Preserved B-29s

Last revised June 1, 2013


Following the end of the Korean War, the B-29 was rapidly retired from service. The last of the USAF's B-29 bombers had been replaced by B-47s by 1954. The KB-29M and KB-29P tankers were all replaced by the KC-97 by 1957. However, a few B-29s were converted to specialized missions and soldiered on for several more years. Sixteen were converted into SB-29 search and rescue aircraft, which carried an A-3 lifeboat underneath the fuselage. Others were modified for weather reconnaissance under the designation WB-29. A few were converted to TB-29 target towing and radar evaluation aircraft, and some became QB-29 target drones. There was even a stripped cargo B-29, the CB-29K. The VB-29 was a VIP transport. The last B-29 (a TB-29 radar evaluation aircraft, serial number 42-65234) was retired from the USAF inventory on June 21, 1960, bringing the era of Superfortress service to an end. However, it seems that a few B-29s were still serving as inflight-refueling tankers as late as 1963.

Unlike lots of other World War 2 aircraft, B-29s were not made available on the commercial market in the immediate postwar surplus market or at any time thereafter. This is the primary reason why so few B-29s survive today.

Perhaps the two best-known B-29s are those which dropped the atomic bombs which ended the Second World War. The Enola Gay Hiroshima bomber was stored for a long time in pieces at the Paul Garber Restoration Facility of the Smithsonian Institution. I saw it there when I visited Washington a few years ago. At that time, it was undergoing an extensive restoration in anticipation of being displayed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A storm of controversy grew up surrounding the details of how the Enola Gay was to be displayed, and the exhibit was delayed. The Enola Gay exhibit finally opened at the National Air and Space Museum in the final week of June 1995. Only the forward fuselage is displayed. Bock's Car, the Nagasaki bomber, is on display at the USAF Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.

The ex-Navy P2B-1S Bu No (ex-B-29 45-21787) "Fertile Myrtle" that was used as the carrier aircraft for the Douglas D-555-II Skyrocket research aircraft was given in 1984 to an aviation museum in Oakland, California. It was sold to the Kermit Weeks Aviation Museum of Miami, Florida, where it is registered as N29KW. There may be an attempt to restore this plane to flying condition, using as parts some airframes acquired from China Lake.

In the 1970s, it was found that there were a large number of relatively intact B-29s sitting out in the open at a remote US Navy gunnery range at China Lake, California. Two of them were made flyable by scrounging parts from several of the B-29s on the site. 44-62070 was acquired by the Confederate Air Force of Harlingen, Texas and is flown regularly in its air shows under the civilian registration N529B, bearing the name Fifi. 44-61748 was donated to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford in England and was flown across the Atlantic with British registration G-BHDK in 1980. It is now on display at the American Air Museum there.

Others have been taken from the China Lake site in pieces for subsequent reconstruction and display at private and air force base museums.

A B-29 is on display at the Castle Air Museum. The aircraft is actually made up from components taken from three separate derelict targets from the China Lake facility in California and was restored entirely on the Museum grounds. The major components are from 44-70064, but the plane is marked as 0-90351 and carries the Korean War era markings of the 28th Bombardment Squadron, 19th Bomb Group, that was based on Okinawa at the time.

B-29 44-62022 was stored out in the open for many years in poor condition at the Naval Weapons Center at China Lake, CA. This aircraft was donated to the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum in Colorado in 1976 and underwent an extensive restoration. The Museum's B-29 "Peachy" is named in honor of all the crews who fought in the Pacific Theater. A B-29 by that name was piloted by a native of Pueblo, Lt. Robert T. Haver, who named it with his pet name for a younger sister. The original "Peachy flew 35 combat missions into enemy territory from Tinian island, central Pacific chain of the Marianas.

44-69972 was placed in storage in 1946 at Pyote Army Air Force Base in Texas, along with a lot of other B-29s. It was removed from storage and put back in action at the time of the Korean War. It was modified for radar calibration and flew radar defense evaluation flights until 1955. It was then converted into target towing configuration. In 1956, it was transferred to the US Naval Weapons Center in China Lake, California for use as a ballistic missile target, and sat there for many years. The plane was acquired by the United States Aviation Museum (western division) based at Inoykern, California for eventual restoration to flying status. It was recovered from China Lake on April 15, 1998 and moved to Inyokern. The plane is now at the Boeing plant in Wichita, Kansas (where it was originally built) for eventual restoration to flying status.

44-61669 appears on the US civil register as N3299F owned by Yesterday's Air Force. It is now on display at the March AFB Museum.

B-29-25-MO 42-65281 is on display at Travis AFB.

