Several days after our abort with the salvoed bombs detonating in the ocean, the bombs that supposedly "couldn't possibly have gone off without the pins pulled", we had another interesting mission. As we were lined up on the runway for a max effort with about 50 B-29s scheduled out of Kadena, and idling and jogging ahead with each aircraft departure in one minute takeoff separations, until we were finally the next in the staggered but close proximity line behind the ship at our left wing tip. As the pilot revved up all engines just prior to releasing the brakes for his takeoff roll, the bomb bay doors whooshed open and a string of 39 - 500 pounders started dropping one on top of the other and then rolling off to each side ... all over the runway under and to the sides of the aircraft. I hollered on interphone "A.C, the ship next to us just salvoed his bomb load all over the runway and they're rolling to the side ... !" I think we knew of their salvo before THEY did and it was obvious that they weren't going anywhere with open bomb-bay doors and bombs surrounding them all around their landing gear!
We thought that would abort the balance of the takeoffs since we had only ever taken off toward the beach and sea with a bomb load, NEVER toward the opposite direction and foothills! We were directed to pivot to the right on the spot , virtually doing a "pirouette" that I thought would twist the tread off of the tires on the right gear ... anything as long as we got out of there with those 39 bombs lying all over the runway. We taxied over to another ramp and made a very high speed taxi 2 miles to the far end of the same runway we had just left, with a long string of remaining B-29's right behind us.
From there we had to takeoff DOWNWIND, toward the foothills ... and over the static B-29 with all the bombs still lying around it at the far end of the runway. While a B-29 Vertical stabilizer- Tail - is only 27 feet 9 inches high, it might as well have been the Washington Monument in our path since we seldom, if ever, HAD 30 feet of altitude by the time we went over the end of the runway with a full fuel and bomb load! The cooler air of Autumn on Okinawa was perhaps the edge that got us over the static B-29 at the end of the runway and a crunch of our gear on his tail would not have been surprising, certainly the most precarious takeoff of our tour! I have always been surprised not only that we were allowed to do this but directed to do so! And I thought of OUR salvoed "safe" bombs exploding on impact just a few days earlier!
An August 2004 review of a Korean War B-29 aircraft loss list indicated a similar incident occurred in the 98th Bomb Wing at Yakota AFB in Japan and I emailed Herb Harper, Historian of that Wing and web site for clarification. Presumably something similar may have happened in the 28th Squadron ship in BOMBS AWAY ... EXCEPT their bomb bay doors were already closed so someone simply either bumped or snagged a Red safety switch cover AND the Salvo Switch with a jacket sleeve etc.
In a message dated 8/16/2004 3:23:18 PM Eastern Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Herb, I have some old lists that show a 98th Bomb Wing B-29 as having salvoed bomb load on the Yakota AFB runway in December 1950, with aircraft burning but not exploding....and unusually so, they blamed copilot rather than lowest grunt they could have found, perhaps the Tail Gunner! Anyone know anymore regarding this incident? Farrell
The facts: This was a 343rd sq. aircraft taxing out. loaded with 500 pounders. The pilot had called the copilot to close the bomb bay doors. Anyone familiar with the B-29 knows the pilot center isle stand had not only the bomb bay door control switches, but also the bomb salvo switch. The copilot actuated the bomb salvo switch instead of the bomb bay door close switch, dumping the entire load on the ramp as the aircraft was still moving. I was on my way to the flight line that morning when I met several personnel evacuating the flight line. One of the armorers I knew informed me that an aircraft was on fire on the flight line. I continued in that direction in case I could help. By the time I got there the fire dept had the fire out. I do NOT know what caused the fire, however the bombs had been dropped unarmed. A good friend of mine, S/Sgt Ed Huffman, had jumped out the aft escape hatch, hit a bomb with his foot and and broke his leg. To my knowledge, there were no other injuries. From that time forward, we were required to safety the bomb salvo switches with .051 copper safety wire which would break but required added effort.
Herb Harper, MOS 911, Airplane Armorer & Historian,
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