your dad questioned as I have through the years, “How could a short six month period of my life have such and impact that now sixty years later I, an old 79 year old man still feel the emotions the experience of those 22 combat missions left on me.
        Julia, I know how you feel about the loss of your dad who you obviously loved very much. My wife of 45 years died of cancer Jan 3, 2004 so I have been alone with my dog for the past eight years.
        I would very much like to hear about Beck’s life after we separated in Jan. of 53. Should you find the time I would very much like to hear his story. My email address is twogunners@verizon.net. My dog’s name is Gunner so he and I are two gunners.

        Sincerely, Ralph W. Hayes

      • Ralph W. Hayes says:

        This artilce which I wrote sometime ago may be of interest to Julia Farren, Robert Beckmans daughter who responded to my article above, “THERE WENT THE RUNWAY”. Beck was with us that night when we were off the ARC and we had to go around and go through the Flack Barage a second time. Since he was the one trying to keep the AC on the ARC I’m sure he was as upset or maybe even more so than I. We leared that night that one should always do the right thing regardless of the cost.

        Do The Right Thing Whatever The Cost!

        Some principles are difficult to learn because the cost may be great. These principles, which need to become a part of a person’s life, are sometimes learned and applied more easily if taught though the modeling of a person with character. I had the opportunity to learn one of these principles as a young man and I hope this principle is one that has been demonstrated through my life. The principle was “Do The Right Thing Whatever The Cost!”
        In April 9, 1951 one month after my eighteenth birthday I enlisted in the United State Air Force. I was sent from St. Louis to Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Until that time my travels had been restricted to Southern Illinois, Eastern Missouri and the western tip of Kentucky. After eight weeks of Basic I was sent, for Technical Training, to Lowery Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado. Lowery was the Home of the Remote Control Turret Systems Mechanic (RCT) School which was a pre-requisite to the Aerial Gunnery School.
        I arrived at Lowery on July 3 1951, entered into the RCT School and graduated on October 26th. I along with other graduates of the RCT School entered into the Aerial Gunnery School in early November and graduated on January 1, 1952. The next phase of our training was Combat Crew Training which was at Randolph Air Force Base in the San Antonio, Texas Area.
        When I arrived at Randolph I was assigned to a combat crew and a position on that crew. The Bomb Team, which consisted of the Aircraft Commander, The Pilot, Bombardier, Navigator and Radar Operator, had already been assigned. The Left and Right Gunners (also designated as Scanners), the Flight Engineer and the Radio Operator were also a part of the crew. This group had been actively involved for several weeks in flying what was termed transition. This was primarily making take offs and landings. The two positions which had not been filled when I arrived on the scene were the Central Fire Control Gunner (CFC) and the Tail Gunner. Another gunner, Dick Stewart, who had been in Gunnery School with me was assigned at the CFC and I was put in the Tail Gunner position.
        We finished Combat Crew Training in Mid March and were Assigned to a Fox Crew at Lake Charles Air Force Base at Lake Charles, Louisiana. While at Lake Charles we were assigned TDY (Temporary Duty) to Forbes Air Force Base and then bussed to Smokey Hill Air Force Base at Salina Kansas to an OQ gunnery range.
        The OQ gunnery ranges, One at Lowery and one at Smoky Hill, were so named because the drone used was the Radio plane OQ-19D which weighed 350 pounds, was of Aluminium construction (with a wingspan of eight feet) and was powered by a McCullough O-100-1, two cycle, air cooled, four cylinder engine enabling speeds of 200 Knots at sea level. Following the OQ range experience we were flown to Colorado Spring Colorado to Camp Carson were we received our classroom training in winter survival before being taken into the Roosevelt National Forest for our field experience.
        When we returned to Lake Charles we continued to fly missions in which we made practice bomb runs on targets all over the United States. This continued until the end of June when we were assigned to the 98th Bomb Wing and given orders to depart Travis Air Force Base on July 16, 1952 for Yakota Air Force Base in Japan.
