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Pathfinder 23rd June 2006 21:15

B-29 Formations
Can anyone tell me if there was any set formation pattern for B-29s when flying over Japan or enemy territory in general? I am certain 20th AAF procedure differed from that of the tight combat box formations flown by '17s and '24s in the ETO.

I am sure I have read they flew in loose formations and only closed in when near or over the target areas, or perhaps where enemy aircraft were expected, and that after hitting their targets, flew home in no particular order and sometimes alone?

Thank you

Pilot 24th June 2006 00:13

Re: B-29 Formations
From images I have see it look like triangle formation but also steped formation. Best info could find in Osprey "B-29 Hunters of the JAAF".

Jim Oxley 24th June 2006 04:43

Re: B-29 Formations
Two of my favourite books on the B-29 campaign against Japan are:

Birds From Hell, by Wilbur Morrison
Blankets Of Fire, by Kenneth Werrell.

Morrison served with the 58th Bomb Wing from April '44 to October '45. It's a personal account of his war and as such is one of the very few that deals with the B-29 campaign. Fascinating reading. 'Blankets' is more the historical analysis of the development of the B-29, the decisions and actions of the Bomb Wings involved in the campaign and the adjustments that had to be made by the USAAF for waging strategic war in the Pacific. So between both books one gets an excellent picture of the aerial offensive.

For all it's advanced technology the B-29 was pretty much a nightmare to fly, always the risk of engine fire or crashing on takeoff due to the mission overload. Units didn't fly in the strict wing box formation of Europe, but rather in the old flight formation of three, four vic's making a diamond shape, each vic slightly higher or lower than the others. This allowed for greater fuel economy and lowere pilot strain on such long haul missions. As the formation approached Japan the formation would tighten up into a loose box. Given the B-29's greater firepower and gun area coverage this was considered a good balance.

Pathfinder 24th June 2006 20:09

Re: B-29 Formations
Thanks again guys. I will check out the first book you mentioned, Jim.

Nicholas 29th June 2006 00:26

Re: B-29 Formations
Do either of the B-29 books mentioned above list losses and causes?

It seems to be very difficult to get hold of any published data on USAAF combat losses in the Far East and it is rarely included in books covering units, aircraft and campaigns. This is in stark contrast to studies of USAAF operations over Europe.

konev2006 1st July 2006 02:21

Re: B-29 Formations
You might want to try this link for the 20th AF.


rldunn 1st July 2006 03:36

Re: B-29 Formations
For B-29 ops from China/India in 1944 see my article:

Scroll through the Chinese and earlier American sections to the fourth part on B-29s. In day raids they generally flew three-plane sections and overall formations not dissimilar to those used in Europe. However, many raids were at night.

Rick Dunn

Nicholas 1st July 2006 15:41

Re: B-29 Formations

Originally Posted by konev2006
You might want to try this link for the 20th AF.


Thank you, konev2006, an interesting website.

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