44-62220 is on outdoor display at the Kelly AFB Museum in Texas.

44-84053 is on display at the Museum of Aviation, which is near Warner Robins AFB, Georgia.

44-86408 was used to collect radioactive samples during postwar atomic tests. It is now on display at the Hill AFB Museum in Utah.

44-61671 is on display at Whiteman AFB.

44-87627 is on display at the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana.

44-87779 is on display at the Ellsworth AFB Museum in South Dakota.

A complete non-flyable B-29 was donated by the US government to the government of South Korea and is currently on display in Seoul. I don't know the serial number.

B-29 44-61975 is on display at the New England Air Museum at the Bradley International Airport, Windsor Locks, Connecticut. It was built in 1945 and used as a trainer at several US bases until 1954. At that time, it was converted into bomber configuration and stationed in the UK. It was then sent to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland where it was used for static testing along with other B-29s. It was acquired by the New England Air Museum in 1973, dismantled, and brought to Bradley Field and restored. In October 3, 1979, a tornado destroyed or damaged most of the planes on outdoor exhibit at the museum. The aircraft is currently under repair, using spare parts from other B-29s stored at Aberdeen.

The fuselage of 44-62139 is on display at the Wright Patterson AFB Museum in Ohio.

44-62220 is on display at the Kelly AFB Museum in Texas.

44-70113 was displayed for many years at the Florence Space Museum in California. When that facility closed, it was moved to Dobbins AFB in Georgia.

44-84053 is on display at the Museum of Aviation, Warner Robins AFB.

A Superfortress is currently displayed at the Seattle Museum of Flight. Although it is actually made up of components taken from three separate Superfortresses, it is currently wearing the name "T-Square", 44-69729, which was a Wichita-built B-29-60-BW. 44-69729 was assigned to the 498th Bomb Group (the 875th Bomb Squadron) and completed thirty-seven bombing missions. It was converted to KB-29 (aerial refueling tanker) in June 1949. It was first put on display in 1996.

44-70016 "Sentimental Journey" is at the Pima County Museum in Tucson, Arizona. It originally flew with the 330th BG of the 20th AF out of Guam.

44-70113 flew with the 73rd BW of the 20th AF in missions against targets in Japan. It was decommissioned in 1956 and stored until the Marietta B29 Association sponsored restoration in 1994. It is now on display at Dobbins AFB, Georgia.

44-84084 is currently owned by Aero Trader of Chino, CA.

KB-29P 44-83905 was damaged during a landing accident at Eielson AFB, Alaska, on April 17, 1956. The crew was unharmed, but the aircraft was damaged beyond repair when ground crews tried to haul the plane away. The plane was stripped of its vital components and sat derelict near the flightline for many years. It was finally hauled away to a gravel pit during a base cleanup during the early 1960s and was fortgetten. As time passed, a lake formed around the aircraft. It still sits there today.

B-29 44-84076 was delivered too late for service in World War 2. It served with the Strategic Air Command in the bomber role from 1947 to 1952, when it was converted to the radar calibration role. It was transferred to the Strategic Air Command Museum at Offutt AFB, Nebraska in 1959, where it remains on display.

42-93967 on display at Georgia Veterans State Park.

44-27343 is on display at the Tinker AFB Air Park in Oklahoma.

45-21748 was for a long time on display at Chanute AFB Museum, IL marked as 45-01749. This plane is now at Sandia National Atomic Museum, NM.

Shortly after World War 2, B-29 45-21763 "Kee Bird" was forced to land on a frozen lake in Greenland. The crew was rescued, but the aircraft had to be abandoned. It stayed there for many years, until an effort was undertaken in the mid 1990s to repair it in situ and fly it out. However, during the recovery attempt the aircraft caught fire and burned on May 21/22, 1995. The hulk remains there to this day.

Sources:


  1. Warbird History--B-29 Superfortress, Chester Marshall, Motorbooks International, 1993.

  2. The Boeing B-29 Superfortress, Mich Mayborn, Aircraft in Profile, Doubleday, 1969.

  3. B-29 Superfortress, John Pimlott, Gallery Books, 1980.

  4. Boeing Aircraft Since 1916, Peter M. Bowers, Naval Institute Press, 1989.

  5. E-mail from Bruce Bergman

  6. Seattle Museum of Flight homepage, http://www.museumofflight.org/

  7. Castle Air Museum page, http://www.elite.net/castle-air/frames2.htm

  8. Preserved US Military Aircraft page, http://www.coastcomp.com/av/pres/presusac.html

  9. E-mail from Tony Mazzolini on status of 44-69972.

  10. E-mail from John Childress on B-29 tankers serving as late as 1963.