B-29A 44-61669 “49 Three feathers”

The B-29 at the March Field Museum is an A model serial number 44-61669. It was delivered to the USAAF on 5 May 1945 at the Boeing facility in Renton, Washington.   It was assigned to the 20th Air Force, 73rd Bomb Wing, 500th Bomb Group, 833rd Bomb Squadron flying combat missions out of Saipan.  It carried the name “Flagship 500″ and had a “Z-49″ on its tail at the end of WWII.   Its last USAF assignment was in 1956 with the 581st Air Resupply Group at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. It was transferred as a TB-29A trainer to the US Navy on 18 March 1956.  The aircraft was recovered from the Naval Test Center at China Lake, restored by a private organization, and flown from Daggett Field, Barstow, to March AFB in January, 1981 by MARC (Military Aircraft Restoration Corp.). This aircraft is on loan from the USAF.

From 1981 to 2003, our B-29 had the nose art of the “Mission Inn” painted on the starboard nose.  (Click here to see more information about the “Mission Inn” B-29). This is the name of a famous hotel in neighboring Riverside, California, and was also the name applied to a former March Air Force Base – 22nd Bomb Wing “Superfortress” that served in the Korean War. When the museum’s B-29 (#44-61669) was recovered from the Gunnery ranges of the Naval Weapons Test Center – China Lake, California, in the mid 1970’s (it was flown to the March Field Museum in August 1981), its history was almost completely unknown. Because of the fact that there once was a B-29 stationed at March AFB with “Mission Inn” nose art, it seemed appropriate at the time (1981) to put that nose art on the museum’s B-29. But since learning of the airplane’s actual history in the 500th Bomb Group, including 11 combat missions during WWII, it is currently planned to restore her original paint scheme of Z49 with nose art  — Flagship “500”.

In June 1999, the museum learned that #44-61669 had been assigned to and flown by crews of the 883rd Bomb Squadron, 500th Bomb Group, 73rd Bomb Wing on Saipan! It was “Z-49″, and had been called “Flagship 500.” In checking back through the 73rd BW history, there is a photo (shown below) of this B-29 on page 5 in the January 1987 73rd Bomb Wing Newsletter. It was taken during an enroute stopover in Hawaii during “Operation Sunset.” One of its crew members: Colonel Jack Dougherty, Commander of the 500th Bomb Group, was clearly shown in the photo and caption. In this photo, the B-29’s name appeared in the 73rd BW “ball-and spear” insignia on the port side of the nose.


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15 Responses to “B-29A 44-61669 “49 Three feathers””

  1. John Hoffmann says:

    My uncle, Richard D. Metcalf was a bombardier in the 20th Air Force, 883rd Sq., 500th Bomb Group, on the B29, “Three Feathers”. I believe this is the same plane. I have his scrapbook of pictures and misc. documents, including some newspaper articles about a raid over Nagoya where a fighter knocked out an engine and cut an elevator cable. The B29 went into a 1,000 ft/min. dive. The pilot pulled it out, but as it was limping home, the engine tossed its propeller, which took out the engine next to it. It limped back to Saipan, low on fuel, but made a “perfect” landing. According to his book, the first crew was Capt. E.B. Feathers, Lt. Dick Metcalf, Lt. Homer Bourland, Lt. John E.D. Irving, Lt. Jack Alford, Sgt. Elmer E. Burch, Sgt. Ralph J. Darrow, Sgt. Matthew J. Moore, Sgt. Ewald Schultz, Sgt. William C. Taylor, and Sgt. Haston Powers.

    He has photos of many of the missions up until the end of the war, and even has a picture of the mascot, a small dog named, Three Feathers.

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  4. Pete White says:

    I have a picture of Z49 in formation with Mount Fujiyama in the background. When my Dad (Ben White) first arrived at Saipan he did his first couple of sorties in Z49 before he was assigned his own aircraft Z43. Z43 was given the Kick name Ben’s Raiders. My dad didn’t remember if he was flying Z49 when the picture was taken or if he took the picture from his plane during a bombing run. Cool picture ether way. So imagine my surprise to run across this on the web. The only thing that could have been cooler for me would be if the plane in the picture was Z43 with Ben’s Raiders on the Nose.

