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Birth of the B-29 – Transcript

Birth of the B-29 Superfortress

A look back at the time and mindset of people producing the B-29 bomber and what the perception was of the airplane at the time.

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Transcript

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Music.

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The eruption of the earth a million or more years ago was born Japan.

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Land of the little people who grew to believe that in blood and iron lay the shortcut to greatness.

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Land of philosophies and religions stranger than their names like Bushido.

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The medieval code of slicing a victim with a samurai sword, Hakko.

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Music.

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Which means the four corners of the world under a Japanese roof.

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And shinto, which assures its people that the answer to all things comes from the skies.

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The truth of that one, they were to discover. Old Japan was primitive.

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Music.

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The history of the new Japan is a story of successful copying on a tradition of peace and love of the soil.

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The new Japan suddenly turned its back and copied our locomotives.

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Our planes are great ocean going liners.

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Even Tokyo might have been transplanted bodily from the western world. Yeah.

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Music.

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Japan’s plans for world conquest were financed by the fine thread of an industrious caterpillar woven into silk,

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and stamped, made in Japan for its english speaking customers.

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Music.

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Soft silk sent away a hard scrap iron to be forged into weapons and returned to us. Eventually in hate.

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Music.

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Who wanted to enslave the world. The answer to that was to come.

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Like the answer to all things from the skies.

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Only when it came, it was to be stamped, made in America as it was for instance, on Doolittle day, when the hornet the first shangri La pointed her prowl right at the heart of Tokyo.

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Music.

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The first brief answer to Japan that came from the skies.

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It was not to be the last General Doolittle vowed, we’re going back to Tokyo and we shall go in full array in with mighty allies.

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A weapon was ready.

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Music.

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Through these forbidding doors ceaselessly.

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Day and night come trains bearing the materials, that skill weld forge and rivet into an instrument dedicated to the destruction of the enemy.

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This is only one of many plants that one day appeared where just the day before it seemed was pasture lands for the place where they were building washing machines.

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When the workers reported for the first time, few of them guessed the exact nature of what they were building.

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They knew that a giant plane would result, but beyond that it was largely a conjecture.

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But then the day came inevitably when the pieces of their jigsaw began to fit together,

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the day when the mountains of material in the millions of man hours all combined to confirm the assembly line rumor, the washroom gossip.

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And they’re honest to God, american curiosity, they were building the mightiest aircraft in history.

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They were building a plane for the Army air forces that would reduce the huge fortresses and liberators to medium bombers.

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Mm. They were building the Boeing designed B-20.

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Music.

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Enough aluminum is stored here to lay a silver carpet over every street in Tokyo aluminum sheet to be brought to life by these machines and the workers who operate them.

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They give it shape and personality. They’re stamping machines.

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Their presses lathes and drills Coax it and pounded and pierce it into the multiple patterns prescribed in 50 tons of blueprints.

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It was box side a month ago, dead in the ground, miners dug it out of the Arkansas hills,

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and then in some distant factory bauxite came in at one end, an aluminum sheet rolled out the other one day from now in the stratosphere above the clouds, it will mirror the sun in a month.

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Music.

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Out of the ground and into the sky.

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These will be the wings to take it there from the confusion of manpower and equipment.

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Within this massive jig will emerge the fabulous 1 17.

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A wing of completely new design which will carry more weight faster and higher than any other wing.

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The jig’s themselves. The fixtures and the tools were designed so that unskilled workers could be expert with them in a week, whether they were farmers and clerks, cotton pickers or housewives, salesmen or ex soldiers.

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The wing is an awesome weight and dimension, yet a girl can lift it with about the same effort that she would need to adjust the flower in her hair space,

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and the handling of bulky parts have always been problems in assembly production.

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The engineers who designed this plant solved both problems at once with a few strokes on their drafting boards, they moved traffic to the ceiling.

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Thus they allowed workers more time at machines and machines.

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Music.

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The wing in a more advanced stage. If the workers imagine for a moment that they were in a shipyard, it would be understandable.

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The Mayflower was shorter from stem to stern than each of these wings, from tip to tip.

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All the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock could curl up within the gasoline compartments in the wing and sleep no less comfortably than on their long atlantic crossing.

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Each of these vessels will encase an engine of 2200 horsepower.

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Four of them harnessed to one Super Fortress, 8800 horsepower.

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What does that mean? Horsepower means more than 300 miles an hour.

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Horsepower means flying high enough to see all the new England States at once.

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Horsepower means victory in the air.

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When these skeleton nose sections are enclosed in aluminum and glass, they will be the most comfortable cockpits A bomber ever had.

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The windows cannot cloud or frost.

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The pilot’s instrument panel is less complex than the dashboard of an automobile.

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Soundproofing allows talk without the interphone, and because the entire compartment is a pressurized tank, the air remains practically constant from prairie level to the rarefied atmosphere over the Himalayas.

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Back of the control cabin is a huge center section Here, the wings will be set here.

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The bomb bays will hold the greatest weight of death ever lifted into the skies toward the tail.

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Another big pressurized chamber will house the rest of the crew except the rear gunner, who has a cabin to himself.

