The Abbreviated Life of the Ill-fated
RB-29 #44-61727
“So Tired”

Part 1

Page 1 of 2 Pages

Editor: As this collection of stories began to accumulate, the first mention of RB-29 #44-61727 came from Bill Welch, a Photo Technician and later a regular crewmember on ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) RB-29 #810. Related comments, extracted from his story, tell us:

“In late May, 1950, the 31st Recon Sq. conducted an Operational Readiness Test, flying out of Kadena AFB Okinawa. Immediately upon completion of the ORT, most of the squadron’s RB-29s (eight, as I recall) were flown back to the States, to Tinker AFB, OK, for complete overhaul.

By late summer of 1950, after the squadron had been moved to Yokota and then Johnson AFB in Japan, we began to receive the rebuilt RB-29s from Tinker. Our crew (1Lt Earl H. Ambrose, A/C) got one of them (#727, I think). We flew several missions with it and then two more planes arrived from the states after having been overhauled at Tinker. The two RB-29s that arrived (#810 and #815) were assigned to “C” flight, sometimes called the “Cloak and Dagger Flight”, and put under guard.”

Bill Welch,
dedicated Camera Technician
and RB-29 crewmember.
Photo ctsy. Bill Welch

Editor: You may access important, related background information by clicking here to hop over to Bill Welch’s story entitled “William F. (Bill) Welch 31st and 91st SRS Recollections, Period August 1949 to May 1951”. Your back button will return you quickly to this page.

Adrian Swain was one of the pilots to participate in combat missions with RB-29 #1727 early in the Korean War. He describes one of their missions in some detail in his story “31/91st Recollections of Adrian Swain, RB-29 Pilot”. Here is part of his story that relates to a day in the life of RB-29 “So Tired”. You will recall that Bill Welch’s comments spoke of #727s return to duty after overhaul at Tinker AFB, OK. Adrian’s story speaks of 727’s service just before the outbreak of the Korean War. If you wish to review the Swain story, in full, click here and return with your back button.

Kadena Air Base,
Okinawa — Spring 1950

Warm, dry days arrived in the spring of 1950, and our squadron baseball players began limbering up for opening day with daily workouts on the diamond. I had missed the games last season and wanted badly to participate this year. Housemates Brunson and Snow helped me practice at home after work, playing pitch and catch in front of our Quonset. Within a few weeks, I began to gain ball speed and control. The fast ball was coming along, and I was working on a sweeping curve that would come over the plate and then drop downward six to eight inches — it was a devastating pitch.

On the flight line at Yokota Air Base, February 1951 Capt. Swain perched on the window of their B-29 “So Tired.” Note the cameras painted on the fuselage, each representing a photo recon mission over North Korea.
Photo ctsy. Adrian Swain

By early April, we began competition and I was one of three pitchers. By mid-May, I was in a groove and pitched the most memorable game of my life one afternoon, striking out fifteen batters. They could not cope with the dropping curve ball, even when they knew it was coming. I was stiff and sore after the game, but a hot shower before going to the Officer’s Club to bask in the kudos of my mates made it all worthwhile. I did not know that this was the last game I would ever pitch.

The next day our crew was called into operations and briefed on a special mission to Tokyo; this was no shopping trip to the Ginza. Colonel Edwards was there and complimented me on my good game before getting down to business. We had been selected for a special temporary assignment that was so restricted we would receive full details only when we got to Japan.

The next day we were briefed at the Air Force base at Chitose on Hokkaido Island, the northernmost of the Japanese Islands and just south of the Russian-owned Kuril Islands. Intelligence reports advised that the Russians were significantly increasing their military strength at their forward air base on Sakhalin Island. Our job was to take aerial photos of the suspect airfield and not get caught. There were MiG fighter aircraft at the base, which worried us somewhat. The course we were to fly was designed to imitate a Northwest Airlines flight enroute to Alaska, a flight that might have drifted off course. Hopefully we would appear to be committing a harmless violation of their coastal waters.

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Additional Korean War and early Cold War Recollections and Stories

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