No aircraft in history made a greater contribution to aviation technology than the B-29 Superfortress, which thrust boldly forward in structure, materials, systems, propulsion, armament and even environment. Thanks to an early start, at a time when the USAAC was finding it difficult even to get Congress to pay for the first B-17's for inventory service, the whole mighty programme led to production Aircraft in time to play a major role in the final year of WW2. Indeed, in partnership with the Atomic Bomb, the B-29 ended the conflict and made the feared bloody invasion of Japan unnecessary. It was in March 1938 that Chief of Staff Oscar Westover requested from industry proposals for a completely new strategic bomber with a pressurised cabin so that it could fly higher than the B-17, and much faster. Boeing took the job on, and in January 1939 a frighteningly costly nationwide production programme was planned for what was going to be the most advanced aircraft ever contemplated, at a time when there was no money and not a single piece of a prototype. This bold decision was instrumental, 6 and 1/2 years later, in shortening the war. After immense engineering effort the Boeing Model 345 finally crystallised as a design in the summer of 1940, and the first prototype flew in Olive-Drab Paint, without armament on 21st September 1942. Orders mounted rapidly, and as well as the unused Sea Ranger Plant at Renton, a few miles from Boeing's Seattle Factory, a completely new production Plant was set up in Wichita, Kansas. Backed by another Plant run by Martin in Omaha, Nebraska & another operated by Bell at Marietta, Georgia. Fisher Body Division at General Motors began making the Engine Nacelles, each bigger and much more complex than many Fuselages and fitted with 2 GE turbosuperchargers. From Stem to Stern the B-29 was impressive, with a pressurised crew compartment in the nose, a tunnel to a second pressure cabin in the rear Fuselage, an all-glazed nose with instrument panels on each side for the 2 pilots, 5 powered turrets driven by gunners who could transfer control from one man to another, and vast front & rear bomb bays from which weapons were sequenced alternatively to keep the centre of gravity. With loading easily exceeding that of any previous aircraft in service, as did take off & landing speeds. Throughout 1944 USAAF crews found the great new bomber almost too much of a challenge, and there was prolonged difficulty over engine cooling, cruise technique (which began at an abysmal level and, for the crews who survived, worked up until Miles per Gallon had been doubled) and knitting the crew together as a tight and proficient team. Finally, the day before D-Day (5th June 1944) a small B-29 force raided the marshalling yard at Bangkok, Thailand. Increasingly strong B-29 forces in China, each supplied with all the necessities except food by perilous airlift "over the Hump" from Burma, began missions against Japan itself. In November 1944, the new 20th Air Force began attacks from the Marianas Islands, and as deliveries of B-29's escalated so did the scale of the Raids. Crews steadily matured, mastered the challenging Superfortress, and by 1945 were going out in their hundreds with bellies filled with firebombs that razed city after city to the ground. The Tokyo raid on 15th March 1945 wiped out 16 square miles of the city . Killed 84,000 and injured over 100,000 - never equalled in any other aerial attack. Japan still refused to accept the demands of the Pottsdam Declaration for unconditional surrender even though many in power there knew that the war was lost. The official Japanese response was "Mok-Satsu", meaning to ignore as if nothing had been said. It was a fatal error. President Harry S. Truman made a speech which spelled out to Japan in no uncertain terms that a failure to see sense soon would result in a "Rain of Ruin from the Air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth". It was ignored. Following the successful first testing of an Atomic Plutonium Device (Trinity) in the New Mexico Desert on 16th July 1945 the order was given to use the newest and most deadly weapon ever devised, The Atom Bomb, on a Japanese Target of Military significance at the earliest opportunity. The 509th Composite Bombardment Group based on Tinian Island in the Marianas had been practicisng for just this event. Commanded by Colonel Paul W. Tibbetts. On 6th August 1945, Tibbett's B-29 Aircraft "Enola Gay" was loaded with the World's first Atomic Bomb, called "Little Boy". This was a Uranium Gun weapon which was different to the Trinity test shot. His target was Hiroshima. At 08.15 on the 6th August 1945, Little Boy exploded with a force of 21 kilotons over Hiroshima. It destroyed about 90% of the city in an instant as well as 80,000 people. Many more would die from the after effects of radiation. Japan still would not surrender. On 9th August, a second bomb was dropped, "Fat Man" a Plutonium Implosion bomb based on the Trinity design. This was delivered by "Bock's Car" a B-29 piloted by Major Charles Sweeney. It killed 73,000 people outright although did not do as much damage as Little Boy. Again the after effects would be the main killer. Following this and the Russian invasion of Manchuria a day earlier, Japan finally "Beared the unbearable" and surrendered, bringing WW2 to a close. The B-29 would go on to serve in limited numbers in Korea before being replaced by newer Jet Bombers. It served in the RAF as the Washington and Tupolev in Russia made a copied version of 3 interned B-29's called the Tu-4 Bull. A B-29 in Flight, Rare Colour picture of B-29's in formation, Enola Gay returns after the Hiroshima Attack with "Little Boy" The Mushroom Cloud after Little Boy's Detonation, Fireball & Cloud after Fat Man's Detonation.