B-29 Flight Engineer 1944 US Army Air Forces Training Film; Ronald Reagan, John Payne

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Narrated by Ronald Reagan. Starring John Payne. Directed by Richard L. Bare ("Green Acres"). Leader and message at opening; film really starts at 1:32.

"Describes the flight engineer's job during a B-29 flight. Lots of dials and switches."

US Army Air Forces Training Film TF1-3354.

Public domain film from the US National Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).

"Confessions of a Hollywood Director" by Richard L. Bare

...Major Van Keuren assigned me to direct a film about the flight engineer on the B-29 Superfortress... I gathered together my crew, including Sergeant Arthur Gardner and Corporal Jules Levy, and twenty or so cameramen, sound men, electricians and grips. Assigned to be the production manager was a young ex-assistant director from the David O. Selznick organization, Lieutenant Cecil Barker, who after the war went on to be the producer of The Red Skelton Show...

...We took off for Denver, Colorado, and I was introduced to the young man who was going to star in the film, playing the flight engineer on the B-29 [actually playing a co-pilot who was taking a turn as flight engineer for training purposes]. At the war's beginning, John Payne was at the height of his career, and had been drafted into the army...


The B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber designed by Boeing that was flown primarily by the United States toward the end of World War II and during the Korean War. It was one of the largest aircraft to have seen service during World War II and a very advanced bomber for its time, with features such as a pressurized cabin, an electronic fire-control system, and a quartet of remote-controlled machine-gun turrets operated by the fire-control system in addition to its defensive tail gun installation. The name "Superfortress" was derived from that of its well-known predecessor, the B-17 Flying Fortress. Although designed as a high-altitude strategic bomber, and initially used in this role against the Empire of Japan, these attacks proved to be disappointing; as a result the B-29 became the primary aircraft used in the American firebombing campaign, and was used extensively in low-altitude night-time incendiary bombing missions. One of the B-29's final roles during World War II was carrying out the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Due to the B-29's highly advanced design for its time, unlike many other World War II-era bombers, the Superfortress remained in service long after the war ended, with a few even being employed as flying television transmitters for the Stratovision company. The B-29 served in various roles throughout the 1950s. The Royal Air Force flew the B-29 and used the name Washington for the type, replacing them in 1953 with the Canberra jet bomber, and the Soviet Union produced an unlicensed reverse-engineered copy as the Tupolev Tu-4. The B-29 was the progenitor of a series of Boeing-built bombers, transports, tankers, reconnaissance aircraft and trainers including the B-50 Superfortress (the first aircraft to fly around the world non-stop) which was essentially a re-engined B-29. The type was finally retired in the early 1960s, with 3,970 aircraft in all built. While dozens of B-29s have survived through today as static displays, only one, Fifi, remains on active flying status.

A transport derived from the B-29 was the C-97, first flown in 1944, followed by its commercial airliner variant, the Boeing Model 377 Stratocruiser in 1947. This bomber-to-airliner derivation was similar to the B-17/Model 307 evolution. The tanker variant of the B-29 was introduced in 1948 as the KB-29, followed by the Model 377-derivative KC-97 introduced in 1950. A heavily modified line of outsized-cargo variants of the B-29-derived Stratocruiser is the Guppy / Mini Guppy / Super Guppy which remain in service today with operators such as NASA...


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