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  B-29-45-BW "The Leading Lady" Serial Number 42-24766 Tail Z Square 22
20th AF
500th BG
882nd BS

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Japanese Jan 5, 1945
Pilot   Major Wilbur E. "Barney" Hurlbutt, O-1699361 (MIA / KIA)
Co-Pilot  2nd Lt. Felix P. Omilian, O-685171 (MIA / KIA)
Bombardier  1st Lt. Glendon M. Aitken (MIA / KIA)
Navigator  1st Lt. Edward H. Stoehr (MIA / KIA)
Engineer  1st Lt. Glenn C. Truesdell (MIA / KIA)
Radio  Sgt Joseph P. Nighan (MIA / KIA)
Radar  SSgt Paul E. Dreyer (MIA / KIA)
Gunner  Sgt Karl Hunt (MIA / KIA)
Gunner  Sgt Frank J. Yanik (MIA / KIA)
Gunner  Cpl Richard P. Steinberg (MIA / KIA)
Passenger  Lt. Col Marcus A. Mullen (MIA / KIA)

Tail Gunner  Sgt Harold T. Hedges, 38400804 (POW, survived)
Crashed  January 3, 1945
MACR  10905

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing. Delivered to the U. S. Army. Ferried overseas via Hawaii to the Marianas.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 20th Air Force, 500th Bombardment Group, 882nd Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "The Leading Lady" or "Leading Lady". Tail code Z Square 22. When lost, engines R-3350-23A serial numbers DW-201668, DW-202007, DW-202078 and DW-201769.

Mission History
Mission 17: On January 3, 1945 one of ninety-seven B-29s that took off from Aslito Field (Isely) on Saipan on a bombing mission against Nagoya urban areas and docks. Each B-29 was armed with fourteen M-69 incendiary cluster bombs. Nineteen aborted before reaching the target and 57 hit the primary target and 21 others bomb alternates and targets of opportunity; Japanese fighters made 300+ attacks against the formation while B-29 gunners claim 14-14-20 Japanese aircraft. Five B-29s are lost including this aircraft.

Over the target, intercepted by Ki-61 Tonys from Komaki Airfield and Itami Airfield, plus 210 Kokutai Zeros, J1N1 Irvings and D4Y Judys from Meiji Airfield. Over Okazaki, southeast of Nagoya, this B-29 was rammed by a 55th Sentai Ki-61 Tony piloted by 1st Lt. Minoru Shirota, who bailed out, but died from injuries the next day. The B-29 was hit between the nose and no. 3 engine and fell out of formation, leveled out then suffered an explosion and rolled over on its back and went into a spin. This B-29 was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

Fate of the Crew
During the impact, tail gunner Hedges was thrown out of the tail escape hatch and was the only member of the crew who was able to escape the aircraft. Descending, he was strafed by two enemy aircraft. After landing, he was taken prisoner. At the end of the war, he was liberated from Omori POW Camp and returned to the United States.

Recovery of Remains
At the crash site, the bodies of the rest of the crew were recovered postwar returned to the United States for permenant burial.

This B-29 crashed near Matsudaira village, Aichi Prefecture. The crash site was located by the Japanese and parts recovered and the bodies of the crew were removed. Cine footage of the crash site was recorded.

The entire crew was officially declared dead the day of the mission. The remains of the crew were recovered postwar and were buried in a group burial at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery at section E site 114.

YouTube Footage of crash B-29 crash site 2:47 - 3:18
B-29 Hunters of the JAAF page 67, 68 (photo)
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Harold T. Hedges

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Last Updated
February 14, 2020


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1 Prisoner
11 Mising

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