        When we arrived at Yakota we found that several of our crew members had been cut for some reason or other so we were assigned new members to replace them. We flew our first mission on July 28th with a crew consisting of: Captain Leonard L. Barber, Air Craft Commander (AC), Lt. Vernon E. Plass Pilot, Lt. Edgar Root Bombardier, Capt. James P. Keene Navigator, Lt. Robert F. Beckman, Radar Operator, M/Sgt. Roy A. Maltby, Flight Engineer, A/1C H. Philip Little, Radio Operator, A/1C Richard E. Stewart, CFC Gunner, A/1C John M. Goodloe, Left Gunner, A/1C James V. Hansen, Right Gunner, and me Ralph W. Hayes, Tail Gunner.
        The first mission on July 28th was called a “Leaflet Paper Mission”. We made a number of bomb runs and dropped leaflet supposedly designed to have a psychological effect on the North Koreans. We had flown 8 missions when on Oct. 2nd Captain Barber’s TDY was terminated and we were assigned a new AC, Lt. William H. Roberts.
        For a couple of weeks the Bomb Team had to fly training missions to develop as a team. We began flying combat with Lt. Roberts on Nov. 1st. He was good and it was evident. Bomb runs were made using Shoran Radar. A Times Magazine article dated 3/12/51 explained it: “A bomber equipped to use Shoran carries a radio transmitter that sends out short pulses of ultra high frequency (above 300 megacycles) waves. Two ground stations at well-separated points behind friendly lines pick up the airplane’s pulses and echo them back greatly amplified. Apparatus on the plane measures the time it took for the pulses to make round trips to each of the stations. This gives a continuous picture of the airplane’s distance from the two stations—and therefore its position on the map. The system is accurate enough to show the position of the plane within 50 feet.”
        At a distance from the target area the Radar Operator would communicate with the A/C that we were coming up on “the Arc” the communication would go something like this: “A/C we are 50 miles from the target area and we are fifteen hundred feet outside the Arc. We are now40 miles from the target area five hundred feet outside the arc and closing nicely. We’re closing quickly slow it down. We’re 30 feet inside the arc, bring it back. We’re on the arc. We’re 15 miles from the target area and we are on the arc.” The bomb bay doors would open and the wind drag would send a vibration throughout the plane. The ideal was to cross the bomb release point while on the arc.
        On a particular night about which I still remember after all these years the flack was very heavy. For some reason or other the bomb run did not go well and we were not on the arc as we approached the point of bomb release. It was obvious from the tone of the A/C’s voice that he was upset. Just before we reached the target area he said, “Bombardier hold the bombs were going around! Now let’s get it right! We are not going to fly deep into North Korea and drop bombs that are not on the target.”
        As a nineteen year old Tail Gunner seeing all the bright flashes of flack around me was upsetting to say the least. I remember saying to myself “Oh come on we made the run, get this thing out of here while we’re all in one piece.”
        We went around and somewhere out there, at perhaps 50 miles from the target area we picked up the arc again. This time we did it right and dropped the bombs on the target area. The flack was still intense as we made the second bomb run. After bomb release the Bombay doors were closed and the CFC would jump down from his seat and look into the aft Bombay to be sure no bombs were hung up, the Radio Operator would check the forward Bombay. The Radio Operator could at this point also look up through the Astrodome. He later reported that on this particular night he could see the flack below us through the Bombay and the flack above us thought the astrodome. Because of the windows on three sides of the Tail Gunners compartment I could see the flack on both sides of us and behind us.
        After bomb release we had to continue on a strait path until the bombs had fallen the five or six miles to the target. One of the bombs was a Photoflash bomb that lighted the whole sky to permit the camera on our plane “THE LONESOME POLECAT II” to get pictures showing our bomb effectiveness. After the pictures were taken the A/C would drop the nose and bank the plane as he began evasive action to try to get us home.
        I have thought of this mission many times through these fifty-seven years and I know I learned a valuable lesson that night. Lt. Roberts was a man of character and he modeled for me and the rest of the crew what was the right thing to do. I came home that night with a determination to try to always do the right thing whatever the cost.
        I have tried to locate Lt. Roberts through the years. He like me came out of Southern Illinois, an area known as Little Egypt. He told us on our first meeting that his home was Harrisburg, Illinois. I would love to find him if he is still alive to tell him the impact he had on a young man when he modeled “Do The Right Thing Whatever The Cost!”

