Definitions

laggin

Laggin' Dragon (B-29)

Laggin' Dragon was the name of a B-29 Superfortress (B-29 serial 44-86347-50-MO, victor number 95) participating in the atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

Assigned to the 393rd Bomb Squadron, 509th Composite Group, it was used as a weather reconnaissance plane and flew to the city of Nagasaki, designated as the secondary target, before the final bombing to determine if conditions were favorable for an attack. Crew B-8 (Capt. Charles McKnight, airplane commander), normally assigned to another aircraft, actually flew the mission.

Airplane history

Laggin' Dragon was the last of the fifteen Silverplate B-29s delivered to the 509th for use in the atomic bomb operation. Built at the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft plant at Omaha, Nebraska, it was accepted by the USAAF on June 15, 1945, after most of the 509th CG had already left Wendover Army Air Field, Utah, for Tinian. Assigned to Crew A-2 (Capt. Edward M. Costello, Aircraft Commander), it was flown to Wendover in early July and briefly used in training and practice bombing missions.

On July 27, 1945, Costello and his crew flew the airplane from Wendover to Kirtland Army Air Field, Albuquerque, New Mexico, accompanied by another 509th B-29 and one from the Manhattan Project test unit at Wendover (216th Base Unit). There each loaded one of three Fat Man atomic bomb assemblies (without the plutonium core, which had left the day before by courier on one of the 509th CG's C-54 Skymaster transports) in its bomb bay for conveyance to Tinian.

The three bombers flew to Mather Army Air Field, California, on July 28, and took off for Hawaii on July 29. Shortly after takeoff from Mather, a panel door on Laggin' Dragon enclosing the life raft compartment opened and ejected the raft, which wrapped around the vertical stabilizer and impeded the B-29's rudder. The aircraft nearly crashed in the Pacific Ocean but the pilots managed to return safely to Mather. After minor repairs, Laggin' Dragon and its cargo continued to Hawaii, finally reaching Tinian on August 2.

It was assigned the square P tail identifier of the 39th Bomb group as a security measure and given victor number 95 to avoid misidentification with actual 39th BG aircraft. The airplane was named and nose art applied after the atomic missions, and purportedly referred to the methodical Costello's reputation for "lagging behind" and the 393rd Squadron's dragon insignia. It arrived too late to participate in other combat operations and participated in two practice flights subsequent to the atomic attacks.

The airplane returned to the United States in November 1945, based with the 509th CG at Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico. In June 1946 it was part of the Operation Crossroads task force based on Kwajalein. In June 1949 it was transferred to the 97th Bomb Wing at Biggs Air Force Base, Texas, and in April 1950 was converted to a TB-29 trainer at Kelly Air Force Base, Texas, and the Oklahoma City Air Materiel Area at Tinker Air Force Base.

It was subsequently assigned to:

  • 10th Radar Calibration Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan (September 1952),
  • 6023rd Radar Evaluation Flight, Yokota AB (March 1954), Johnson Air Base, Japan (July 1956),
  • 6431st Air Base Group, Naha Air Base, Okinawa (July 1958),
  • 51st Air Base Group, Naha AB (July 1960), where it was dropped from inventory and scrapped.

Nagasaki mission crew

Crew B-8 (regularly assigned to Top Secret)

  • Capt. Charles F. McKnight, airplane commander
  • 2nd Lt. Jacob Y. Bontekoe, co-pilot
  • 2nd Lt. Jack Widowsky, navigator
  • 2nd Lt. Franklin H. MacGregor, bombardier
  • 1st Lt. George H. Cohen, flight engineer
  • Sgt. Lloyd J. Reeder, radio operator
  • T/Sgt. William F. Orren, radar operator
  • Sgt. Roderick E. Legg, tail gunner
  • Cpl. Donald O. Cole, Assistant engineer, scanner

Other aircraft named Laggin' Dragon

Three FB-111A strategic bombers of the USAF 509th Bomb Wing, serials 68-0269, 68-0274 and 68-0284, carried the name and original nose art of Laggin' Dragon on their nosewheel doors while based at Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire, in the 1970s and 1980s.

External links

Sources

  • Campbell, Richard H., The Silverplate Bombers: A History and Registry of the Enola Gay and Other B-29s Configured to Carry Atomic Bombs (2005), ISBN 0-7864-2139-8
  • 509th CG Aircraft Page, MPHPA
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