Re:Removing the guns from the B-29 for low-level missions
Two items to report. One is a report to LeMay about the firebombings and the other is from a B-29 pilot.
Let me know if you would like a copy of the whole report...10MB file.
The LeMay reports started with the assumption "With a gross weight of 137,000 lbs at takeoff..."
From Phase Analysis: Incendiary Operations (Kisner to LeMay) - March 1945
“It was realized that one of the greatest dangers on night attacks by individual ships would be the possibility of self-inflicted damage. For this reason it seemed desirable not to carry any ammunition on these missions, even though the psychological effect of such a decision upon the crews was fully appreciated. Before the decision was made, the capabilities of the enemy night fighter organization were carefully surveyed. When it was found that there were a total of four night fighter units in the Japanese Air Force and that only two of them were deployed in the Japanese homeland, it seemed a not undue risk to send our ships out without ammunition.”
“Although the number of enemy fighters sighted, and the number attacking, was substantially lower than on daylight missions, it was felt after the Tokyo attack that it might be desirable to carry some ammunition. In the course of time the enemy would have found out that we were carrying no ammunition and would have pressed his fighter attacks more closely. Another reason was the wish of some of the group commanders to try shooting out enemy searchlights. It was therefore decided to carry 200 rounds of ammunition in the tail turret on the next mission (Nagoya I). Gunners were given strict instructions to open fire on enemy aircraft only when fired upon.
On the third mission (Osaka) the experiment was varied slightly. The middle and high wings were again provided with tail gun ammunition only, but the low wing was given additional ammunition for the lower forward and aft turrets, with instructions to the side gunners to fire only at ground targets or targets at lower altitude. This method proved successful and was retained on the fourth and fifth missions.”
From Jim Pattillo:
1. Gen. LeMay was no one’s fool, and was responsible to minimize his losses due to ‘friendly fire.’ Many Americans needed to be shot-at once/twice, else they got trigger happy when approaching Japanese troops. Gen. LeMay realized that Americans who had ridden all alone in the dark as a single crew for about 1,500 miles (at 200-275 miles an hour?) were more likely to be jumpy the 1st time they approached Japan at night, and likely to shoot first and ask questions later. He was always doing what he could for the safety of his combat crews.
2. He needed to reduce our takeoff gross weight any way practicable, and had personally seen hundreds of thousands (millions?) of rounds of .50 caliber ammo wasted by B-17 crews over Europe.
a) Assuming our average combat crewman weighed 150 lbs. (we were just kids, after all), and allowing another 250 pounds for each man’s parachute, flak helmet, canteen, canteen belt, .45 pistol and spare ammo clips for it, a warm flying jacket, and then leaving the 400 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition (for each of the B-29’s 12 .50 caliber machineguns) at home—freed up weight that would allow us to carry more bombs to the target. I suspect LeMay studied results of his 10-day blitz (at the beginning), and decided that having all gunners on-board minimized the number of airplanes and crews he would lose in night-takeoff crashes, so decided to let all gunners go along, but allow only 50 rounds of ammo per gun.
b) Tail gunners always went along—even 509th Composite Group took them to Hiroshima. (The airplanes the 58th took to India were equipped with twin-.50s in tail plus a 20 MM cannon, but the latter was so unreliable (it always jammed before firing 10 rounds), so all 20 MM canon soon removed and we delighted to see them go.)
3. At the beginning of XXIst Bomber Command’s mining campaign, my crew flew one aerial mining mission (Omura Naval Base, near east end of Shimonoseki Straight). It was so close to Yawata, that we were happier than usual to get out of there without a shot having been fired. Incendiary bombing required more accuracy than aerial mining, but Shimonoseki required repeated resowing of mines near certain targets and the Japanese automatic weapon crews were stationed near where B-29s had shown they had to fly if those mines were going to land near their targets. I never envied those 313th Bomb Wing crews who had to resow those aerial mines intended for certain targets along Shimonoseki Straight.