Warren Neal: B-29 Superfortress

As the war wound down, flight instructors were no longer needed. Warren Neal wrote his folks that all of his class who had over 500 hours in the air were ordered to Yuma, Arizona. They wanted all the men who might fly B-29s to get 400 hours or more in a four-engine plane. So Doris and baby were headed back to Iowa.

From there, Warren was sent to a pilot pool at Lincoln, Nebraska. From there he was sent to train in the B-29 Superfortress at Biggs Army Air Base,  El Paso, Texas. He arrived July 10, 1945.

Training was speeding up, and they were told they’d leave Biggs Field, again by troop train, the eighteenth of September.

By the next day, he’d been assigned a copilot (F/O William Noack, seemed like a pretty good kid), bombardier (2nd Lt. Tommy Owen, also seemed like a good kid, was ready to go over in B-17s when VE-Day came), and an engineer. . . but he hadn’t seen him yet.

Their navigators were still in school in Florida, and would join them later along with their radar man. He’d met his three gunners, seemed like good eager kids. But they still lacked a radio man.

A few days later, he had been to a banquet where the Colonel “and all the big cogs on the base” gave them talks and let them ask questions. The Colonel gave them the “hot poop” that they were in a new outfit with a little differently equipped B-29s. They would push them to the limit to try to get in as much training as quickly as possible. Their schedules were made up right until they were to leave there.

Warren expected to be across by the first of October.

July 16, an atomic bomb was tested at Los Alamos, New Mexico.

July 20, Warren flew in a B-29 for the first time, seven hours. He said that’s what they would fly every day unless on a cross-country, which could run up to twelve or even fourteen hours. He thought he would like it, but the bomber seemed like a “big clumsy brute.”

“You sit clear up in front and sure is hard to tell your wings are level when coming in to land. You sit about 15 feet ahead of the wings.” His instructor was a returnee. He said the biggest job was getting it pre-flighted, checked all over before even getting off the ground. “From the front you cannot see the wheels or flaps so you have two ‘scanners’ in the back who tell you over the interphone the position of the wheels and flaps.”

July 25, the Potsdam Declaration was issued, stating surrender terms for Japan. It was rejected July 30.

Warren’s second time up in a B-29, they were on the flight line at 1 in the afternoon and finally got a plane at 3:30, but didn’t get off the ground until 7:30 that night. It was very hot and “did I ever sweat,” he wrote. There were three fans in the cockpit of the Superfortress, and because of the long period in the air, they’d sent food warmers which were plugged in to keep the food hot. He finally got to bed at 5 a.m., but he liked the B-29 quite a bit better that second ride.

Commander 1st Lt. Warren Neal. Crew photo: Back: Rushing, Lutzhoff, Neal, Roach, Imperatore. Front: Owen, Johnson, Noack.

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Rumors had started about “peacetime conversion,” and the strongest were that this crew would be going over on patrol duty or transporting cargo and men back. B-29s could be used for either.

Crew 23, Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas, August 1945

Dad(crw
Back: 2Lt. Thomas A. Owen (bombardier), (?) F/O William L. Noack (copilot) , F/O Imperatore (navigator), (?) F/O Johnson (engineer), (?) PFC Burl Roach (tail gunner).  Front: 1st Lt. Warren Neal (commader), Sgt. E.D. Lutzhoff (radio operator), Cpl. Tommie D. Rushing, Jr. (right scanner). Awaiting one more crew member.

Warren knew shortly after they got to Biggs Field where they would have been stationed, type of missions, etc. They were the first class of “special crews,” all trained to be the lead crews in combat. “Single night missions with 29’s stripped of all guns except the tail turret. Depending on speed for safety rather than guns.” He said it wouldn’t have been as bad as it sounded since no U.S. fighter could catch a B-29 at 30,000 feet. But he’d been afraid Doris would worry about it if he’d told her before.

August 2, B-29s dropped 6600 tons of incendiaries on Japan.

August 6, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

August 9, another atomic bomb was dropped, this time on Nagaskai. Warren’s brother-in-law, Junior Wilson, was killed in a training accident in Texas. He was not allowed to go home for the funeral, as Japan still had not surrendered. 

Friday, August 10, Warren’s crew soloed in a B-29 for the first time, airborne for seven hours. No word about surrendering from Japan.

The day of Junior’s funeral in Iowa, August 14, Japan finally agreed to surrender. VJ-Day, or Victory over Japan, was the next day.

5 comments

  1. Wow- the tension they must have felt, wondering if they’d be going over at war or at peace, or not at all! You tell these stories from your family so well, Joy.

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