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B-29 Missions

The members of the 6th Bomb Group flew a variety of missions: Precision Bombing, Area Bombing, Aerial Mining, Tactical Support, Fighter Escort, Search and Rescue (Super-Dumbo), POW Supply, Weather Reconnaissance, Photo Reconnaissance and Leaflet Drops.

“The group’s bombing accuracy, as judged by photographs of Empire targets destroyed, is the best in the 313th Bomb Wing. The group’s crew losses are by far the lowest of groups of the Wing.” –Memo dated 21 Jul 1945 from Col. Kenneth Gibson to All Officers and Enlisted Men, Sixth Bombardment Group

While the 6th Bomb Group is proud of these accomplishments, they cannot take sole credit. To a large extent, the accomplishments of the 6th Bomb Group were a reflection of the efforts of all of the Groups, especially the Groups that arrived earlier and paved the way for later Groups. The 6th Bomb Group participated in 75 missions plus 7 or more post-war missions. These included: Precision Bombing (including Tactical Support), Area Bombing (primarily Night Incendiary Bombing), Aerial Mining, Fighter Escort, Dumbo and (Air/Sea Rescue) and POW Supply.

General Curtis LeMay and the Politics of the War

During World War II, the Air Force was not an independent branch of the Service, but was part of the Army – which is reason for the designation U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF). Responsibility for the war in the Pacific Theatre was divided between the Army and the Navy. The Army was under the command of General Douglas McArthur and the Navy was under the command of Admiral Chester Nimitz. The 20th Air Force was unusual in that it was not put under the command of McArthur or Nimitz. Instead General Curtis LeMay assumed command of the 20th Air Force and reported directly to General Hap Arnold in Washington. The mission of the 20th was to engage in the strategic destruction of Japan by air. However, as with any new arrangement, there were challenges in this design:

  • The 20th Air Force bases were in “Navy Territory”
  • General LeMay was dependent on the Navy for manpower and supplies. Navy Seabees built the airfields. Navy personnel were in charge of the fuel farms and fueled the aircraft in using Navy trucks and Navy personnel.
  • The Navy captured Iwo Jima to provide an emergency landing field for the B-29s. This saved many aircrews, but cost the lives of many Marines.
  • The Navy wanted the 20th Air Force to support their operations with tactical support missions, such as bombing Kyushu (the home of the Kamikaze) and the aerial mining of Japanese waterways.

With all these pressures, General LeMay was exactly the kind of leader that the Air Force needed to stay on mission. A lesser man might have buckled in to Navy pressure. But General LeMay was single-minded in his desire to win the war using strategic bombing missions. On the other hand, the Navy forced LeMay to fly missions that turned out to be extremely successful, such as the mining missions. This arrangement was directly (and sometimes indirectly) responsible for the wide variety of missions that the 6th Bomb Group flew.

  • This arrangement was directly responsible for the aerial mining and tactical support missions.
  • This arrangement was indirectly responsible for the long gaps between area bombing campaigns. For example, following the March “blitz,” the 20th Air Force simply ran out of incendiaries because the Navy was unable to keep up with the demand. This enabled the Japanese to rebuild their defenses so that the May area bombing missions over Tokyo were some of the costliest of the entire campaign.

Things became even more heated after May. By that time, both the Army and Navy were heavily focused on the upcoming invasion of the Japanese home islands. The 8th Air Force was being supplied with B-29s and fresh crews – which took resources and replacement crews away from the 20th Air Force. At the same time, LeMay felt that an invasion was unnecessary – that the 20th Air Force could bring Japan to its knees with air power alone.

During June and July, LeMay stepped up the intensity of his bombing campaigns, sometimes striking as many as four cities a day. His goal was to make the November invasion unnecessary.

On August 2, LeMay became chief of staff to General Carl Spaatz and relinquished command of the 20th Air Force to General Nathan Twining. Some say that the War Department made this change in command to appease the Navy, who was upset with LeMay. However, that is unverified. Furthermore, General Spaatz was to command the Air Forces during the invasion of Japan.

