The Restored B-29 Superfortress “Doc” Was Made Airworthy By The Dedication Of Veterans And Volunteers

B-29 Doc bomber aircraft
B-29 Doc bomber aircraft

Tony Mazzolini had a big plan.  A very big plan, it turns out.

The Korean War vet became obsessed with restoring the last restorable B-29 Superfortress in the world. The project has been on his mind for thirty years.

“It’s part of the Greatest Generation, and we want to keep the memories alive,” he said.

The B-29 was the most technologically advanced bomber in the world during World War II. It was capable of obliterating the enemy’s ability to wage war, including its most famous mission, dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Mazzolini was a flight engineer on a B-29 during the Korean War.  By that time, it was almost an obsolete aircraft, being overtaken by the jet airplanes of the time.  The ones that hadn’t been lost in combat were sent to the China Lake Naval Weapons Center in the Mojave Desert in California.  There, the majestic bombers were used for target practice.

“They were just in millions of pieces,” Mazzolini said.

People kept telling Mazzolini that all of the restorable B-29s had already been taken.  But Mazzolini found one mostly intact in the airplane cemetery at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center.  A few dozen fans helped pull the plane, known as “Doc,” from the airplane cemetery and tore it apart to be shipped to the former Boeing plant in Wichita, Kansas.  It happens to be the very plant where Doc was originally assembled in 1945.

“My mother, father, grandmother all worked on ‘em; my mom started the day after she turned 16 years old,” said airplane mechanic T.J. Norman, one of a long line of B-29 mechanics.  He took on the project, not just to get Doc ready to display in a museum but to get her flying again.

Before long, hundreds of volunteers were arriving to help with the project.

Connie Palocioz is 91 years old.  She’s one of the original Riveters who worked at the Boeing plant back in the war.  She even put rivets into Doc.  She came back to help get Doc back in the air.

Connie and the other volunteers call themselves “Doc’s Friends.” They’ve spent hundreds of thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of donated dollars to restore Doc.

Charles Chauncey, 92, is awed by the project.  He was a B-29 pilot for the Army Corps, flying 35 missions over Japan, CBS News reported.

On the day of Doc’s first test flight, the volunteers waited in restless anticipation.  They lined up along the runway and watched as Doc rumbled by.  Then, 60 years after her last flight, she was in the air.

“It’s up!! It’s up!!! All right!! It’s up, by God, it’s up!!” was all Mazzolini could say.

They had done it. The critics said it couldn’t be done, but the heroic efforts of the volunteer team had returned a B-29 to the skies.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE