Touring a B-29 Superfortress

At the end of World War II, Dad was in training with his plane and his crew. They had orders to leave for Saipan in September 1945, when the war ended.

The plane was a B-29 Superfortress. He was the commander.

B-29s were being used to firebomb Japanese cities, night after night. Japan still wouldn’t surrender. B-29s were the huge planes that dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Decades later, only one B-29 was still flying in the US, named Fifi, which gave tours and rides throughout the country.

When I learned it was scheduled to be in Mason City, Iowa, we–Mom, my sis Gloria, and I–made plans to drive up from central Iowa to see it. In fact, we made motel reservations so we could be there when the plane landed at the airport.

We decided to scout out the airport and were chagrined to see the Superfort already on the ground.

Next morning, we were the first ones at the gate. I explained that Dad had piloted one during the war and that we’d made arrangements to be there when the plane came in. I also told them about Mom’s pilot brothers who were killed during the war.

He asked about writing I’d mentioned, and said that the plane would be there most of the week. He offered that if I could make arrangements to come back, I could fly with them as a journalist to Sioux Falls, SD, but that I’d need a ride home from there.

Wow. But how could I pull that off? Mom was nervous about it right away, and while we toured the plane, they were working on one of the engines.

“That’s a really old plane. What if more engines quit?”

Mom in the cockpit. Gloria and Mom by the tunnel over the bomb bay.

Me, Mom, and Gloria  with FIFI.


I caught a really bad cold that week, plus I couldn’t figure out logistics to get to Mason City and home from Sioux Falls.

But even if the old warbird had crashed, I’d have a really interesting obituary.


  1. We’ve seen Fifi at Oshkosh and cedar falls Iowa airport Watched it take off and could have riden for few $100. Didn’t. It is noisy fibrates but majestic to watch. HUGE. Doc has been fully restored in Wichita and we just saw Sentimental Journey at Pima air museum in Tucson. Dad Dean Ritzman repaired radios on B-29s on Tinian in 1945 and was next to the secure area where the Enola Gay was readied with the bomb for japan. It got him home from WWII in November 1945. Deanette

    • I bet it’s a beautiful plane in the air. Even before Dad was assigned to one, he’d talked about how huge they were and got to see one land. I watched Doc’s FB page when it was still in restoration. I’m thankful that two of them are airworthy now. I hope you have your dad’s history written down! That’s precious for you and for his grandkids, being part of that specific history!

    • Yes, he mentioned that it was a “big brute,” but it was pressurized and they had a way to heat food, so may have been a tradeoff. Taxiing was a problem, but he had “spotters” on both sides of the plane. Sure wished I’d asked him questions. We couldn’t be with Dad during that time, so I’ve got what he wrote Mom and even his parents.

    • I remember when he first saw one. It landed at Marfa, Texas. The runway there was built for trainers, not for 4-engine bombers. He was amazed at the size of it and that it could be landed there safely. At that point, he certainly never expected to be flying one.

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