  4. Col - Retired Donald S. Robb says:

    I was the B-29 Radar Operator and 2nd Bombardier on missions over North Korea (using radio triangulation for making the bomb runs with the Bombardier using the Norden Bombsight for the actual bomb releases based upon the data that I relayed to him). This system had never been used before and, to my knowledge, has not been used since. It was remarkably successful.

    Let me know if more detail is desired.

  5. Neil Moen says:

    I would like information regading the ” Flight Engineers responsibility ” in flying a B-29 Or Other large aircraft. What was he responsible for. Thankyou, Neil Moen ( Where would I get physical dimensions of a B-29 Bomber.

  6. Marshall Dullum says:

    I was at yokota from late ’50 to fall of ’51..I was supposed to be with the 22 from March AFB but wound up with 23 from Mc cord, Washington . shortly after I left day missions quit.

    I was a S /.Sgt. radio operator. I have never been able to contact anyone. probably too late. All I have is our group pic.

    If there is any chance to meet anyone from Yakota, pls use my e-mail

    • Ralph W. Hayes says:

      The annual reunion of the 98th Bomb Group/Wing Veterabs Assicuatuib provides opportunity to meet a lot of the crew members that were at Yakota. Look up the 98th on the Web and join the Association. We have a great reunion each fall.

      • Sharon Roberts says:

        Hello Sir,

        I hope to hear back from you. I emailed a few moths ago but have not heard back. My father was Lt. William H. Roberts. Sadly, he passed away on May 6, 2004. Your story touched me deeply and I would love to connect with you. I hope to hear from you as I would love to hear more about my beloved father from you and would love to share the story of his life with you.

        Kindest Regards,


      • Ralph W. Hayes says:

        Dear Sharon,

        I’m so sorry I did not receive your e-mail a few months ago; however, I’m happy to have gotten this information now. If you are care to send me an e-mail address I have copied all of my orders from the Air Force and have filed them in my computer a few of them have your dad’s name on them. You may have his orders and these would be redundant.

        However, I have a copy of the order dated December 17, 1952 where we received our Air Medal. I hesitate to copy in order and place it here because it had his serial number on it and that may be something you would not want everybody else to know. If you’re interested in any of these things please contact me and give me an e-mail address and I will be glad to send you what I can find to you. You can e-mail me at twogunners@verizon.net.

        The article which I wrote DO THE RIGHT THING WHATEVER THE COST was published in the November 2012 PYRAMIDIERS The Newsletter Of The 98th Bomb Group\ Wing Veterans Association. I did not get to know Lieut. Roberts as well as I would like to however, he took over the crew after Captain. Leonard L Barber was sent home. The crew all liked Capt. Barber very much so it was very difficult for Lieut. Roberts to come in and take over the crew that had been flying with and were devoted to their former aircraft commander. Lieut. Roberts was an outstanding pilot and I was very confident that he would bring us home when he took us on a mission. Another thing that kept me from getting to know him better was the natural distance that is split between enlisted men and officers. Although this broke down somewhat when we were in combat I being the youngest member on the crew was reluctant to step out and trying to form relationships when the Superior Officer may not have wanted that relationship.

        Sharon I have no idea of the difference in age between your father and me I only knew that he was somewhat older but I had no idea how much he had a very important position as aircraft commander and he performed well. He was a person of whom you can be very proud. I did feel somewhat akin to him in that I also came out of southeastern Illinois and spent much of my early life in the area not far from where he grew up.

