On the night of June 8, 1944, Yawata Steel Works was the first target on the main islands of Japan to be attacked since the Doolittle raid of 1942. The strike was only possible because of America’s new long range super weapon, the Boeing B-29 super fortress. While this particular raid was ineffective, it made big headlines back home.
Again, during daylight on August 20th, 1944, squadrons of Boeing B-29’s from the 40th Bomb Group flying from bases in China, bombed Yawata Steel Works on northern Kyushu, Japan. Ray Troll, Sr., was the navigator (seated in the side window) on “Deuces Wild.”
An XO of the 40th BG, Col. Blanchard, took the left seat on this mission as an observer, while pilot, Robert Haley, flew from the right seat. The normal copilot sat out the mission. Jose Morales, MIA, a friend of Troll’s was the bombardier.
During the second Yawata raid, of the 75 airplanes dispatched from the 58th BW, 14 were lost. A Kamikaze pilot rammed one B-29 and the combined debris from the collision took down another B-29 flying in its wake. Another B-29 was shot down over the target area. Eleven more failed to return home, a loss of 154 American aircrew.
On approaching the target, Col. Blanchard, not normally on flying status, asked the radar operator to get ready to use the new radar set for bombing as there was a “cloud formation obscuring the target area." Morales, spoke up on the intercom and said, “Uh sir, that’s not a cloud, that’s flak." Ray Troll (Sr) also recalled that after they were exiting the target area, Col. Blanchard announced, “Lads, we’ve been hit!” Looking out his window, Troll could see that number 1 and 2 engines were working perfectly fine and the flight engineer, looking through a similar window on the other side of the aircraft could see that engines number 3 and 4 were also working perfectly. A few moments later Blanchard said, “Sorry lads, my canteen spilled, (on his backside) I thought I’d been hit." Troll also said that a number of “Zeros” flew past their aircraft (which were actually very similar looking Ki-43 Oscars), but none of them made any direct attack against Deuces Wild.
The B-29, Deuces Wild, aircraft number #42-6222, assigned to the 45th squadron, 40th BG was the first Boeing B-29 to come out of the Bell, Atlanta, plant and was essentially a hand-built aircraft. Early B-29’s like Deuces Wild were rushed into service, and were plagued with a host of problems which proved just as deadly to some B-29 crews as the enemy. With an alternate crew aboard, Deuces Wild ended its short career when it ran out of fuel on final approach, 22 days after the August Yawata mission. All aboard survived the crash.
Troll was the chief navigator for the 40th BG and flew on several important missions during WWII including the firebombing of Tokyo. It was the devastation wrought by B-29’s operating from Tinian and Guam that finally brought Japan to surrender.
This painting depicts Deuces Wild, beginning its initial turn after leaving the target area. The bombardier, Morales, swings the remote gun sight to port, steering the twin forward turret’s 4, 50 cal. machine guns onto fast approaching Ki-43s. The flak cloud over the target area frames the tail of 42-6222, while, “Ding How” (another B-29 of the 45th squadron, which Troll also flew on) flies wing on Deuces Wild.
Squadron artist, Charles Orlusky, painted the nose art, adapting a Vargas pinup girl for the cause.
This painting was commissioned by Ray Troll, Jr., and his sisters for their brother Tim’s 60th birthday.