B-29 DAUNTLESS DOTTY
20th Air Force, 73rd Bombardment Wing, 497th Group, 869th Squadron
Led 1st B-29 raid on Tokyo 24 Nov 44
Robert Morgan could have gone home after completing his 25 missions in the European Theatre in the Memphis Belle. But, during the public relations tour he saw the B-29 (still cloaked in some secrecy) in Boeings hangar in Wichita. This was their brand new long-range bomber and it was love at first sight for Morgan. After successfully completing his B-29 training in Pratt, KS and Clovis, NM he was given command of the 869th Bombardment Squadron and arrived in Saipan in Dauntless Dotty in October 1944.
Dauntless Dotty led the first raid on Tokyo on 24 Nov 44. It was Americas first attack on Tokyo since Doolittles raid two years earlier in B-25s. The target was the Nakajima Aircraft Companys Musashi engine plant just outside Tokyo. 111 B-29s took off, led by Brigadier General Emmett "Rosie" ODonnell flying with Morgan in Dauntless Dotty. 17 of them had to abort due to engine failures so common to the B-29. The remainder approached the target at altitudes of 27-32,000 feet. For the first time, the B-29s encountered the jet stream, which was a high-speed wind coming out of the west at speeds as high as 450 mph at precisely the altitudes at which the bombers were operating. This caused the bomber formations to be disrupted and made accurate bombing impossible. In addition, the Nakajima plant was covered in patchy cloud at the time and only 24 of the B-29s dropped their bombs in even roughly the right place. The target was hardly damaged, and one B-29 was rammed by a Japanese fighters and destroyed. Morgan remembers the jet stream, "We had a hell of a time with our bomb site and I had the best bombardier with me, Vince Evans, my bombardier on the Memphis Belle". It was not a good start for the B-29s!
Prior to the Tokyo raid, Morgan had been ordered to fly Dotty on a single plane reconnaissance mission over Tokyo on 10 Nov 44. The high altitude raid at 31,000 feet was to test Japanese radar, anti-aircraft armament, and fighter capacity. It was a successful information gathering flight. Dotty also participated in another significant raid on Tokyo on 9 Mar 45 - the first nighttime, low-altitude, high-intensity , incendiary (firebomb) raid. It was Gen. LeMays suggestion to try this type raid. The aircraft would attack individually, which meant no assembly over the base at the start of the mission or along the way would be needed. Aircraft could go directly to the target and return, maximizing the bomb load and saving substantially on fuel. LeMay ordered all B-29s be stripped of their GE defensive gun systems, leaving only the tail gun. The weight of extra crew, armament, and ammunition would go into bombs, each B-29 being loaded down with six to eight tons of M69 incendiary bombs. They could be dropped from 5-6,000 feet. The 29s could escape the jet stream and get below the cloud cover. They would no longer have to struggle up to 30,000 feet; thus saving on fuel and wear and tear to the engines.
The March 9th raid lasted two hours. A total of 302 B-29s participated with 279 arriving over the target. The raid was a success beyond LeMays wildest dreams. The individual fires caused by the bombs joined to create a general conflagration known as a firestorm When it was over, sixteen square miles of the center of Tokyo had gone up in flames and nearly 84,000 people had been killed. Fourteen B-29s were lost. The 29 was finally beginning to have an effect in Japan.
Morgan completed 25 mission in the Pacific. He flew with many different crews since he was a squadron commander. On April 14, 1945, Gen. ODonnell (who had flown that first Tokyo mission with Morgan) suggested Morgan go home. "Dont you think its time for you to retire from combat", he said. "Youve been extremely lucky to complete 50 missions and I think its time for you to go home". Morgan agreed and left Saipan on April 24, 1945.
Dotty stayed in combat. She was credited with a total of 53 missions, 880 combat hours, and 176,000 combat air miles. Tragically, she did not survive the war. On June 6, 1945 a ferry crew commanded by Lt. William Kelly (formerly of the B-29 Lucky Irish from Saipan) was flying her home; the route was to be simple; Saipan to Kwajalein in the Marshalls, John Rodgers AAB (Hawaii), and then Mather Field, CA. Kelly didnt know that a few hours earlier his first child (a daughter) had been born.
They departed Saipan in the twilight hours and reached Kwajalein just before midnight. There was a snack at the mess hall, then the crew to a man voted to refuel and press on to Hawaii. At 0306 they were airborne and 40 seconds later "Dauntless Dotty" plunged into the Pacific Ocean never to be seen again. Ten of the 13 men on board perished instantly. John Neville (copilot) and the only living crew member today remembers, "Immediately after takeoff the plane hit the water, and I was knocked unconscious. I must have gone out through the glass nose section head first, for I came to about 200 yards ahead of the plane and a considerable distance under the water. I was tangled in wreckage, but worked free and got to the surface. I got my Mae West inflated and tried to swim to voices I heard in the water (Glenn Gregory (tailgunner) and Charles McMurray (left gunner). I was so weak all I could do was float with the current until the three of us were picked up by a boat about 45 minutes later. Several boats and many planes searched all night and all the next day, but no trace of Dotty or the other crew was found." Neville suffered a broken back and was in Army hospitals for months.
McMurray, the only survivor who remained conscious, recalls even less. "I do know the tail section broke off because I went out the opening. What happened? Who knows?" The last Gregory remembers is seeing the air speed indicator register 180 mph. I paddled for 45 minutes, then was the first to be rescued. Two days later a barracks bag from one of the unlucky ones floated ashore. Perhaps the answer for the crash is that for the past six months every time this crew had taken a B-29 off , it had been from Saipan where the runway ends at the top of a cliff about 300 feet above the ocean. Habitually, they would drop to near sea level to help cool off the notoriously hot engines the Superfortress would generate on takeoff. The end of the runway at Kwajalein is 5 feet above sea level; the ocean depth is 6,000 feet.
The 25 Missions of the B-29 DAUNTLESS DOTTY (Commanded by Robert Morgan)
1. Oct 28 Truk 6. Nov 24 TOKYO* 11. Dec 27 Tokyo
2. Oct 30 Truk 7. Nov 27 Tokyo
3. Nov 5 Iwo Jima 8. Dec 3 Tokyo
4. Nov 6 Iwo Jima 9. Dec 8 Iwo Jima
5. Nov 10 Tokyo 10. Dec 18 Nagoya
12 Jan 10 Sea Search 17. Feb 25 Tokyo 22. Mar 27 Kyusha
13. Jan 27 Tokyo 18. Mar 9 Tokyo** 23. Mar 30 Nagoya
14. Feb 4 Kobe 19. Mar 13 Osaka 24. Apr 1 Tokyo
15. Feb 15 Nagoya 20. Mar 16 Kobe 25. Apr 3 Tachikawa (Recon Flight)
16. Feb 19 Tokyo 21 Mar 24 Nagoya
* 1st B-29 bombing raid on Tokyo since Doolittles B-25 raid in April 1942.
** 1st B-29, night, low altitude, fire bomb raid on Tokyo
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