        At our first meeting when he introduced himself to us I was taken by his accent and thought in my heart this man comes from Southern Illinois, southeastern Missouri, North Eastern Arkansas, or Western Kentucky. As a young man it was my experience to recognize that the verbal expressions of people from that area were very similar. At the close of our meeting I said Lieut. from where do you come and he told me Harrisburg Illinois. Harrisburg Illinois is the county seat of Saline County and my parents came from southern Hamilton County which bordered Saline County. When my parents were married in 1922 they moved to Galatia Illinois which was not far from Harrisburg and I had grown up knowing about Harrisburg and El Dorado and towns around Harrisburg.

        Several times while in the Harrisburg area I have tried to find some record or someone who knew of Bill Roberts and was unsuccessful in my quest.

        I subscribe to a magazine that is called Springhouse. Springhouse is a southern Illinois magazine that comes from Herod, Illinois which is very close to Harrisburg. I have been considering sending DO THE RIGHT THING WHATEVER THE COST to Springhouse to see if one of their subscribers might have some information about Lt. William Roberts.

        I’m so sorry that Lieut. Roberts passed away before I had a chance to see him and tell him what impact he made on my life. I would very much like to know the area of the country in which you live and anything else you would like to tell me about yourself. Did read my Article THERE WENT THE RUNWAY. That article concerned Lieut. Beckman. His daughter Julia. Wrote to me telling me how excited she was about reading this article. In that article Leut. Beckman was sitting next to me. However, this event occurred before your dad became our Aircraft Commander but we went off the runway and it was kind of exciting time for all us. It was not long after that that Lieut. Barber was it sent back to the states and Bill Roberts became our new aircraft commander. I don’t think Bob Beckman missed any of the missions that I flew with Lieut. Roberts has aircraft commander. It might be interesting for you if you go into this webpage and found her note and try to contact Julia Farren because both of you had fathers that were on the combat crew of THE LONESOME POLECAT II in Korea.

        I copied Julia’s note to me out of the website and have pasted below. The address is: http://historynet.wpengine.com/korean-war-the-boeing-b-29-superfortress-served-throughout-the-air-war.htm#comments
        o 3.1
        Julia Farren says:
        8/15/2011 at 9:50 pm
        How exciting to read this account in which my father, Robert Beckman, was involved. I remember him telling us this exciting story. I’m sorry to report that he has passed away but reading this has made me very proud of him and his service once again. Thank you so much.
        Again I wish to thank you for letting me know about your Father and I’m so sorry I didn’t get to see him and Bob Beckman again after we came from Yakota in Mid-January 1953

        Ralph W. Hayes

  7. James Keilman says:

    My father Maj. William C. Keilman was a navigator aboard a B-29 in the 93rd.. I was hoping someone might remember him, he passed a way in 2005, his family would like to know more about his time during the Korean War. He never talked about his time but he was extremely proud of his service.

    Thank you all for your service to our great Country,

    Sgt. James Keilman (Ret) U.S Army

  8. dean s. allan says:

    I was on a B-29 crew stationed at Yakota from April to the end of October 1952. We were assigned to the 98th bomb wing,345 bomb sq. We crash landed on our 9th mission at Ashia AFB due to lack of fuel and a short runway. The airplane was named Trouble Brewer. (it was all of that) The Bomberdier put his feet thru the nose glass and was seriously injured in the crash. We recieved a new airplane and named it Police Action. Lt. Max Kinnard was our AC and we were assigned Wing Lead and flew 28 Missions. We were sent home on Oct 25th and three weeks later we found out Police Action was shot down over the Yellow Sea by a Russian Mig. Our ECM operater went down with the ship. We lost a great airplane and a heck of a good ECM operator

  9. James "JIM" Roppe says:

    This is the 60th anniversary! In all of this time I have never had anyone inquire about my service time and activities. I was a Left Gunner\ on a B-29 named \Classyfied\ stationed at Yakota from 10/52 to 4/53. We flew 26 combat missions and were forced to land on one occassion , due to engine flak damage, at a fighter base at Kimpo SK. I wittnessed Ted Williams crash land his Phantom jet at that time. We were with the 344th Bombardment squadren 98th bomb wing. I have never heard from any crew members. I was subsequently sent back to Pusan as the gunner on a B-26 with a buddy gunner, Victor G. Corona, who was one of the unlucky ones. I never knew exactly what happened but was told that his plane was \Cabled Down\. That they ran into a cable strung from one hiltop to another by the NK to catch low flying planes. I flew 33 missions (semi combat) from 8/54 to 3/55. It has been emotional to read these other stories.