  5. John Hoffmann says:

    Mr. White:
    Would you be willing to share that picture with me? My family has many pictures taken from Z49, and around Z49, but none of the plane itself, except for the landing gear. I’d love to share it with the rest of the family.
    John Hoffmann

  6. Pete White says:

    Hey John
    I would be happy to send you a copy . Not sure how to share the picture accept by e-mail. Not sure I want to post my e-mail address here. Any ideas.
    Any chance you have any pictures of Z43.
    Do you have facebook?

  7. Pete White says:

    Second try. I would be happy to share the photo with you, the question is how?

  8. My Dad was the pilot of Z-49 during WWII. See our website (www.talkingbearsclan.wordpress.com) which includes a complete history of the crew and the plane by Joan Liska, whose father was a gunner on the plane.

  9. John Hoffmann says:

    Hi Pete:
    Yes, I’m on Facebook. My name has two “f”s and two “n”s and I’m in Woodburn, Oregon. We’ve just posted pictures of a wonderful visit to the March Field Museum on May 26th. I’ll look for pictures of Z43.

  10. pete petrillo says:

    pete white, do you know if jack dougherty / prescott martin flew with your dad. i have a similar photo that jack and pres gave to my father. just curious.

  11. Pete White says:

    I’ve been doing some digging around from what I have learned from the 3Fold archives and some other sites, This aircraft (44-61669) is in fact Flagship 500, not Three Feathers. Air Frame (42-24671) was Three Feathers, it was damaged 2/14/1945. When an aircraft crashed or was damaged and not airworthy it was taken out of service and a replacement aircraft could take it Tail number. There were three airframes that had the Tail number Z49. 42-24671- Three Feathers, 44-61669- Flagship 500, and 44-69878 which only flew 8 missions before it was damaged with an engine fire. Airframe (42-24671-three Feathers) was repair and put back into service as Z57 and it survived the war along with Flagship 500.
    So for Me, I have no idea which of the three Z49s I have a picture of from my Dad. I wish my Dad was alive so I could talk to him about the things I’m finding.
    On an other note; John Hoffmann, I think I found you on Facebook but you have never replied to my message.

  12. Pete White says:

    Here is more History from a different source of the three planes that had Tail number Z49

    42-24671 Delivered to USAAF 25Aug44. Assigned to 883rd Bomb Squadron, 500th Bomb Group Departed CONUS for CBI arriving 3Nov44.
    Named ‘Three Feathers’ Named by Captain Feathers for his wife and two daughters
    Damaged 14Feb45 on a mission to Nagoya by friendly fire from another B-29. Returned to CONUS – 53 missions
    Modified to TB-29. Assigned to 11th Radar Calibration Squadron (Air Defense Command), Hamilton AFB, CA
    Accident 30Jul51 taxing at Hamilton AFB, CA. Reclaimed at Tinker AFB, OK 4Oct54

    44-61669 Delivered to USAAF 5May45. Assigned to 457th Bomb Squadron, 330th Bomb Group Accident 2Aug45 taxing at North Field, Guam. Assigned to 833rd Bomb Squadron, 500th Bomb Group Named ‘4th Marine Division’. Named in tribute to the 4th Marines for their heroic efforts in liberating the Pacific islands of Iwo Jima, Tinian, Saipan, and Roi Namur, and commemorating 2000 B-29s flying off of Iwo Jima. Named ‘Three Feathers III’. Named ‘Flagship 500’ Named when the 500th Bomb Group Commander flew the aircraft back to the USA.
    Assigned to 2nd Bomb Squadron, 22nd Bomb Wing, March AFB, CA. TDY to Kadena AB, Okinawa [1950]
    Assigned to 19th Bomb Group, Andersen AFB, Guam
    Assigned to 581st Air Resupply Squadron, Mountain Home AFB, ID
    Assigned to 581st Air Resupply and Communications Wing, Kadena AB, Okinawa. Modified to TB-29A Transferred to US Navy 18Mar56
    Assigned to NAWS China Lake 18Mar56. Used as a ground target for weapons testing.
    Assigned to USAF Museum Loan Program; loaned to Yesterday’s Air Force 1974. Flown to Barstow, CA for storage Registered N3299F to ‘USAF Owner’, Long Beach, CA 30Apr76; cancelled 15Aug95
    On loan from the USAF Museum to the March Field Air Museum, March ARB, CA.
    Flown from Daggett Field, Barstow, to March AFB in January, 1981 by MARC (Military Aircraft Restoration Corp)The March AFB Museum painted it and gave it the name “Mission Inn”. That was until it was learned that this plane carried the name “Flagship 500”. It was repainted with the “Flagship 500” markings in 2003. Shortly after, it was learned that this plane has a WWII service record, and the name was “Three Feathers III”.

