The 6th Bomb Group

Mission 74. Yawata Steel Works (Aug 8)

This was a daylight precision raid on Yawata Steel Works. Although late in the war, the effectiveness of the defense indicated that the war was far from over

To the right is a map of Kyushu, showing the route of flight as reconstructed from the radarscope pictures.

To see how a mission looked to the radar operator see Radar View of Aug 8 Mission to Yawata Steel Works.

According to the Pirates Log:

Then came the long-dreaded mission - an attack on the heavily-defended city of Yawata. Crews had been sweating out the "Big Y" since early B-29 days when the XX Bomber Command bombed it from China. Yawata, the fourth most important industrial center of Japan, contained the largest steel works in the Empire.

Of the 245 20th Air Force planes on the mission, the Sixth contributed twenty-seven over the primary target. Enemy opposition was aggressive from fighters with some thirty attacks made against the Group's formations. Two fighters were destroyed; two credited as probably destroyed. One of the Group's planes, piloted by Lt Jack A. Henshaw, was badly damaged by machine-gun fire from the fighters and was forced to proceed to Okinawa for landing. Lt Henshaw received the Silver Star for his gallantry in action. Heavy flak was also encountered, but cloud conditions made it inaccurate and only three Sixth planes were damaged. Later photos show 21 per cent more of the city destroyed.

[Pirate's Log, pp. 53-54]

According to Joe Whitney (Radarman, 24BS) the flak looked a little more deadly from his position:

The Mission number74 on Aug 8th is Yawata. It was a daylight precision against the urban area. Time over target around noon time. 245 A/C took off from the 58, 73 and 313 Wings. 221 A/C bombed the primary target. 100 A/C landed at Iwo for gas. The Japanese threw up a box barrage and we lost 4 A/C. The most dangerous mission I was ever on. The second most dangerous was trying to land at Iwo for gas. The only thing the B29 gave way for was two red flares (wounded on board). As I looked out after the bomb run I said "we went thru that" the flak was so thick it is a wonder we did not lose more.



By Jack Henshaw, Airplane Commander
39th Squadron, 6th Bomb Group

This strike was the 27th for our crew. It had been scheduled weeks before, but cancelled because of weather. This time an intense cold front was coming down, so all crews were put on standby. At 2000 hours the word came down that we go. Briefing at 2300 hours. The briefing was long. We all wanted to get this mission behind us! When the weather speaker came on the stage, everyone came to life and started writing. Information on enemy fighters and antiaircraft defenses was important, but weather was something we had to deal with fore we got to the enemy and again on the way home. Colonel Kenneth Gibson, Group Commander, was the last speaker-his usual intense self. While we disliked him as the officer who sent us out to be shot at, we respected him because he always gave us the best chance for survival.

Trucks loading for the line ... check the crew on ... weak batteries in the flashlight, bang it on your hand ...everyone on the truck ... check my briefcase and ride in the cab and talk to engineer on trip to the airplane. Over the hill to the small lights of the field and the quiet-the unbelievable quiet-of the world's largest airfield just before the engines start and the circus atmosphere of the takeoffs begin.

Preflight .. . copilot inside front compartment ... props backed off by crew ... bombardier checking bomb shackles and wires. Gunners running through the checklists ... talking to crew chief on condition of the ship. Engineer on the wing checking tanks and covers. All crew loaded ... auxiliary power unit chugging away on the front left. Engineer in place ... prepare to start #1! Low grow as the energizer begins ... fifteen seconds and the excruciating whine ... number 1 starts. On through the engines until all are running well. One minute until taxi.

Chocks out, auxiliary power pulled, landing lights half up, and time to roll. No doubt at all, place in the taxi line will open. engines advancing power ... we move. There it is, a hole in the taxi line ... pull in, turn, and on the way to takeoff. Run up all engines in succession ... turn onto runway. We're next! Wait for the green light, standing on the brakes while the airplane shudders. Go! Heavy takeoff as usual ... no problems. Turn on initial heading at 800 feet, and off to the races.

At cruise altitude of 8,000 feet it is a short three hours to Iwo Jima. We get good radar fix just minutes before the cold front finds us, then 20 minutes of good solid bouncing in the up and down drafts and heavy rain and enough hail to spook the hell out of everyone. However, good, brave soldiers that we are, no one mentions it!