  10. Ryan Pyfrom says:

    Did anyone fly with my grandfather? Stanley Coe Pyfrom. If so, please let me know. I would love to learn more about him and the missions.

  11. Bill McElman says:

    I joined the Air Force in Feb 52 and after basic at Sampson AFB was sent to Lowery AFB in Denver for B-29 Gunnery training.
    As you gunners know the first phase was spent learing about the remote control system and the 50 caliber machine guns. After completing that school we were transfered to Lowery Two for flight training. After completeing inflight we received our wings but by the the Korean War ended and was subsequently sent to Sheppard AFB for mechanic training. SAC was just taking over Great Falls, Montana from MATS and we were to service the KB-29s assigned to the 407th SAC Fighter and Bomber Wing. I had spent two years in the AF before I worked in my AFSC. Completed my tour in the 407th Periodic Maintenance Squadron. The KB-29’s days were numbered and when my enlistment was up I returned to my home in Boston. 4 years and never got shot at nor shot at anyone else so I guess I was lucky. I wouldn’t change a minute of those four years.

  12. Dan King says:

    Hi Ryan, I am the son of the late Marvin E. King. He flew with the 371st Bomber Squadron, 307th Bomber Group out of Kadena in 1951.

    I believe your grandfather was an aircraft commander with the 307th Bomb Group.

  13. Ronald j Costello says:

    Just found this site again. Would love to converse with anyone that is interested to hear about the B 29 flying mission in the Korean war. I was stationed at Yokota Air Base in 1952 . 343rd Bomb Squadron. Tail Gunner on All Shook.

  14. Ryan Pyfrom says:

    Dan, that would make sense as much of my family is from Tampa, FL. And I was under the impression that he was an Aircraft Commander.

    Sorry to hear of your father’s passing.


  15. Terry Beasley says:


    Found this site after searching for some information on the B29. The reason is, my grandfather was a tail gunner on the B29 and served in the Korean war. He never talked about any of his time in the service according to his 3 sons. I never got to ask him about his time in the Air Force. He died in 1993 when I was just 13. His name was Warren Barnhart went by \Beach\. I have some of his pictures with other crew members and some of his certificates. I have been in the Air Force for 14 years now and worked on B-1B. If anyone has any stories about him or information I would love hear from you.

    Thank You

  16. Lynnita Brown says:

    I would like to talk to you about B-29s in Korea if you are still at this address. Seeking B-29 info for the Korean War Educator website.

  17. […] invades Greece, launching six divisions on four fronts from occupied Albania. 1944The first B-29 Superfortress bomber mission flies from the airfields in the Mariana Islands in a strike against the Japanese […]

  18. Orihuela says:

    the US killed 30% of the population of north korea…..what a disgusting read.

  19. janine Smith says:

    Look up North Korea and the lives people live there. Google Map the camps where TODAY that have as many as 250,000 of their own locked up – in each camp. See the you tube videos of people who have escaped and listen to their stories. Also, consider the families that were separated by the creation of the boarder. YES, check out the leader of North Korea. See what he is doing to his own people ( supposed “Father” to his people). The Korean War involved Millions of people. There were many staggering decisions to be made by world leaders. This article is full of documented facts of a war and the bombers role in the strategy to defend South Korea. Historians, military personnel, citizens of North and South Korea, world leaders, and the countries surrounding North and South Korea have an understanding of the war and its impact on them and the history in that region. And one last request to any one reading this. Read about the millions of people who starved in North Korea, simply Google MASS STARVATION IN NORTH KOREA 1990’s, yes,1990’s. They received offers from around the globe to stem the devastation and the Leader of North Korea declined any help.

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