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  #11  
Old 9th April 2019, 17:51
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Re: B-29 42-65273 lost 25 May 45 Tokyo

Rolland,

Yes, unfortunately page 18 which would be the Air-Sea Rescue chart designating lifeguard stations along the bombers route is missing.

This was a two night incendiary strike on the Tokyo urban area. Here is a link to the Tactical Mission Report for Mission No. 181 flown the night before 23/24 May 1945. This report does include the lifeguard chart

https://www.dropbox.com/s/51x605kmpm...t-181.pdf?dl=0

It is unknown to me how much assignments might have changed for the lifeguard station locations but it is suspected that they would have been very similar.
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Old 9th April 2019, 18:09
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Re: B-29 42-65273 lost 25 May 45 Tokyo

Scott, thanks. Yes they probably were about the same locations for the two raids.

USS Tigrone was at location 30 00N, 140 35E so they were the "lowest" submarine on the chart. so we need to identify the 3 others above them.
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  #13  
Old 9th April 2019, 20:15
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Re: B-29 42-65273 lost 25 May 45 Tokyo

Rolland,

Yes, concur the bomber routing charts from the Marianas to the Empire and back are nearly identical for both Missions 181 and 183. It stands to reason the lifeguard stations for both USN subs and surface vessels would remain approximately the same.

It certainly would be interesting if you are able to identify these USN vessels assigned lifeguard duty for both of these missions.

It remains troubling to me that no radio message of distress was received from this plane on its way to or from the target. Maybe the USN received a message but did not report it. Unclear if this might be helpful however this planes identifier was Triangle N 62. If a message was sent and received this planes RO might have used this to identify who was calling.

Also to be considered are the three AAF B-29 Super Dumbos in the air covering the return route. If a message was sent they might have a better chance of receiving it at altitude compared to a surface vessel including a sub, but no message is recorded as having been sent or received from this plane.

This is certainly not the only B-29 operating from the Marianas that went missing without a trace during a mission to the Empire.
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Last edited by 25Kingman49; 9th April 2019 at 21:14.
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Old 23rd April 2019, 19:41
RSwank RSwank is offline
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Re: B-29 42-65273 lost 25 May 45 Tokyo

I have found that the four lifeguard submarines for the May 25/26th B-29 night mission (positioned from north to south) were:

USS Razorback: https://www.fold3.com/image/300721210
http://aimmuseum.org/wp-content/uplo...r_Patrol_4.pdf

USS Pipefish: https://www.fold3.com/image/296541981

USS Dragonet: https://www.fold3.com/image/296106717

USS Tigrone: https://www.fold3.com/image/296528894


Each submarine would generally have one or two air rescue Dumbos (B-17s with droppable lifeboats) or SuperDumbos (B-29s with lifeboats) assigned to “ cover” them. The Dumbos (call signs BoxKite-1, BoxKite-2, etc) would serve as eyes and ears in the sky for the submarine. Reading though the War Diaries for the four submarines, we learn that the submarines often had radio communication difficulties and radio/radar/sonar failures while trying to perform their lifeguard duties.

Lifeguard duties were not only for the night B-29 raids, since during the day long-range fighter strikes were flown to Japan by fighters based on Iwo Jima. The fighters would have a B-29 with them (call sign Dreamboat) which would lead them to and from Japan. The day time and night time lifeguard stations for a submarine were typically either the same locations or close to each other.


Robert Mann’s book, “The B-29 Superfortress Chronology, 1934-1960” can be viewed or downloaded from here: https://epdf.tips/the-b-29-superfort...1934-1960.html
Starting on pdf page 183, (book page 172) there is a list of all the planes lost on this mission and their fates. It turns out that the fates of all but two of the losses are known, those two are:

42-63521, 58BW/462BG/769BS, Possibly named (Li’l Eight Ball) . Tail code Triangle U #32, Missing from Tokyo. MACR is here: https://www.fold3.com/image/46753149
(The MACR is interesting because the family of the pilot, Major Ellerbe wanted some answers.) Call sign would have been “Wicked-32”.

42-65273, 58BW/444BG/677BS, “Big! Aint It?” . Tail code Triangle N #62. Missing from Tokyo. MACR is here: https://catalog.archives.gov/search?...estorNaIds=421
Call sign would have been MASHNOTE-62.


From the War Diary for the USS Tigrone we read that they were on their lifeguard station, (30 00N, 140 00 E) when at about 0300 on the 26th, they track many B-29s headed south. Some 15 of the planes have their emergency IFFs turned on. This will make their blip on the sub's radar screen appear different than a normal "friendly" blip with normal IFF on or even a non-IFF blip. One plane’s emergency IFF suddenly goes off the air about 40 miles “to the south”. This “vanishing” IFF is confirmed by Bird Dog 1, a rescue surface ship located further south. (What they are seeing is not a plane turning off an IFF, i.e. the then plane's blip remains on the radar screen, they are saying the plane with the IFF signal vanishes.) Tigrone’s VHF radio “had given up the ghost and (they) could not find the problem”, so they cannot contact any of the returning B-29s. The air rescue circuits were working, however. Tigrone’s war diary notes: “It was heartbreaking to know someone so close was in trouble and nothing could be accomplished because of poor communications.” At noon on the 26th the Tigrone is on station for the daytime fighter strikes. By 1400 the strikes are over. USS Tigorne requests and receives permission to head south and search the area where the IFF vanished at 0300 that morning. At 1910 on the 26th the submarine reaches the search area and commences a search running parallel legs 2 miles apart. At 2335 they get a radar contact which turns out be a Japanese patrol boat. They fight a long running gun battle with the patrol boat which is described in some detail in the diary. There is no more mention of the vanishing IFF and the war goes on.

