By Robert F. Dorr In the closing months of World War II, Staff Sergeant Henry E. “Red” Erwin, Sr., picked up a burning phosphorus flare inside the cramped fuselage of his Boeing  B-29 Superfortress bomber high over Japan. Erwin had a quick, fleeting chance to save the lives of his fellow crewmembers by  risking severe, probably fatal, burns to his body. It was the moment of truth for a self-deprecating enlisted airman who spoke of himself in modest, aw-shucks style long after his countrymen gave him the Medal of Honor. Red Erwin came to the war zone as one of thousands of B-29 crewmembers placed in the North Pacific, on the Marianas islands of Guam, Saipan, and Tinian for the purpose of attacking Japan. The American taxpayer had equipped them with the largest and costliest aircraft of the war, the first large combat plane to be pressurized, enabling the crew to dispense with heated clothing and oxygen masks and to work in shirtsleeves. The B-29 was nothing less than a technical miracle, pulled through the sky by four 2,200-horsepower Wright R-3350 Duplex Cyclone 18, twin-row, turbocharged radial engines. A fully loaded B-29 had a wingspan of 141 feet, 3 inches, weighed 133,500 pounds, and carried a crew of 11 men. “It was big, heavy, and fast,” said Erwin. “It had beautiful, unbroken nose contours. For practical purposes it was divided into two halves, with part of the crew forward of the bomb bay, the other part aft, connected by a crawl tunnel above the bay


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