A B-29 Story You Wouldn’t Believe!

A B-29 Story You Wouldn’t Believe! | World War Wings Videos

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This is the story of Luther White, a B-29 Bombardier in World War II upon Superfortress “Road Apple,” who went on a mission that his family will never forget. 

On May 9, 1945, B-29 bombardier Luther White sees the coast of Japan on the horizon. As the air raid sirens go off in the city of Osaka, anti-aircraft crews begin to shoot their guns on the plane to defend their town. Road Apple is all by herself, taking the heavy flak below. 

A Special Mission

White’s first mission had previously gone well- dropping their payload on Japan with no issue, on May 8th, he would be assigned to a different mission- a recon flight to assess the damage of their previous raids and to look for new targets in Osaka, which is known for its role in aircraft production. 

However, this time, Road Apple would be flying alone, late in the evening with no other bombers accompanying them. The plane took off from Guam, heading to Japan. 

Into Enemy Territory

Osaka finally came into view, and the camera began rolling. However, this was also the moment that flak started to fill the sky around them. As they crossed over land, anti-aircraft fire started to get heavier. White peered down at his bomb site, ensuring that they got the photographs they needed over the city. 

Just past midnight on May 9th, anti-aircraft gunners concentrated on Road Apple. Flying at low altitudes to get the best photos, White and his crew were vulnerable. The Japanese took advantage of this. Then, the aircraft took a direct hit, causing the pilot to lose control of the bomber. It all happened too fast. Luther White on the nose was either quickly knocked out of the G-forces of the diving aircraft or was unable to get to his assigned exit door. 

The Road Apple dove straight into Osaka. Higashi Osaka, a 17-year-old boy who watched Road Apple crash that night, recalled, “The B-29 engine fell into a neighboring house- his wife and baby died. One of the US soldiers whose parachute did not open, broke to the roof and fell where he was found dead on the workbench. The aircraft crashed into a nearby rice field and screw factory. The bodies of US soldiers found in the wreckage were collected in a field near the site.”

There was a single crew member who was able to bail out, but this wouldn’t be Luther White, but radio operator Capt. Richard H. Hamilton. He would be captured by the Japanese and executed a few weeks later. 

A Tragic Tale

Perhaps, one of the most tragic details of this story is that news would often take days or weeks to reach loved ones back home. Martha White, Luther White’s mother, even sent a letter to him dated May 20, 1945. She wrote how she went to a church service in their town, and that she prayed for him. 

Although she had no way of knowing, she rested her finger on her son’s name on the church program, she didn’t know she was already praying for her dead child. Her son was already shot down and killed 11 days prior. She would get the telegram a few days later that her son was missing in action and her letter would eventually be marked return to sender. Luther White had already given up his life in service to his country and his mother didn’t even know. 

A letter written to him by his sister was also found 80 years later- the content detailing how his family was desperately hopeful Luther was still alive. There’s no doubt that once it was confirmed that he was killed in action, the news devastated them like so many other families that lost loved ones during the war. 

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