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Going Direct: The B-29 Superfortress’ Short And Fiery History

On the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, the B-29 bomber’s role is in the news, and a forgotten attack is the subject of a major podcast.

The 19th Bomb Group crew photographed with a B-29 Superfortress in 1951 on Kadena AFB in Okinawa, Japan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The 19th Bomb Group crew photographed with a B-29 Superfortress in 1951 on Kadena AFB in Okinawa, Japan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
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If you measured the importance of a warplane’s legacy based on its longevity, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress doesn’t even make the top 10. But if you were to use a different yardstick—its impact—or yet another one—its technological advancement over the hardware it replaced—it’s arguably the most important plane to ever go to war.

It’s also the subject, in a roundabout way, of four episodes of best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast, in which he profiles General Curtis LeMay, again, in a roundabout way. LeMay headed the United States Strategic Air Command for three decades and was the principal architect of the bombing campaigns in Japan, Korea and Vietnam, including the firebombing attack of Tokyo in 1945, which really is the subject of the podcasts.

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