Friday, August 05, 2016

Did you ever hear of the B 32? Probably not. But, they had an incredibly historic moment at the end of WW2

Development of the B-32 started before WWII, in June 1939. US Army Gen. W.G. Kilner delivered a study that recommended development of a new bomber to succeed the B-17 Flying Fortress, despite the added cost, two separate designs from two separate companies should be developed; in case one turned out to be a failure. Boeing entered their XB-29 design, Lockheed their XB-30, and Consolidated their XB-32.

The clear favorite was Boeing’s B-29 Superfortress however it was decided to still pursue a “fall-back” option and Consolidated’s B-32 was selected. A pre-production order was placed in June 1941.

The first production B-32 wasn’t delivered until 19 September 1944, by which time the B-29 was not only in service but already flying combat missions. Clearly, there was no longer any need for a “fall-back” bomber design, but since so much money had already been sunk into the Dominator, production continued and the total final order was actually increased to 1,966 planes.

During the twenty-day interim between the second atomic bomb drop on 9 August and the arrival of the occupation fleet off Japan on 29 August, B-32s (now in Okinawa) flew reconnaissance missions over the Japanese home islands. The actual reconnaissance value was small, but the flights tested Japan’s willingness to refrain from further combat before the surrender ceremony on 2 September 1945.

 For the most part, they did, however there was one serious exception.

On 18 August 1945, two B-32s were making a reconnaissance flight over Tokyo when they were attacked by NIK2 “George” fighters. Both planes were hit and one suffered multiple injuries.

 One crewman, Sgt. Anthony Marchione, died and sadly became the last American KIA of the Second World War.

During the occupation, the Japanese pilots told American investigators that they felt their airbase was under imminent threat from the bombers. During the 1970s, one of the pilots, the ace Warrant Officer Sadamu Komachi, said that in fact his pilots were enraged that American planes were parading over the Emperor’s palace before the official surrender and acted on the spur of the moment.

 Ironically, Komachi himself had flown in the 7 December 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, so he took part in the first and last air engagements of the Pacific war.

In October 1945, The US Army completely cancelled the entire B-32 Dominator program. At the time of the contract’s cancellation, 118 Dominators (including the 40 TB-32s) had already been delivered to the US Army,  including six brand-new, fully war-ready B-32s that were still at the Ft. Worth factory.

All of the B-32s which were already in service, plus the dozen Shop-Assembled GFE examples, were declared “Terminal Inventory” and sent to the scrapyard airfields for surplus WWII warplanes (both reserve storage and terminal inventory).

Most of these planes were still fresh and in any other circumstance, such waste would have been unconscionable. In particular, the twelve Dominators were literally brand new, as in their one and only flight had been from the factory to the collection airfield.

the Texas Railway Equipment company which actually bought the airfield’s entire collection of discarded WWII warplanes, (4,800+ total of all types) in one of the largest postwar scrap contracts.

Reportedly, a Texas Railway Equipment exec bragged that the company had covered it’s payroll overhead simply by barreling and reselling the aviation fuel left onboard the planes. Some of the B-32s had seen such little use that their motor oil could be salvaged and reused.

Finally, the last B-32 Dominator in anything close to complete shape was actually one of the early YB-32 pre-production planes, which somehow ended up at McClellan AFB, CA. It was used as a firefighting trainer until 1956, appropriately alongside a discarded B-29 Superfortress.

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