Images, Impressions and Applications of the RB-29
in the Korean War
An Aerial Photographer’s Point of View
by Wayland Mayo
THE B-29

The B-29, with it’s awesome destructive power, is legendary. We all consider the atomic drops on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as being the most devastating of all. However, the incendiary attacks on Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka actually caused greater damage than both atomic attacks. The M-69, M-47, and M-15 magnesium thermite incendiaries would have eventually leveled every city in Japan. Targets in Korea were far more difficult to hit due to the dispersion of enemy troops. Bridges were difficult to hit, with most bomb runs straddling the bridge. Airfields that were hit one day were repaired for use the next day. We did not possess the “smart bomb” that is so effective today. So we pretty well know about the B-29 accomplishments, but what about the RB-29. This story contains my personal observation and evaluation of the RB-29. We will begin with a look at production problems with the B-29, along with some technical specifications. Then we will take a look at the purpose of the RB, and the camera configuration.


The first production B-29 rolled off the assembly line at the Boeing plant in Wichita in 1943. Numerous problems almost kept it from ever being produced. The R-3350 engine malfunctioned repeatedly, mostly from overheating and fires. The overheating was occurring around the exhaust valves of the rear row of the 18 cylinder engine, causing complete engine failure.

By installing 14 new engine baffles, cooling air was directed on the rear exhaust valves. The fixed cowl flaps on top were made operable. Also oil was redirected to obtain a better flow to the valves that were overheating. So the B-29 was born with a multitude of problems , and many accidents occurred. The R-3350 was always a “leaker”. Preflight procedures during pressure checks almost always found an oil leak.

“Weighing the first YB-29-BW on 6 June 1943. The cowls and nacelles were yet to be painted. An astrodome was not installed on the YB-29s.”

Ctsy Aero Publishers, Inc. (Boeing 62450/BW11392)

Note the top-side open cowl flaps on the number two engine of this RB-29. Originally designed to remain in a fixed, closed position, they were made operable for additional engine cooling on the R-3350.


The pressurization system was unique in that the front compartment and the rear compartment were both pressurized. Since the two compartments were separated
By the two huge bomb bays, they were connected by a 34 inch tube, just large enough for an airman to crawl through. The cabin had a supercharger with a flow capacity of 25 pounds per minute, which brought the inside atmosphere down to 8000 feet at an altitude of 30,000 feet.


The first B-29’s produced had twelve 50 caliber machine guns, plus a 20 mm cannon mounted in the tail. The cannon was later discontinued and only a few were produced. The gunnery system had a central fire control which used an automatic computer to correct for airspeed, range, altitude, and temperature. It was sophisticated, even by todays standards. This system allowed any gunner, except the tail gunner, to take over more than one power driven turret. Gunners did not have actual contact with the guns, as they were fired from remote stations using a sighting device.

This photo shows the gunner’s domes on Tiger Lil. Note the left side dome and the top CFC dome. Just behind the gunners section is the photo compartment where you can see the tri-met oblique window just below the end of the insignia.

The head gunner, or central fire control man, sat in an elevated revolving “barber chair”. He could look out the top of the aircraft and had primary control over the upper forward and upper aft turrets. The gunners compartment was just aft of the rear bomb bay. The left and right gunners looked out a Plexiglas dome on each side of the aircraft. The CFC man sat in the middle of the section and also had a dome on top of the aircraft. The sighting device was unique in that the gunner did not have to take a “lead” on the target.

“CFC gunner’s roost. An assist handle is adjacent to the blister cutout. The gear drive mechanism for the CFC sight and control is visible. These quarters were cramped.”

Ctsy. Aero Publishers, Inc.
(Boeing-Wichita BW24357)

Regardless of speed or direction of flight the sight automatically calculated the lead, so the gunner could keep his sight fixed on the target at all times. Beside being gunners, they also acted as scanners, relaying information to the pilot as to the position of the gear, flaps, oil leaks, or any other problems.

End of Chapter 01 — Go to Chapter 02

Chapter — 01 02030405

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