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The 1945 Japan–Washington flight was a record-breaking air voyage made by three specially modified Boeing B-29 Superfortresses on September 18–19, 1945, from the northern Japanese island of Hokkaid? to Chicago in the Midwestern United States, continuing to Washington, D.C. The flight was made by three United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) generals and other airmen returning to the United States from their overseas duty after World War II. At that date, it involved the heaviest load carried by an American aircraft (144,000 lb, 65,300 kg), the longest nonstop flight made by the USAAF (5,840 mi, 9,400 km), and the first nonstop flight from Japan to the United States.However the flight did not break the then-world distance record established by the Royal Air Force in 1938

Originally intending to fly 6,500 miles (10,460 km) nonstop to Washington, D.C., the airmen encountered unexpected headwinds over Alaska Territory and Canada, and they predicted that two of the aircraft would not have enough fuel to take them the full distance. All three B-29s landed in Chicago instead, refueled, and continued to Washington, where each crewman was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, including the three pilots: Generals Barney M. Giles, Emmett O'Donnell, Jr. and Curtis LeMay.

The USAAF distance record did not last long: two months later, another American aircrew flew a B-29 from Guam to Washington, D.C. a distance of 7,916 miles (12,740 km), breaking the world record. Nevertheless, the Japan to Washington flight pioneered a route similar to that used by later airliners. Importantly for the airmen, America was able to demonstrate the reach of airpower in light of the nascent Cold War.




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Lt Bill Dolan (sitting) and Lt Ivan Potts signing autographs at the hotel.
(Credit to www.40thbombgroup.org)



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Route of the three B-29s across the top pf the world
on the record breaking Japan to Washington flight.


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This B-29 was under command of Lt General Giles with Major Frederick Scheaffer of 9th Bomb Group as airplane commander and Lt Robert Bates of 9th Bomb Group as flight engineer,Capt William Hawes, who had flown combat with Scheaffer, as his navigator. Also from Scheaffer’s combat crew was S/Sgt Harold Nerhood as radio operator. There is also a reference to Lt Bill Dolan being aboard as a pilot –all combat members of the 5th Squadron, 9th Bomb Group

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The airmen drew up a "great circle" (shortest distance on the surface of a globe) flight plan that used the jet stream as a tailwind to help them get farther with less fuel, though the tailwind was not absolutely required.The plan was for each aircraft to make its own way over the Kamchatka Peninsula at the eastern edge of the Soviet Union, then over the Bering Sea to Nome, Alaska, and continue over Fairbanks, over the Canadian Rockies and much of Canada, over the Great Lakes, then on to Washington, D.C. near the Atlantic coast—a total of 6,762 miles (10,882 km) taking 26 hours in the air. This distance would not have broken the world's distance record then held by two Royal Air Force Vickers Wellesley aircraft that had flown from Ismaïlia, Egypt, to Darwin, Australia, in 1938, covering 7,162 miles (11,526 km), but it was considered a good public relations stunt, good for the USAAF and the generals' images.

Over the Bering Sea, the three B-29s maintained radio contact with each other, communicating positions hourly as they navigated independently. Near the Arctic Circle, the magnetic compasses fluctuated wildly, and the fliers ignored them, relying instead on the radio compass. In Number 2, the radio compass stopped working as well, but it resumed working later in the flight. Wearing fur-lined flight suits did not prevent the men from feeling the extreme cold of high altitude. Pilots rotated duty so that none would get too tired. Weather continued to be a great concern, and was frequently checked. The aircraft left the Bering Sea behind, encountering North America at Nome after about 13 hours of flight. From Nome to Fairbanks, the Northern Lights were clearly visible to the crews. Even though the B-29 pressurization systems were working, the outside air temperature of -25 °F (-32 °C) at an altitude of about 21,000 feet (6,400 m) was not counteracted by the heating systems "which seemed to have completely broken down.

All three aircraft approached Chicago, and LeMay contacted the War Department again by radio. O'Donnell landed at 5:43 pm Eastern War Time, with Giles about 45 minutes behind. Just past Chicago LeMay was informed by the War Department that weather was "marginal" in Washington and that he was now ordered to refuel in Chicago. Giles landed at 6:30 and LeMay at 6:43 pm. LeMay's elapsed flight time was 27 hours and 28 minutes. The straight-line distance they had flown over the globe was about 5,840 miles (9,400 km).


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Maj General Curtis LeMay, Brigadier General Emmett O’Donnell,
General Henry Arnold, Lt General Barney Giles at
National Airport, Washington D.C.

There are further images and information on the 40th Bomb Group web site WWW.40THBOMBGROUP.ORG , as some of their men flew B-29
number 2 carrying Gen LeMay.

 

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