Is there any way to thank a friend for inviting you to ride in a Boeing B-29 Superfortress—and even in the “candy” bombardier’s seat?
After realigning my dropped jaw and babbling, “Oh, gosh, yes,” I blathered on with: “Really? You’re sure? You’re not kidding? But, David, how can I even begin to thank you?” And then I hung up and began obsessing about what to wear (yes, really) and what I could do to even remotely show my appreciation.
So, I unearthed an old jumpsuit and some aviator-style jodhpurs and then baked my best sourdough bread.
The already famous Doc was delivered to the US Army in 1945, five months before another B-29, Enola Gay, dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The terrible death toll from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki missions was acknowledged as necessary to accelerate the Japanese surrender, saving many more lives and ending World War II.
For the next 10 years, Doc and a few sister B-29s—the Seven Dwarf squadron—flew military radar calibration flights and towed gunnery targets. Then Doc was parked in the desert at China Lake, California, destined for an ignoble end as a target for naval-aviator bomb training.
Fortunately, the aspiring naval aviators weren’t all that great at hitting their target because, although wounded and forlorn, Doc survived.
Then, 32 years later, a man named Tony Mazzolini found the airplane in the Mojave and spent 10 years working through government red tape to rescue the distressed old bomber. When the deal was finally done, Mazzolini and his team realized that it would be impossible fly it out because of its “war wounds” and having sat, abandoned, for 42 years in the desert.
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