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These Were Some of the Longest Missions Flown During World War II

See How the Air Force Dismantled Japanese Industry From 1,500 Miles Away

Official Air Force Photograph


Long legs flown by heroic pilots with primitive aircraft.

The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) produced the color film “The Last Bomb” using footage shot by special personnel of their Motion Picture Unit and Combat Camera Units. The film was produced to publicize the USAAF XXI Bomber Command Boeing B-29 Superfortress missions against the empire of Japan during the last year of World War II in the Pacific. Flying missions from Tinian, Saipan, and Guam in the Marianas Islands beginning in November of 1944, the B-29s were tasked with flying missions that covered 3,000 miles and lasted upwards of 14 hours.

Official Air Force Photograph

Of course the 58th, 73rd, 313th, 314th, and 315th Bombardment Wings of XXI Bomber Command did the heavy lifting. Equally remarkable is the fact that North American P-51D Mustangs of the VII Fighter Command, flying from hard-fought Iwo Jima, flew 51 of the longest routine escort missions of the war to Japan alongside the Superforts. Even though Iwo was roughly half way as far from Japan as the Marianas, 1,500 miles is a long way to go in a single-engine fighter. Iwo was home to hundreds of Mustangs and also handled hundreds of emergency landings by shot-up B-29s unable to make it all the way back to the Marianas.

Official Air Force Photograph

The film of course features the B-29s of XXI Bomber Command and the P-51s of VII Fighter Command. Lots of gun camera footage, some of which was spliced in from other periods of the war, is included as are excellent shots of the preparation, planning, and support by the “ground pounders” at the bases from which these mission were flown. The film focuses on the missions and the men through to the end of hostilities with Japan but ends with mention of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Enjoy this rare look at the Air Force’s final air assault on Japan and what it took to make it happen.

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Bill Walton

Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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