REDDY is a B-29-25-MO, serial # 42-65275A, license built for Boeing by Martin at Omaha in 1942. Known simply as 275, she was based at Kadena from July through October 1950. 275 flew as the lead aircraft with the 19th Bomb Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group. At this time the 22nd Bomb Group was part of the 15th Air Force of the fledgling Strategic Air Command and was TDY with the Far Eastern Air Force.
The crew chief of 275 at this time was M Sgt. Joseph Sweeney, who also painted REDDY when the professional artist making the rounds at Kadena was unable to paint her.
The assistant crew chief was S Sgt. Charles E. Bos. A picture taken in late August, 1950 shows Bos seated in front of the “bombs loaded, guns hot” sign in place on the nose wheel, signifying that all the mission preparation work has been completed and REDDY is waiting to make her eleventh trip to the Korean mainland.
The aircrew for 275 at this time consisted of;
Command Pilot Captain Max G. Thaete
Co Pilot* 1st Lt Ross D. Lindsay
Bombardier 1st Lt Eugene E. Simon
Navigator Major Frederick R. Stowell
Flight Engineer M Sgt Joseph L. Bivins
Radio Operator S Sgt Robert A Melendy
Radar Observer Captain James O. Bohuslav
CFC Gunner S Sgt William J. Wright
Left Side Gunner S Sgt Bert W. Madden
Right Side Gunner Sgt Kenneth K. Duncan
Tail Gunner Cpl Carl T. Rogers
*Since 275 was the squadron’s lead aircraft, the group or wing C.O., mission commander, or squadron operations officer would sometimes occupy the right seat.
Produced in 1942, 275 was rumored to have flown some of the early Hump missions in the CBI with the fledgling XX Bomber Command. However this has not been confirmed and her WW II service was not known to the crew members that were interviewed.
In early 1948, 275 found her way to Hill AFB, in Ogden, Utah to be reconditioned. Upon completion of her refit, 275 was taken over and ferried to Smoky Hill AFB at Salina, Kansas. Smoky Hill was an aircrew training center for the B-29 during WW II, and at that time the current home of the 22BG.
In late 1948, 275 participated in the first of two three month deployments to England as part of the LeMay readiness plan, stationed at Lakenheath Air Station. 275 returned three months later, relocating to March AFB, in Southern California just outside of Riverside, the 22BG’s new home. In early 1949, 275 picked up a new crew including Sgt William J. Wright.
In Nov. 1949, 275 returned to England for her second three month deployment, this time stationed at Marm Air Station. During their stay at Marm, the squadron spent most of its time practicing radar bombing techniques over England and western Europe. Problems with the valve guides in 275’s engines restricted her from flying over 13,000 ft. Since the practice missions were conducted at or above 20,000 ft, the aircrew did not spend much time in the air.
Feb. 1950 saw 275 and the 19th BS return to March AFB. The squadron remained at March AFB until July 3, 1950, when SAC operations order 26-50 ordered the 22nd BG to Guam. Personnel were told only that they were to be enroute to Anderson AFB, Guam for a TDY of not less than 90 days, for the purpose of supporting CINCFE operations.
The group left the next evening, July 4, 1950, traveling first to Hickam AFB in Hawaii, then to Johnson AFB, then finally arriving at Guam. It wasn’t until the group was airborne again after departing Guam, that the crews were told their destination was to be Kadena AFB, Okinawa. Unfortunately for the 22nd BG they had lost a coin toss allowing the 98th BG to go to Yokota, Japan.
275 flew it’s fisrt Korean mission just nine days after their orders had been cut, raiding Wonsan on July 12, 1950. 275 was long known as the “wag” (slowest) of the group, even before her arrival into the Korean theatre. According to the crew, the unofficial reason for 275 being the lead aircraft, was that if she made it into the air before running out of runway, everyone else in the squadron knew that they would be able to get into the air also.
Bomb loads for all aircraft were reduced 3,000 lbs due to the 5,500 ft length of Kadena’s runway. Even with this reduced bomb load, 275 was noted for consistently brushing the dirt at the end of the runway before getting airborne.
During the first couple of weeks at Kadena, the aircrew was forced to pull double duty, loading and arming the ordnance for their own aircraft. CFC gunner S Sgt Wright recalled that a great many of the bombs in the bomb dump were WW II surplus, and had been stored in standing water. He also recalls that many of the bombs had explosive jelly oozing out of the fuse insertion points. Needless to say, they didn’t chance arming and flying with these bombs.
The “bombs loaded, guns hot” sign that is often seen on the nosewheels of B-29’s at Kadena, made it’s appearance several weeks after the 22nd BG arrived in theatre. During a preflight inspection on a 19th BG aircraft located across the taxiway from 275, one of the ground crew got his screwdriver stuck in the wrong slot while charging the forward upper turret. This manually activated one of the fifties in the turret, causing the taxiway to be sprayed with.50 cal rounds. One aircraft was grounded for the mission after taking several hits. 275 received a dent from a ricochet, on the port side of the fuselage, just forward of the group crest.
The whole taxiway incident came up as a result of an inquiry made during the interview, regarding a dent in 275’s skin, above the horizontal mid point of the fuselage. Expecting a story about an engine change or similar maintenance mishap, the answer was intriguing to say the least. After the incident, a group order was issued that all aircraft carry the warning placard, and have the turrets aimed at least a 45 degree angle, up and away from other aircraft.
During its Korean tour, 275, along with the entire 19th BS was not credited with shooting down or being attacked for that matter by any North Korean aircraft. However the 19th BS was responsible for shooting down a British fighter, probably a Hawker Sea Fury, that made the mistake of turning in for a firing pass on one of the squadron’s aircraft.
The Group CO, happened to be along for the ride, and ordered the British fighter to be fired upon. CFC gunner S Sgt Samuel Hanna obliged and the British fighter did not have the chance to make a second pass. The pilot ditched his aircraft shortly thereafter and was picked up by Air Sea Rescue. The pilot was apparently uninjured, but slightly worse for wear, especially after having to explain how he put himself in a position to be downed by friendly aircraft.
Anti-aircraft fire was a different story though, with the North Korean defenses increasing in effectiveness, as the war progressed, especially with Chinese aid. Late in the tour, 275 took an AA hit in her #2 engine nacelle while trying to photograph a bridge on the Yalu River. The bridge had reportedly been built just under the surface of the river in an attempt to camouflage it. 275 was not seriously damaged and completed her mission, returning to Kadena.
By the end of October 1950, 275 had completed 27 missions. As there were virtually no strategic targets left in Korea, the 22nd BG was ordered to end its TDY and return to March AFB. The 19th BS made it as far as Hawaii, before China entered the war by crossing the Yalu River. The 22nd BG however was not ordered to return, and continued on to March AFB as ordered.
It was on the final leg of the long journey home from Okinawa to March AFB that 275 was to further distinguish herself as the “wag” of the group. Just out of Hawaii, aircraft 821, a 1944 production model had lost power to one of her engines and had to feather it. 275 was doing the best that it could on all four engines, and still could not keep up with 821 running on three engines. After their arrival back at March AFB, the crew took a lot of kidding from their squadron mates about having truly taken the slow boat to China and back.
275 served on with the 19th BS until late 1952 when she was ferried to the Naval Weapons Center at China Lake, CA. 275 was subsequently destroyed during weapons testing at the center, a sad ending to 275 as well as many other B-29’s that served well during two wars.