Finally, we turn on the heading for the rendezvous point, a 30-mile-long island just off the coast of southeastern Kyushu. We come in south of it, turn right and there it is. We are now at 15,000--our strike altitude, ninety seconds to spot the flight leader and pull in just below and behind him while he flies his long looping circle to the left. Ours is the number 4 position today. Easy to fly but vulnerable to fighters who take their whacks at the flight leader. Two more circles and #2 and #3 ships join the flight. Quick call on the open channel from leader: going in to Initial Point

The airplane is now buttoned up, and the crew is at combat stations. The call to gunners: "Call out your sightings. Don't hesitate to shoot those guns, Uncle Sam is still making plenty of .50 caliber." Just short of the IP we start to collect enemy fighters. Two on right pull ahead and make their turns for an attack from 12 o'clock. Vicious little bastards! Those red circles on their wings are not the nicest thing in the world to contemplate. They chicken out and the flight leader starts his slow tum to the left and we're on final approach. Bombardier has his sight warmed up-switches on, head in the sight-doing his thing in case the leader is knocked out and the ships must bomb individually.

Twelve minutes out, bomb doors open, guns making big racket. Bombardier firing at four fighters as they come in, one behind the other, then back on the bombsight. Four minutes out. Two fighters are firing at us from one o'clock and we can feel the hits on the right wing. The plane yaws-catch it with the left rudder and lean forward. A glance at the right wing and smoke pouring out of #4 engine. Instrument panel: #4 losing oil pressure. To copilot: "Feather #4." Pull back on #4 throttle ... glance at the formation ... air speed 195. Call from right gunner: "#4 on fire!" All throttles back, dump 200 feet ... level out, then all throttles full forward. Relief as the word comes: "Fire out." Carrying all the power possible on three engines, only 196 airspeed. Three hundred feet below formation and 700 feet behind. One minute plus to drop: stamp foot behind bombardier. We are to drop out bombs three seconds behind flight leader. He nods ... we watch ... there they go ... and we drop. We've been in the flak zone more than two minutes. Flight leader calls for a slow turn to right and asks if I can keep up. We can't raise our bomb bay doors and with one engine about 185 mph is all we can expect. I tell him no, go on!

Our friends are turning over our heads when we take the flak hit. It sings as the big piece of metal comes through the radio compartment and on out the left side, just in front of the navigator's nose. Dust is all over the plane. Gracious sake, where did all the dust come from? The pilots have suddenly slipped down almost on their backs, legs fully extended. Feeling stupid as they watch the rudder pedals work back and forth above their feet-the rudder cables have been shot in two!

Bombardier half up and coughing, rubbing his eyes. A quick look behind: engineer off his seat and curled up in the center aisle. The radarman is bent over and coughing up dust. The radio operator is half out of his compartment with his arms moving aimlessly and the navigator is shouting something that we can't understand.

The airplane is still flying, and miraculously we haven't lost the elevators. Altitude is 13,900 and losing 300 feet per minute. I'm back on the seat ... no rudder ... people getting up ... the high whine of the cabin air blowing out through the big rip in the radio compartment. Three minutes: same headings ... still losing 300 feet per minute but this is acceptable since we're losing cabin pressure. Out of the flak zone ... people corning to life and functioning again. Something wrong with the ailerons: look across the right wing ... right aileron cocked up at 30 degrees and jammed. Engine instruments say #3 engine is only pulling half power ... worry about that later. Mantel, our bombardier, waddles from in front and asks, "What can I do?" Thank God for a man who wants to help! "Bomb bay doors, they've got to come up," I reply. "With the engines out and all that extra drag, we'11 be in the water in an hour and a half." Mantel nods and goes to check the emergency bomb bay door system. We make the tum to 172-degrees over the Yellow Sea. Forty miles away from the target we see the secondary explosions and the fire and smoke rising from the target Those people are catching hell, and we are so happy for them!

11,600 feet, we push a little more into the three remaining engines, but it doesn't change anything. Fiddle with the trim tabs again. Airspeed 174 mph. The bombardier comes back and reports that the emergency crank will not lift the bomb bay doors. He mentions using an axe to cut the cables. He returns to try, and soon we hear the thud of the axe. I send the pilot back to help and he trades off. With the radio and radar man while they hold onto Mantel's legs as he hangs head down in the front bomb bay and tries to cut the cables. 10,400 and I gently try to raise the nose. At 164 mph I give up, I don't know what this ship is going to stall at.