On the 27th the Tigrone is back on lifeguard duties and on the 28th is involved in a series of rescues.

So, it is possible that one of the two missing B-29s went down some 40 miles “south” of the Tigrone’s lifeguard position on the 26th.

Last edited by RSwank; 24th April 2019 at 00:56.
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  #15  
Old 23rd April 2019, 21:32
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Re: B-29 42-65273 lost 25 May 45 Tokyo

Thank you, Rolland!

Outstanding research as usual by you hunting the details of these lifeguard subs. These USN War Diaries certainly make for interesting reading. (still reading those identified by you).

The loss of B-29, 42-65273 “Big! Aint It?” may remain a mystery but it is certainly not from the lack of your trying to find the facts.

For what little visual aid it is worth attached is the lifeguard chart for 23-26 May 1945 with lifeguard submarine locations by name added by me, identified by you.

Edit:
Interestingly the USS Haddock (SS-231) appears to have also been on lifeguard duty 25 May but is operating out of line with the other boats at 32 21 N, 145 55 E which plots about 390 mile east/northeast of the USS Tigrone at 30° 0'0.00"N 140° 0'0.00"E

It seems USS Haddock was also experiencing radio difficulties.

USS Haddock War Diary
https://www.fold3.com/image/296141440
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Lifeguard submarines chart May 23-26 1945.jpg (126.6 KB, 7 views)
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Last edited by 25Kingman49; 23rd April 2019 at 23:36.
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Old 24th April 2019, 23:25
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Re: B-29 42-65273 lost 25 May 45 Tokyo

With further review it appears that by 26 May the USS Haddock had been relieved from lifeguard duty and was returning to base at Midway.

https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Midway_At...of_Midway.html

Attached is one last visual aid regarding the submarine lifeguard stations as identified by Rolland. The 26 May co-ordinates used here are the best found by me. These War Diaries are much like after action reports where the quality and content is much dependent upon the individual author. These are not meant to be literature but some are definitely better written than others however conditions on the boat at the time are to be considered.

All four of these subs report difficulties not only with their radar but also with communications preventing reliable comms with the Dumbo cover aircraft. One would think that this late in the war these communication difficulties for submarines on lifeguard duty would have been solved but such was not the case.

The War Diary (log) of the USS Pipefish is most telling. They were able to save several downed airman and also had the grim task of recovering others. Time was of the essence, many of the recovered dead were estimated to have been in the water for about 7 or 8 hours.

Anyway, nothing new here, B-29, 42-65273, “Big! Aint It?” and its crew remain MIA and likely will remain so.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 26 May 45 lifeguard submarines stations.jpg (77.5 KB, 6 views)
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Old 25th April 2019, 04:15
RSwank RSwank is offline
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Re: B-29 42-65273 lost 25 May 45 Tokyo

The two destroyers on lifeguard duty were :

USS Lamson (first ship south of Tigrone) https://www.fold3.com/image/296119481

and then the USS Roe: https://www.fold3.com/image/251/296094850


Unfortunately they put no details in their War Diaries, essential just their positions at various times.
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Old 25th April 2019, 17:29
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Re: B-29 42-65273 lost 25 May 45 Tokyo

Thanks Rolland,

Attached is the new plot showing the positions of the subs and destroyers on 26 May.

USS Roe (DD-418) was the northern ship closest to USS Tigrone, with USS Lamson (DD-367) about 440 miles south of USS Roe. There was a third vessel, likely another destroyer at the southern end of the lifeguard line, however it was operating so close to Saipan it too likely has no bearing on this missing B-29.

Edit/Update: USS Lamson location posted above is incorrect. Correct position for Lamson is displayed on the attached (updated) plotting image.

It is a little disappointing the War Diaries for these two vessels contain little to no dialogue for 25-26 May. Perhaps there was simply nothing to report.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 26 May 45 lifeguard sub & destroyer stations.jpg (133.3 KB, 4 views)
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Last edited by 25Kingman49; 25th April 2019 at 19:14.
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Old 25th April 2019, 18:05
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Re: B-29 42-65273 lost 25 May 45 Tokyo

Scott, the way I read the War Diaries (and I could be wrong), the Lamson was patrolling at about 28 00 N, 141 00 E on the 26th then on the 27th the moved to 28 00 N, 138 00 E to be on a lifeguard station for mining missions.

The Roe was at about 26 30 N, 141 10 E on the 26th as its Dumbo station and then moved to a Radar Picket station. These War Diaries for the destroyers are not that helpful, what would be more useful would be the radio logs which may not be available.
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Old 25th April 2019, 19:01
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Re: B-29 42-65273 lost 25 May 45 Tokyo

Rolland, concur my error on position of the Lamson. The earlier plot image post #18 above has been corrected.

The Roe position of 26 30 N, 141 10 E is not recorded until 27 May, however this only changes the earlier plotted position about 15 miles north/northwest of the earlier plotted image. No change has been made for the position of Roe.

Yes, radio logs certainly would be useful if they exist and are available.
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