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Ryukyus

A B-29 with one engine out is escorted to Iwo Jima by another Superfortress. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A B-29 with one engine out is escorted to Iwo Jima by another Superfortress. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A B-17 "Flying Dutchman" is refueled on Okinawa in 1945. The aircraft is fitted with a droppable lifeboat and other gear for air-sea rescue operations. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A B-17 "Flying Dutchman" is refueled on Okinawa in 1945. The aircraft is fitted with a droppable lifeboat and other gear for air-sea rescue operations. (U.S. Air Force photo)


The capture of Iwo Jima did not completely eliminate the need for a comprehensive air-sea rescue program along the B-29 route to Japan. Such a program had begun with the first B-29 training missions and continued throughout the rest of the war, an effort that paid dividends in lives saved and in improved morale, which meant greater combat efficiency. Lifeguard submarines and destroyers plus patrol aircraft stationed along the flight route aided in the rescue of about half of the approximately 1,300 crewmembers known to have gone down at sea between November 1944 and July 1945. By war's end, there was one man involved in air-sea rescue operations for each three B-29 combat crewmen.

Statistics, however, do not reflect the human side of the story -- the tedious hours of frustrating search, the long hours of anxious waiting afloat in turbulent seas in a life jacket or raft, or the skill and daring of AAF and naval personnel who made the pickups off the enemy coast or in the Japanese inland sea itself. In contrast to Allied efforts, the Japanese made only limited provisions for rescue operations.

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Boeing B-29 Superfortress
Iwo Jima
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