By Pastor Dewey Roberts - Posted at Vanguard Presbyterian Church:On August 20, 1944, four American B-29’s built by Boeing were forced to make an emergency landing in far eastern Russia. One plane crash landed at Khabarovsk and the other three safely landed near Vladivostok. The crews of the three intact fighter planes thought that they would be allowed to refuel and fly out of Soviet territory, but they were wrong. Stalin had been asking Roosevelt to give the Soviets some B-29’s under the Lend-Lease program, but FDR refused ‘Uncle Joe’s’ request. The US was supplying its cunning and unreliable ally with almost everything in World War II from boots to bullets to lesser planes—but no B-29’s. The B-29 was a super fortress heavy bomber, one of the most aesthetically beautiful airplanes ever designed and built. It incorporated every state-of-the-art technology known to the aeronautical industry at the time, including cabin pressure and an analog computer-controlled fire alarm system. It could fly at high altitudes for strategic bombing and low altitudes for carpet bombing. The B-29 was the plane that dropped the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945. The design and production of the B-29 totaled $48 billion while the Manhattan Project for the atomic bomb only cost $1.8 billion. It is easy to understand why Stalin was so eager for the Soviets to take possession of these planes—and they did.
When those planes made their emergency landings, Stalin knew what he was going to do. Technically, he had grounds to seize them and not return them because the Soviet Union never declared war with Japan. Thus, it was against the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Act for them to aid America’s war against the Japanese. Stalin had likewise taken possession of a B-25 plane in 1942 and imprisoned the crew. He was simply doing what the US should have anticipated he would do. Yet, I believe, from a detailed study of Stalin, that he would have found a reason to keep those planes under any circumstance.
Once the B-29 was in the possession of the Soviet Union, Andre Tupelov was tasked by Stalin with disassembling the plane piece by piece and reverse engineering it. That was a monumental task involving numerous factories and engineers, but the Russians completed it and two years later had 20 Tupelov TU-4 airplanes. Finally, they had their heavy bomber. Yet, their reverse engineering retained all the problems of the B-29. A turret hole that was accidentally drilled into one of the wings was copied by the Soviets. The Achilles heels of the B-29 were reverse engineered into the Tupelov TU-4. One of those problems was the difficulty in getting airborne, particularly with a heavy payload. The Enola Gay barely was able to get off the ground when it set out to bomb Japan. Records show that the B-29 had twice as many planes to crash from malfunctions than the enemy shot down. Another problem was that the four engines often caused the wings to catch on fire. Both flaws were serious problems. The plane might not make it off the ground and if it did the wings might catch on fire. Nevertheless, the military departments of both the US and the USSR depended on the B-29 for many years and the design was used as a prototype for commercial airlines in both countries into the 1960’s.
Why am I writing about the B-29? Because we must be careful what prototype we use for everything we do in the church of the Lord Jesus...