The B-29 Superfortress honors the vision and imagination of men like Hap Arnold, Billy Mitchell and Eddie Allen. Any war map clearly showed the great distances that planes would have to cover to take the battle to the enemy. While considered for the European Theater (at least briefly), the B-29 was a perfect fit for the war against the Japanese. Not only were there great distances to fly, but General Arnold (and others) had made commitments to the Chinese to invade Japan in the Spring of 1944.
Hurried into production, and flown to the 58th Bomb Wing's bases in Kansas as soon as they rolled off the line, the early models presented the crews with many "interesting" problems. The plane was loaded with features never seen on a combat airplane before...a computer to control all the guns, pressurized cabins, powerful 2,200 horsepower engines, and many other features. Each one unto itself created an opportunity for failure, but the combined effect of all the new technology made flying these planes a serious challenge, particularly early in the war.
Consider the XB-29...the first series of planes built. The lead engineer, Eddie Allen, crashed one of them into a meatpacking plant in Seattle, killing him and his crew, as well as a number of people on the ground.
The YB-29 offered some level of improvement, but only one YB-29s ever made it into a combat theater, that being a test flight from Kansas to China, with several stops in between. Several YB-29s crashed during training in Kansas, usually with fatal results.
The final production version taken into war was still of great concern to the men. One veteran refers to the 58th as the "58th Test Wing", since he felt that all the early flying time, combat and other, only served as a shakedown period. As fast as these planes came off the assembly line, many were sent to one or more Modification Centers throughout the US to upgrade specific parts of the airplane.
Early missions were comprised of relatively small numbers of planes, certainly less than a hundred. As the quality of the plane improved, and in conjunction with General LeMay's hard-nosed approach on training, the 20th Air Force could put 500-800 airplanes into the air on a single mission.
The last B-29 was taken out of service in 1959.