Here's Mantel. The front cables are cut and tied and our airspeed has jumped up 6 mph. "Now the back one, Bill!" and he's on his way. I crowd a bit more into #1 and #2 engines, and #3 is responding a little better. I trim to raise the nose and she holds onto her altitude at 168 mph. Twelve minutes and Mantel is back, throwing his bloodstained handkerchief behind my seat. "All done!" Our airspeed is now 174 mph. Play with the throttles a bit and settle on 172 cruise.  At this speed it is three hours to Okinawa.

Time to assess damage. The rear compartment reports much damage to vertical stabilizer but the men okay. Caution the right gunner to keep watch on the underside of the right wing. With #3 engine feeling bad, we know we've lost some teeth in the turbosupercharger, so the right wing fuel tank has no doubt been penetrated by flak. In less than one hour the self-sealing tank should start spewing fuel! Navigator says Okinawa in two hours and ten minutes.

Think it out. Tell the CFC to streamline all guns to the rear and deactivate the electronic gun system. Radioman turns the IFF switch on. Hand copilot the radio numbers of Yontan airfield on Okinawa and tell him to set the radio.

Now the call from the right gunner: "Getting something splattering on the right blister ... I think it's gasoline!"

"Right. Just watch it and keep me informed." Make the call: "All crew, we're going to see some of our own fighters soon. Don't do anything to spook them into shooting at us!" To the copilot: "Start your calls every three minutes. Give our aircraft serial number, our condition, heading, altitude, and position. Let's see if we've got a receiver." Five calls, no answer. The receiver is out. How can we be so lucky?

Start the 1,000 foot descent to 8,000.Try the flaps and receive an immediate screech from the right gunner: "No! Right flap is screwed up."

And here come our black P-61 night fighters. They sit on both wings and look us over, then pull away fast. Apparently we have been approved as a bona fide casualty.

Right gunner: "Boss, that stuff is getting heavier on my blister."

"Okay, I'll take care of it." What a lie!

We've missed Yontan! Continue on toward the south half of the island and lower to 4,000 feet. Almost on the south beach we find a fighter strip, Bolo airfield. Consult with the engineer. It's too short. Only 3,700 feet. Call all crew: I will attempt to land on that strip to our left. Does anyone want to bail out?" Silence. I repeat intercom message. No takers! They don't like parachutes either. Lower the wheels and fly low over the field to let them know we're going to try to land. Then a long turn to the left four miles out, and we're set for a landing. Oh, why didn't the Army teach us to land a B-29 with 2 1/2 engines, no flaps. no rudders, and only the left aileron for horizontal control? Those people were remiss in their duty!

We made it! Eighty feet short of the brush on the runway end. We walk away looking at the smoking brakes and the fuel running out of the right wing.

If Mantel had not hung by his feet and closed the bomb bay doors, the outcome would have been different.

[Global Twentieth, Volume III, pp. 283-286]


20th AF Mission 319

Date: 8 August 1945
Target: Yawata Urban Area
Participating Units: 58th, 73rd, and 313th BWs
Number A/C Airborne: 245
% A/C Bombing Primary: 90.20% (221 Primary and 6 Opportunity)
Type of Bombs and Fuzes: M17 and M19, 500# incendiary clusters set to open 5,000 feet over the target.
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 1,301.9 tons on Primary and 37.3 tons on Opportunity.
Time Over Primary: 081101K - 081136K
Altitude of Attack: 19,000 - 24,300
Weather Over Target: 4/10 - 6/10
Total A/C Lost: 4
Resume of Mission: Results reported by crews were unobserved to excellent. Smoke column rose above 20,000 feet. 73rd BW photos show good results, with numerous fires in the center of the built-up area, and that 21% of the city had been destroyed. Fighter cover was provided by P-47s and P-51's in the target area. Eighteen A/C were non-effective. Sixty to 70 E/A sighted made 53 attacks and shot down one B-29. Flak was meager to moderate and damaged 20 B-29s. The 58th wing only got off 35 of 131 scheduled A/C due to runways being blocked by wrecked A/C. Eighty-five A/C sighted their targets and 136 bombed by radar. Three A/C were lost to mechanical reasons. Claims were 2-0-2. One-hundred ( 100 ) B-29s landed at Iwo Jima. Average bomb load: 11,268 lbs. Average fuel reserve: 545 gallons. E/A damaged 3 B-29s.