    44-69878 Delivered to USAAF 23Feb45. Assigned to 883rd Bomb Squadron, 500th Bomb Group. Named ‘Three Feathers II’ Modified to KB-29P at Boeing, Seattle, WA
    Assigned to 307th Air Refueling Squadron, 6th Bomb Wing, Walker AFB, NM Damaged 3Oct52 by fire at NAS Kwajalein, Marshall Islands
    Assigned to 307th Air Refueling Squadron, 6th Bomb Wing, Bergstrom AFB, TX
    Damaged 17Jul53 due to weather over New Orleans, LA

  13. Bud Baker says:

    Interesting to read all this history of 44-61669. I was the 15AF project officer for its restoration and recovery from Barstow-Daggett, and the navigator for its August 1981 flight to March AFB. (If you see pictures of some nut in a bucket truck stripping the black paint off -61669 at Barstow-Daggett, well, that would be me…)

    As one of these posts suggests, we knew none of its history then, so painting it in the image of the Korean War era ‘Mission Inn’ seemed appropriate at the time. If you compare the Korean War ‘Mission Inn’ nose art with that on 44-61669, you’ll see the caricature of the soldier running toward the little sign is toned down. That was due to 15AF Public Affairs, which threw a fit at the very thought of painting the soldier as he really appeared in the original art. The nose art on -61669 in 1981 was painted by Roger Shaner of HQ 15AF Graphics: A very talented artist, Roger also did a big and beautiful sketch of 61669 touching down, and that hangs in my office today.

    Good memories, and many kudos to those responsible for caring for -61669 all these years: You’ve done a beautiful job. bb

  14. Bud Baker says:

    For the record, the six-man flight crew for -61669’s 1981 return to March Field was Roy Reagan, pilot; David Tallichet, copilot, restaurateur, and financial supporter of -61669 from its 1976 recovery from China Lake thru our 1981 flight to March; Henry Spini, Bob Schneider, and Brian Wandel, all flight engineers; and yours truly, Captain Bud Baker, navigator. Leader of the Air Force ground maintenance crew was Staff Sergeant Tino Mojica, and my partner as project officer was Major Mike Freitas of HQ 15AF/XP. Mike went on to become the Director of the March Field Museum in its early days…..bb

  15. John Beck says:

    My uncle, Paul K Beck, was a member of the 883rd squadron, 500th Bomb Group (b0mbadier). On FoldC is found an image(# 295718029) of what is labeled “Cheney Crew – Z Square 57″. In the picture, the crew are standing directly in front of the Z57 fuselage. Nose art is not visible.

    Because Z-57 is believed to be the repaired original Z-49, wondering if it was Capt William G.Cheney and Crew that took over Z-49 (42-24671) after it was damaged, repaired and returned to service as Z-57 ?

    Based on information extracted from the 500th Bomb Group Web Site and specific combat missions cited in the Robert A Mann book “The B-29 Superfortres-A comprehenive Registry of the Planes and Their Missions” it appears Paul flew eleven missions between 3 Dec 1944 and 19 Feb 1945 (Toyoko, Nagoya, Truk).

    Paul survivied the war. Z-49 \ Z-57 (42-24671) is listed as “reclaimed” at Tinker AFB in the Mann book.
    I gather that means it was salvaged for parts and not saved. Paul’s eleven missions beginning in late 1944 seem to fit with arrival of the 883rd in Saipan. It would be helpful to crossmatch those combat sortie dates with the date Z-49 was repaired and returned to service as Z-57. Unable to find such data.

    Appreciate any guidance…..jb

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