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Mystery B-29 "Bird" Research
by Michael Moskow

Here is some feedback for you about the B-29 Mr. Meyers was asking about. Based on what appears in the article, as reported to Mr. Meyers by Japanese civilians after the war it seems that the B-29 which carried the nickname of "Bird" on the tail gunner's canopy was lost on a raid to Nagoya in early May of 1945. Following this lead, I checked the chronological list of B-29 missions that appears in Ken Rust's book "The 20th Air Force Story". According to this book, there were raids to Nagoya on May 14, and the night of May 16-17, 1945.

Going by the master list of Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs), a total of 6 B-29s were lost in combat on these days, while a seventh appears to have returned to its base with one or more crewmen missing.

Bill Meyers Photo

In any case, I believe that Lieutenants Robert Orr and Lloyd Miller (see below) were the only MIA B-29 crewmen to survive as POWs from these seven crews. So, whoever the tail gunner was, I believe, sad to say, he never returned.

To clarify things, we would need more information about the wreckage in the photos to establish the Superfortress' identity. Is there any information about the B-29's markings or serial number? One of the images appears to show the plane's vertical fin, facing upwards. But, it seems to have no unit markings upon it.

Also, while the nickname on the tail gunner's canopy frame could be a clue, it might just be thata nickname. Additionally, even if the nickname is that of the plane's assigned "original" gunner, the actual gunner who flew in the plane might have been a substitute. So, for now, the fate and identity of "Bird" are still a mystery.

Five B-29s Lost on May 14, 1945

B-29 Superfortress 44-70017
Pilot Clewett crashed May 14, 1945, seven killed in the crash, four POWs later executed July 12, 1945

B-29 "Deacon's Disciples" 42-24492
Pilot Donelan MIA May 14, 1945. 11 missing

B-29 Superfortress 44-69966

B-29 Serial Number 44-69926 Tail Number V-23

B-29 "Country Gentleman" 42-24793

One B-29 Lost May 16, 1945
I know of one B-29 lost on the mission to Nagoya, on May 16, 1945.

B-29 "Phony Express" 42-24801

B-29 POWs In Japan
Regarding the number of B-29 crewmen who survived as POWs of the Japanese, an article released by the Associated Press on Nov. 17, 1945, stated that, "837 have been recovered alive from prison camps on the main islands," out of approximately 2,200 and 2,300 reported MIA during the course of the 20th Air Force's campaign against Japan. I don't know if this number refers to B-29 crewmen specifically, or all the Allied aviator POWs held by the Japanese.

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