CLICK to Learn More About Japanese Air Defenses

In order to complete their missions, the 6th Bomb Group had to run a gauntlet of Air Defenses, ranging from fighter to radar-controlled AA guns and rockets.

The B-29 Missions

The B-29 Missions - War Over Japan 1945

 

From 3 Feb 1945 to 14 Aug 1945, the 6th Bomb Group officially flew 75 missions. The graph indicates the number of planes on each mission.

THE LIST OF MISSIONS

The missions are color coded below as follows: Precision, Area, Mining, Radar Search and Other.

 

  • In the plane listing: the first number is from the “Pirate’s Log” and appears to count total 6th Bomb Group planes hitting targets.
  • The second number is the equivalent number for the 20th Air Force.
  • The numbers in parenthesis are the losses for the 6th Bomb Group and the 20th Air Force.
  • This shows the mission in context. In some cases, the 6th Bomb Group planes were the entire mission. In other cases, the 6th Bomb Group planes were part of a multi-wing mission involving over 500 B-29s.
The Mission Summaries for the 20th Air Force are courtesy of the 20th Air Force Association, Sallyann Wagoner and “The Army Air Forces in World War II,” Volume Five.

THE FIRST COLUMN LINKS TO PHIL CROWTHERS ORIGINAL 6th BG WEBSITE
No.DATETARGETPLANES (Loss)Type of Mission
01.Feb 03Fighter Escort to Iwo Jima04/004First Navigation Mission
02.Feb 08Moen Island Airfield, Truk (1)30/030Daylight Precision
03.Feb 11Pacific Between Tinian & Japan (1)08/008Radar Searches
04.Feb 12Pacific Between Tinian & Japan (2)08/008 (1/01)for Enemy Shipping
05.Feb 14Pacific Between Tinian & Japan (3)05/005Sank 2 Ships on Feb 14
06.Feb 18Moen Island Airfield, Truk (2)19/036Daylight Precision
07.Feb 19Tokyo Urban Area (1)03/131 (0/06)Daylight
08.Feb 25Tokyo Urban Area (2)21/200 (0/03)Daylight Incendiary
09.Mar 04Nakajima Aircraft Co, Musashino20/176 (0/01)Daylight Precision
10.Mar 09Tokyo Urban Area (3)32/325 (0/14)Night Incendiary
11.Mar 11Nagoya Urban Area (1)32/291 (0/01)Night Incendiary
12.Mar 13Osaka Urban Area (1)30/279 (1/02)Night Incendiary
13.Mar 16Kobe Urban Area (1)33/308 (0/03)Night Incendiary
14.Mar 18Nagoya Urban Area (2)32/290 (0/01)Night Incendiary
15.Mar 24Mitsubishi Aircraft Co, Nagoya (1)18/226 (0/05)Night Precision
16.Mar 27Shimonoseki Straits (1)29/094 (1/03)Night Mining
17.Mar 30Kure Harbor Area (1)23/087 (0/01)Night Mining
18.Apr 01Super-Dumbo Mission03/003Air Sea Rescue
19.Apr 03Nakajima Aircraft Eng Co, Koizumi19/066Night Precision
20.Apr 07Mitsubishi Aircraft Co, Nagoya (2)30/184 (0/02)Night Precision
21.Apr 08Kanoya East Airfield, Kyushu (1)10/019 (1/01)Tactical Support
22.Apr 09Shimonoseki Straits10/016Mining
23.Apr 12Hodagaya Chem. Co, Koriyama20/075Daylight Precision
24.Apr 13Tokyo Arsenal Area29/330 (0/07)Night Incendiary
25.Apr 15Kawasaki Urban Area, S. of Tokyo24/202 (0/12)Night Incendiary
26.Apr 17Kanoya East Airfield, Kyushu (2)10/021Tactical Support
