Rain of Fire B-29s Over Japan, 1945 – 75th Anniversary Edition
By Charles L. Phillips, Jr  Colonel USAF (Ret.) 
Review by Allen Benzing (B-29 FIFI pilot)

I reviewed a previous edition of Rain of Fire in 2017.  The main body of the book has not changed, and comments made then still ring true, but I have updated and added information for this review.

 

General Curtis LeMay read the book and he liked it. “His is an accurate bona fide account – I commend it to you.”  And, in a phone call: “I really want the American people to be able to read what you have written!” 

 

This is an impressive memoir of a B-29 Pilot that offers the reader a great deal of insight into the missions and the men who undertook the bombing of Japan.  It is expansive in that there are ties to the Orient from his parents and early years, and that his missions extended from the high altitude bombing, through an array of low altitude and special missions, including minelaying and POW supply drops, and even a record non-stop flight from Iwo Jima to the US at the end of the war.  There were many changes in the man, the aircraft, mission strategy and the Homefront during 1945, which are presented in a very readable and interesting way. 

I reviewed a previous edition of Rain of Fire in 2017.  The main body of the book has not changed, and comments made then still ring true, but I have updated and added information for this review.

 

General Curtis LeMay read the book and he liked it. “His is an accurate bona fide account – I commend it to you.”  And, in a phone call: “I really want the American people to be able to read what you have written!” 

 

This is an impressive memoir of a B-29 Pilot that offers the reader a great deal of insight into the missions and the men who undertook the bombing of Japan.  It is expansive in that there are ties to the Orient from his parents and early years, and that his missions extended from the high altitude bombing, through an array of low altitude and special missions, including minelaying and POW supply drops, and even a record non-stop flight from Iwo Jima to the US at the end of the war.  There were many changes in the man, the aircraft, mission strategy and the Homefront during 1945, which are presented in a very readable and interesting way. 

 

Charles Phillips parents were long-time Missionaries in Korea, who were forced out by the Japanese – which affects this story in interesting ways.  The harsh reality of commanding a bomber, and later an entire Squadron, inflicting massive destruction and great loss of life, is a dilemma for anyone and in spite of, or perhaps because of his upbringing, he understood the necessity of these missions to end the war.

 

I learned new things about the B-29 – how engine life was extended from 250 to 750 hours, as improvements were made.  How different types of missions determined when fighter attacks, flak and phosphorous bombs were employed.  High altitude missions were failing, low altitude night missions were better for hitting the targets, but also dangerous, with extreme turbulence and hundreds of B-29s nearby.

There were also large daylight formation flights flown at mid-teen altitudes – improving bombing accuracy, but increasing the risk of enemy fighters and flak. I was surprised to learn that minelaying was forced on General LeMay by the Navy, but was highly effective in shutting down shipping.  Mines weighed 2000 lbs!

 

There are a number of ‘goosebumps on the arms’ moments from reading his accounts of the missions, but also of after the war of happenstance meetings with men who had a direct hand in his survival.  Some seemingly minor occurrences that later loomed large – a childhood experience on a seaplane, and talking with the pilot of another B-29 that had a successful ditching – then deducing what made the difference in survival – when he was forced to ditch on Aug 6th!  Meeting pilots of two different B-29s who flew overhead to direct a rescue boat to his ditched aircraft, and meeting a man who was aboard that LSM and helped bring the life rafts aboard.  And, there is the account of a respectful meeting with Zero Aces after the war.

 

The 75th Anniversary Edition, with additional historical information, includes my letter to Gayle Phillips Stafford (daughter of the author).  While touring with FIFI, the Commemorative Air Force’s B-29, we strive to accurately describe the aircraft, it’s crew and missions, so when I read this edition, I took many notes, with an eye toward using the book as a resource to help me ‘tell the story’.  

 

There are many interesting and rare items, such as a table of various B-29 bomb loads, along with fuel and flight planning.  And the flight plan for the record-breaking non-stop from Iwo Jima to Spokane, WA.

 

There are a number of relevant side-notes, such as a wrenching account of a close friend’s mistreatment as a POW and postwar nightmares, finally relieved by ‘meeting the enemy’.  And, the story from a young Japanese girl who was on the edge of the firestorms.  She later married an American G.I., now living in the US and is close friends with the Phillips family.

 

There are so many ‘goodies’ in this book, that would take me pages to relate.  So, I highly recommend you read the book!   Colonel Charles L. Phillips is among our nation’s real heroes.

EVENT INFORMATION
The B-29/B-24 Squadron is under the charter of the Commemorative Air Force

CONTACT US

CAF B-29/B-24 Squadron

Post Office Box 763577

Dallas, Texas 75376

Tel: (972) 387-2924


 

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