Wichita, Kansas played a major role in aircraft production during World War II. One of the most famous aircraft produced here was the B-29. From mid 1943 to early 1945, Boeing Wichita delivered to the U. S. Army Air Forces, 1644 B-29′s, including the 14 YB-29 prototypes. The B-29 is a symbol of Wichita’s role in the history of WW II.
From midway through 1943 until early 1945, Boeing Wichita delivered to the U.S. Army Air Forces, 1,644 B-29′s. The B-29 proved to be the ultimate strategic bomber of World War II. The Superfortress had the power and the payload to take pilots and crew to the Japanese mainland and bring them back again. One such Wichita B-29 pilot was Charles G. “Chuck” Chauncey, who flew “Goin’ Jesse” for 35 missions out of Tinian.
The B-29 flew faster, farther and higher than any comparable aircraft of that time period. And when the time came to deliver the first atomic bomb, a weapon so awesome, the Allies were counting on it to end of the war and save countless thousands of soldier’s lives É a refitted B-29 Superfortress named the Enola Gay was chosen for that job.
And now, one of those famous B-29′s, “Doc” is in Wichita to be restored to flying status. “Doc, a B-29 that was built at Boeing Wichita’s Plant II in 1944, spent the last 42 years sitting in the desert near China Lake, California.
“Doc” was one of a squadron of eight planes named as one of the dwarfs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs story.
After being decommissioned in 1956, it was one of a number of B-29′s used as targets at the China Lake Naval Warfare Center Weapons Division in California. Through the perseverance of Tony Mazzolini, founder of the United States Aviation Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, and Inyokern, Calif., and the help of Boeing Wichita, the project is “taking-off.”
According to Dick Ziegler, Boeing Wichita B-29 Restoration project coordinator, the airplane is in fairly good condition. “Doc” was disassembled and shipped to Wichita, where it has been placed in the Experimental Flight Hanger for reassembly and restoration.
Ziegler said that Mazzolini began looking about 15 years ago for a B-29 to restore, a difficult task because most were destroyed in target practice or consigned to the shredder years ago. Mazzolini labored obsessively to acquire “Doc” and had it moved to the Air Museum at Inyokern, a small town in the desert northeast of Los Angeles, where restoration of the airplane was to take place.
However, it was discovered that more resources were needed for the restoration. That’s where Boeing Wichita stepped in.
“We had made arrangements with the museum to truck the airplane here in mid-May,” Ziegler said. “We have put it in our Experimental Flight Hanger. Thanks to Boeing Wichita’s leadership, we are going to be able to take “Doc” under our wing, and through the use of a volunteer work force, we’re going to try to restore this airplane to flying status.”
Ziegler has worked at rounding up volunteers with the skills to do the restoration and supporters who have resources to help fund the costs. It’s a worthwhile historical project that deserves any support the Wichita business community can provide. If you would like to support the restoration project, contact Dick Ziegler, Boeing’s manager of communications & customer relations at (316) 523-1465. Ziegler said when the project is completed, it will join the ranks of “Fifi,” the only B-29 that has been restored to flying status.
The decision on where the flying museum piece will reside after restoration has not been finalized.
Major portion of article reprinted from Boeing Plane Talk, by Susan Calbeck.
For more information on the on-going restoration work in progress, log onto http://b-29.boeing.com. This site also features The B-29 and Wichita, Personal Priofiles, What’s New, A Gallery of Photo’s and how to volunteer. Finally, “B-29 Superfortress Then and Now”é is the official home of B-29.org, a site dedicated to the legacy of the amazing B-29 Superfortress and the men and women who flew, crewed, built and maintained her. Get here by going to http://home.att.net/~sallyann2/b29front-page2.htm.