The Last Bomb

Synopsis: Documentary of the planning and delivery of the last great bomber attack on the city of Tokyo by the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II.
35 min

Early in 1945

our B-29s began full-scale

operations against Japan.

1,500 miles to the targets...

and 1,500 miles back.

From bases at Saipan, Tinian and Guam.

Here, 21st Bomber Command

concentrated its massive air power

and planned the ultimate

crushing defeat of Japan,

down to the last bomb.

Here was the beginning

of the end of the road to Tokyo.

After six months of reoccupation,

there were few signs of war along

the quiet summer shores of Guam.

The liberated Chamorrans

were back in their native villages,

American citizens again,

smiling and friendly, unaware that

a miracle had happened around them.

A miracle that moved mountains

of material, equipment and supplies

across the Pacific,

that changed their dirt roads

into highways,

that manicured their jungles

into acres of blacktopped airfields.

Nearby, new communities of American

citizens had set up housekeeping

with various types of self-service...

the latest labor-saving devices,

few laundry problems...

and no modern inconveniences.

By midsummer, 21st Bomber Command

was in business - big business.

Under General LeMay's direction,

Bomber Command began punching

the enemy with appalling power.

From Guam, Tinian, and Saipan

600-plane missions

increased the bombing weight

100 per cent in two months.

Behind this expanding power

was planning.

The LeMay plan began on the ground,

with maintenance.

Assembly-line technique

cut engine change time

from three days to less than half a day.

In shops and hardstands crews work

day and night during the blitz weeks

to keep more B-29s on the line.

By July, LeMay's Bomber Command

is an efficient,

well-drilled machine of destruction.

Here's a vital cog of that machine-

11 men and a bomber.

While they wind up for action,

let's find out where they're going

and some of the things they're going

to do and why and with what.

How do they set up the longest,

toughest bomber mission in history?

It began about 12 hours ago

in the war room at Guam

with General LeMay receiving a report

on tomorrow's weather in Japan.

Tomorrow's forecast is typical.

Nagoya, eight tenths

cloud above 10,000 feet.

In the east, Tokyo area

will be six tenths at 22,000,

three tenths at 14,000 feet,

closing up solid after 11 A.M...

Osaka and everything west

is completely socked in.

How will the general solve that one?

His B-29s are up against a blank wall

except for an opening around Tokyo.

The old man considers every factor

and makes his decision.

Four wings will strike Tokyo

at ten o'clock.

They'll go in under that weather

and bomb at 12,000.

Now it's a question of target selection.

First priority in the Tokyo area

is number 573.

Intelligence informs the general that 573

is already three quarters destroyed.

At the moment 574, still untouched,

would seem more important.

Operations checks

the tactical plan for 574.

General LeMay orders

the required changes, OKs the target

and commits

all executive details to his staff.

Operations, with its deputy chief of staff

and project officer,

goes to work setting up the changes.

In that plans folder

is a mountain of preparation

by special sections of

Intelligence and Operations,

a thousand hours of research,

collated facts and figures have

been distilled into tactical plan 574.

Aircraft will assemble as briefed

with three groups of P-51s for escort.

Smoke markers at one-minute intervals

will be dropped to expedite departure

from assembly point.

One squadron each wing

will carry M47 incendiary clusters.

Balance of squadrons,

500 and 1,000Ib GP bombs

fused a quarter second nose and tail.

Altitude of attack, 12,000 feet.

Planes of 314th wing

will carry capacity fuel loads

of approximately

7,300 gallons per plane.

Calibrated airspeed of 210mph will be

flown by all aircraft on bombing run.

Radar landfall 34 50' north and 01 40

east will be the same for all planes

to afford a good

land-water contrast checkpoint.

The Navy has requested to furnish

the following facilities

for air-sea rescue purposes-

three surface vessels

to proceed to positions X,

four submarines assigned

to lifeguard duties at positions Y,

two Dumbos to orbit at station Z,

four B-29s will orbit as super Dumbos

at the following positions.

The plan is double-checked.

To supervise

certain aspects of planning,

Lieutenant Colonel Caton,

a former lead crew pilot,

was brought over to staff

as project officer.

This officer's extensive

combat experience

helps to iron out operational kinks.

He will accompany this mission

to observe new smoke signals

at assembly point.

A field order is

now dispatched to the wings.

Takeoff time is flashed to the controller,

who coordinates the vast network

of communications

gathered here at the heart

and nerve center of command.

Here in the control room

status panels and a mission board

are maintained

to show at a glance the up-to-the-minute

details of all daily operations.

Prior to takeoff,

each mission is set up on the board

to afford a visual progress of the flight.

From takeoff to target and return.

Colored yarns, one for each wing,

are laid out to indicate the flight lines,

which pass close to Iwo Jima,

the halfway point.

And proceed as specified

in the field order to the proper target.

Other symbols are used to mark

air-sea rescue positions.

A timetable of statistics for each wing,

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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