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If in some stratospheric emergency, a crew member must travel between front and rear pressurized compartments.

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He can slither through this connecting tunnel.

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An armored glass observation blister, durable, crystal clear eyes of every.

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Music.

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Prefabricated sub assemblies are manufactured by other contractors and shipped to this plant by the carload.

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Music.

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What has been shown here is being duplicated in plants all across the country, identical miracles of modern machinery.

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Nursed and tended and made productive by people who look and think like these people, the fair, the dark people with deft hands and unblinking eyes,

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strong with their willing muscles and those less strong, but as willing the braided schoolgirls,

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the white haired grandmother, the old young, the young old, the little ones and the less little ones working together in intimate harmony.

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Music.

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Their product, death, their goal piece.

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These workers are the lucky ones who see the finished product of their labor roll off the line every hour of every day.

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They are witness to this awe inspiring ceremony, this tremendous wedding of material and man hours.

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This climax in the history of man’s conquest of the air.

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Music.

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But one of the others who helped, however remotely to create an aerial weapon, they have never seen,

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The Lumberjack who fell the trees that became the blueprints of the B 29, the bauxite miner in the Arkansas hills and the minor of Ireland cold,

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builder of guns and engines and propellers, the grimy, sweating men who cast the cylinders and forged crankshaft, the maker of tires, electrical equipment, instruments and safety wires.

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To citizens who paid for the superfortress with their purchases of war bonds, there’s are isolated,

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lines of effort initiated all across the land and converging eventually beneath this vaulted roof.

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Here, the sum of their energies assume shape and statute and meaning.

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Here is the final meeting of every effort.

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Music.

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A bold insignia will proclaim to the enemy that this is the proud new weapons of the United States Army air forces.

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But it is our plane to because we, the people built it, we conceived it, financed it, gave it wings, we powered it and armed it and our sons and brothers fly it.

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Music.

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The function of the people’s superfortress is to break the race who turned their backs on reason to spin them around to face the peaceful way of living.

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It is the people’s answer to all the sneak raids, all the death marches, All the stabs in the bank.

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It is our memorial to the fighting men who are not afraid to die, who bought with their lives at the time.

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We needed to make the weapons to win the war.

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Like this weapon which 50 hours after its tests, we’ll be landing in India or china or some other far away shangri La,

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to regain its breath before the final assault for which the people destined it within the plant work proceeds.

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Music.

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But the workers cocked their ears for a sound that regularly drowns the clatter of their tools.

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It is more than a sound. It is a song.

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This is the song They Here.

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Music.

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The story begins in 1939, when the far sighted Army Air forces said, we want a plane for our defense that can fly a bomb load thousands of miles out to sea and return,

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after six months work.

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There was a tiny model which spent the next six months in a wind tunnel.

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And then there was a full scale model which was subjected to every punishment man could devise for it.

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Only after a year of such tests did the Air Forces let contracts for planes that would be built to fight,

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The B 25 Mitchell is a big strapping bomber, 67ft across the wings, but it could reach Japan only if it took off from an aircraft carrier.

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Much bigger is the famed B 17 fortress, 104 ft from wing tip to wing tip.

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It has ranged 1400 miles over Japan’s island conquests, but it cannot reach Japan itself from any base. We now hold.

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Music.

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The Superfortress wingspan 141 ft longer than the Wright’s first flight.

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Through the air at Kitty Hawk range, altitude and bomb load.

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Secret though the Air Force’s do save them mechanically very long, very high and very large Because it is a global bomber around.

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It has been built an entire new air force, the 20th, The 20th War Theatre is the world itself.

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Its operations room is the war room of the chiefs of staff in Washington.

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It’s planes will be treated as a major task force in the same manner as a naval task force is directed against a specific objective.

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Music.

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Watch it come in for a landing Revolutionary set of flaps that constitutes nearly 1/5 of the wing area gives the ship a low landing speed and a shorter landing run than many a plane half its size.

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All this great weight of superfortress is supported by a tricycle gear whose tires require less pressure than a child.

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Music.

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China. Half a million nameless people wrote their magnificent chapter in the Saga of the Superfortress.

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2000 years after their ancestors built the great wall for the defense of china, these farmers transformed saturated rice paddies into airfields for offense against a new invader.

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They had no machinery as we know it only their million hands and a searing memory of anguished years since Japan set out to annihilate them stone by stone, layer after layer, bound together.

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Not just with muddy water but with the blood of their brothers who died under the samurai sword.

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And soon there were runways to bear the weight of a whole fleet of super fortresses.

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Revenge for the nameless people was close at hand.

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Music.

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Mm

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Even in china land of miracles, the arrival of a superfortress is an occasion for everyone to turn out in curiosity and in welcome a welcome now,

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but Journey’s end on the other side of the globe is only the beginning of another grimmer journey.

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The tanks will have to be filled, the engines, given a final check the guns, armed, the bombs set in the ranks and then briefing.

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Mhm. And the assembled airmen will listen to words that a few years ago would have been fantastic, but today roll casually offer briefing officers.

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Music.

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