By Joe Kirby When Maj. Gen. Curtis Lemay, the hard-driving commander of the Twentieth U.S. Air Force based in Guam, decided to change tactics in early 1945 to boost the effectiveness of the B-29 Superfortress, it was the Bell Aircraft plant in Marietta, Georgia, that ultimately provided him with the stripped-down bombers that played such a key role in ending the war in the Pacific. The Bell plant, usually referred to both then and now as The Bell Bomber Plant, had already churned out 357 “regular” model B-29s since the first one, assembled mostly by hand, rolled out of the plant’s doors in November 1943. Between January and September 1945, that plant produced all 311 of the B-29B models that shouldered much of the load after LeMay decided to switch from high-altitude bombing to low-altitude firebomb attacks. He also decided the planes could fly faster and have less trouble achieving takeoff speed if they weighed less. Japanese fighter strength was in decline and their attacks tended to come from the rear, so LeMay’s solution was to remove all defensive armament except for those in the tail. That saved the weight not just of the guns, ammo, and turrets, but also of their fire-control system (a then cutting-edge analog computer that corrected for distance, speed, temperature, gravity, barrel-wear, etc.). LeMay also decided that leaving the planes unpainted would save each one several thousand pounds of unneeded weight. Ground had been broken for the Marietta plant


$2 / Month

Subscribe now for only $3.99 $2 a month!

Unlimited Website Access, Thousands of Searchable Articles, Warfare Newsletter, and more.

Back to the issue this appears in