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Sweet Lumbering Behemoths of Armageddon #2, Batman!


The logistics alone are staggering.


"The logistics alone are staggering."  

To say the least. 

The B-29 was a far more impressive piece of technology than many people know.  Besides being pressurized and longer-ranged than any previous bomber, it had a fire control system for its turrets that was quite simply amazing.  The 'gunners' actually wielded sighting devices that sent data back to an analog fire-control computer.  The computer figured out which of the bomber's turrets had the best chance of hitting, put that turret on the target, and fired.  And it would only fire if two of the gunners were tracking the same target. 

The B-29 was also very nearly a multi-million-dollar disaster.  The AAF ordered production airplanes before the first one had flown.  Problems with delivering the original engines meant that production B-29s were significantly underpowered, which cut range, ceiling, load capacity, and maximum speed.  And weather conditions over Japan meant that high-altitude precision bombing wasn't nearly as accurate or effective as it had been over Germany.  As I understand it, when General LeMay ordered the Tokyo firebomb raids in March 1945, it was largely to demonstrate that the B-29s could actually do their assigned job of destroying Japanese industry.   

One other thought that I had, watching the last couple of minutes of the video.  One B-29 shot down or crash-landing usually meant 11 men dead.  They considered it part of the cost of war.  Today, 11 soldiers killed in one action is grounds for banner headlines in every newspaper in the country.  

Are we today better, for valuing every life so highly that even one lost is considered so awful?  Or are we worse, for being so scarred by every loss that many of us no longer want to fight at all?

I don't know anymore. 
 LeMay was assigned to take over the B-29s in India because Possum Hansell was unable to make the things work. LeMay had made something of a name for himself as an operator and He was ent over to amek them work. He got things going, and then was assigned to command the XXI Bomber Command after the Marianas hade been taken. He had to face a climate problem he did not have to face in Europe or the CBI. The jet stream dogged the command, rendering precision bombing almost impossible, and it looked for a bit as if Arnold was going to relieve LeMay as well (soe he said in "Mission With LeMay"). That was when he decided to strip all the guns from the AC and load up with incendiaries and bomb at night.

I don't think shrinking from losses as we do now is an indication of greater respect for life. We were a much stronger country in 1944 than we are now. Additionally, we have had teh cost of war brought home to us in visual ways that weren't available back then. If we had been able to cover WW2 or Korea as the war in Vietnam had been covered, I think there might have been a revolution. As it was, the losses at Tarawa led to cries of butchery. We lost about 400,000 dead in 4 years of WW2, which is pretty hideous when compared to Vietnam at "only" 57,000, which was about 3 times longer.

Much of the problem now is the self-centered attitudes of people. The "greatest" generation raised a bunch of spoiled children (no one I know of here, however) and gave them all the stuff they didn't have when they were kids. There are times I'm thankful my parents didn't (and couldn't) give me all the stuff they didn't get as an AF E-5's pay didn't go that far in the early 60s. I had what I needed, and some of what I didn't, but had a good childhood in Germany and Oregon. My mates in the military housing areas grew up understanding military service and what it demanded. And, for my sins, I wanted a military career myself, but, alas, my body betrayed me.

Looking back, most of my mates had the same attitudes towards the military and the possibilites of violent death as I did. We knew we weren't going to die until after we got our Silver Stars and Crosses and such so we could wow the chicks with our "he man" swager and toughness.

These days, most just wanna go to teh mall and get the latest iWhatever, surf porn and chill. It's a sad country out there these days.
Nice footage.  Bad music.

Every life was as highly valued back then and just one lost just as awful. But we must still press on with what has to be done even if it means that loss. Easy to say, but it's what the they do and why we praise them so. I'm not eager to romanticise their fighting desire either. Many of those guys did not want to fight. Did not want to burn and bleed under foreign deserts, or sink in unfamiliar waters. Did not want to pull the trigger on another man. Did not want to risk loss back home. They did so because they had to. Either by national loyalty, family loyalty or basic fear of the law. Conscription, deserting, the words of old vets etc all point to that fact. Perhaps the real glory for those men were that they did not overdo the dragging of the feet but quicksmart learnt to do the job well and thereby bring victory and more of themselves back home.

This war in Afghanistan is not like WW2. It's marginal in public support, non existential and has been halfhearted politically. It's also fighting a very non-conventional force. So of course there is more reaction to each death. Each of those losses represents a price for the activity the US does. Few see enough worth in that activity to justify this price and other prices.

I don't feel any despair at all for the bravery of the US mils and even those that would join them in a war severe enough to require conscription. I cannot say the same for other major parts that influence military outcomes like the economy, technology and politics.
I will agree with the Quartermaster about how the visuals of war are brought home with a much greater impact now than in the past. For the most part, barring Pearl and the Aleutians, no battles in the last 100 years were fought on home soil. War news was mainly through the print media, then newsreels (and often tightly controlled). This changed for Vietnam, when I can remember watching footage every night on the evening news. Now we have (or could have) almost real-time coverage of action, including all the up-close and gory details. This is bound to have an effect on public perception. Maybe for the better, maybe for the worse. I don't think I  am qualified to make the call.

But as something that denotes (maybe) a national change in attitude, note that the film was made by the WAR Department, not our currently-named DEFENSE department.

Attitudes today are not all that different than they were during WWII, the difference is mainly in how strongly they are held and in percentages of people holding them. One of things that stood out for me about "The Best Years of Our Lives", made in 1946, was the scene in the drug store where Homer Parrish, played by real-life veteran Harold Russell who lost his hands in an accident, is chastised by a customer for being a patsy for fighting. There were pacifists who thought we should 'just try to get along' and people who thought we should just let the other countries sort it out amongst themselves. You hear the same sort of things said today, but usually not expressed as well.

I had a friend who flew on B-29s, he died last year. He had a big pile of tags he took off of the bombs, if I remember right they were tied to pins that had to be removed before dropping the bomb. He said it was something he never wanted to do, never wanted anyone else to do, but something he thought had to be done.