The B-29 Superfortress

"Valor in the Pacific"
Artist, Robert Taylor

In August of 1943, the Allied leaders met in Quebec, Canada, to discuss the
defeat of Japan. Japan had been gearing for war since 1928 and had an
industrial infrastructure three times the size of Germany's. Its steel
production capacity had doubled since the attack on Pearl Harbor alone
and its armed forces had tripled in size to five million under arms. In
addition, Japan possessed the world's third largest merchant fleet with
new ships being built continuously.

Though the Pacific Islands were separated by great distances, Roosevelt
brought to the allied discussions a weapon capable of hindering Japan's
industrial might; the B-29 Superfortress. Though there were only eleven
B-29's in existence at the time of the talks, Roosevelt promised hundreds
more. This promise was made possible by the revolutionary construction of
the aircraft. Boeing used assembly lines to construct the aircraft in
pieces that could later be fitted together. All together, the B-29
contained over 55,000 numbered parts, thousands of miles of wiring and
more than 1,000,000 rivets. By December of 1943, only four months after
the allied conference, thirty five superfortresses had come of the
assembly line and by January that number had risen to an astonishing one
hundred and forty two.

The B-29 was the first true "systems" aircraft. It's turrets were all
controlled by a central fire control system and radar was integrated as a
navigation and bombing aid. The Superfortress was also the first aircraft
to utilize a pressurized cabin allowing it to fly higher than any previous
aircraft. Weighing in at 135,000 pounds fully loaded and capable of speeds

exceeding 350 miles per hour, the B-29 was the fastest, heaviest and
longest ranged bomber of the war.

B-29s in flight, from AF

Written by Patrick Lewis, May 9, 1999 for the World War II Timeline at the University of San Diego, revised Dec. 1, 2005.