27.Apr 18Kushira Airfield, Southern Kyushu10/019Tactical Support
28.Apr 21Kanoya East Airfield, Kyushu (3)22/031Tactical Support
29.Apr 22Kanoya East Airfield, Kyushu (4)16/019 (1/01)Tactical Support
30.Apr 24Hitachi Aircraft Co, Tokyo12/122 (0/05)Daylight Precision
31.Apr 26Matsuyama West Airfield, Kyushu18/031Tactical Support
32.Apr 27Miyakonojo Airfield (1)06/014Tactical Support
33.Apr 28Miyakonojo Airfield (2)18/017Tactical Support
34.Apr 30Tachikawa Arsenal, West of Tokyo07/078Daylight Precision
35.May 03Inland Sea Harbors32/091Night Mining
36.May 05Kure Harbor Area [2]24/090Night Mining
37.May 07Kanoya & Ibusuki Airfields, Kyushu20/020Daylight Precision
38.May 10Usa Airfield, Northern Kyushu22/020Daylight Precision
39.May 11Nittagahara Airfield, Kyushu11/011Precision by Radar
40.May 14Nagoya Urban Area (3)31/480 (0/11)Night Incendiary
41.May 16Nagoya Urban Area (4)33/468 (1/03)Night Incendiary
42.May 19Tachikawa Arsenal, Hamamatsu30/286 (0/04)Precision by Radar
43.May 23Tokyo Urban Area (4)33/525 (3/07)Night Incendiary
44.May 25Tokyo Urban Area (5)24/470 (3/26)Night Incendiary
45.May 29Yokohama Urban Area25/475 (0/07)Daylight Incendiary
46.Jun 01Osaka Urban Area (2)27/474 (0/10)Daylight Incendiary
47.Jun 05Kobe Urban Area (2)29/481 (0/11)Daylight Incendiary
48.Jun 07Osaka Urban Area (3)27/418 (0/02)Incendiary by Radar
49.Jun 09Kawasaki Aircraft Co, Akashi (1)26/026Precision by Radar
50.Jun 15Amagasaki35/511Incendiary by Radar
51.Jun 18Yokkaichi30/089Night Incendiary
52.Jun 19Shimonoseki Straits02/002Radar Search
53.Jun 20Fukuoka, Kyushu29/221Night Incendiary
54.Jun 22Kawasaki Aircraft Co, Akashi (2)29/029Daylight Precision
55.Jun 26Kawasaki Aircraft Co, Akashi (3)38/038Daylight Precision
56.Jun 28Moji Urban Area30/094Night Incendiary
57.Jul 01Ube Urban Area35/100Night Incendiary
58.Jul 03Himeji Urban Area35/106Night Incendiary
59.Jul 05Marcus Island (1)03/003Daylight Precision (Training)
60.Jul 06Shimizu36/133 (0/01)Night Incendiary
61.Jul 09Shimonoseki Straits (2)29/029 (1/01)Night Mining
62.Jul 11Rashin, Fusan in Korea27/027Night Mining
63.Jul 13Inland Sea Harbors (1)31/031Night Mining
64.Jul 15Japan Sea (1)27/027Night Mining
65.Jul 17Japan Sea (2)28/028Night Mining
66.Jul 19Inland Sea Harbors (2)27/027 (1/01)Night Mining
67.Jul 22Inland Sea Harbors (3)26/026 (1/01)Night Mining
68.Jul 26Tokuyama Urban Area36/098Night Incendiary
69.Jul 28Marcus Island (2)04/004Daylight Precision (Training)
70.Jul 28Uji-Yamada Urban Area30/094Night Incendiary
71.Aug 01Nagaoka Urban Area45/130Night Incendiary
72.Aug 05Maebashi Urban Area37/096Night Incendiary
73.Aug 07Toyokawa Naval Arsenal12/124 (0/01)Daylight Precision
74.Aug 08Yawata Steel Works29/227 (0/04)Daylight Precision
75.Aug 14Marifu Railroad Yards / Iwakuni41/110Daylight Precision
Aug 30Show of Force
Sep 01TokyoShow of Force
Sep 02PW Supplies
Sep 06PW Supplies
Sep 07PW Supplies
Sep 12(Korea?)Show of Force
Sep 19PW Supplies