There are some days in history that are harder to remember than others, mainly because those days mark something awful but nevertheless they are an important day. Seventy-five years ago the allied powers dropped the second atomic bomb on Japan. Six days later, Japan surrendered and WWII was officially over. While the ink wasn’t dry until September, and fighting occurred on islands in the Pacific far longer than September, officially it was over. The use of atomic weapons changed the face of the globe forever and while the cost was justified at the time, the idea being that more would die in an invasion than using the bomb, it is still hard to fathom that mankind was capable of such a thing. WWII saw a massive change in technology in a very short amount of time, not much different than the world we live in today. With these technological advancements comes the responsibility to use them wisely.
Today is a very important day and I hope that it gets recognized this year with everything else that is going on. Today marks the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, Victory Europe when Germany surrounded in 1945 bringing to an end the ground war of WWII. WWII wasn’t officially over until Japan surrendered in August of 1945 but for many a large part of the destruction was over. Many brave soldiers lost their lives in this bloody conflict and many more civilians lost their lives needlessly.
Five years ago, a massive tribute was held over the national mall when 52 WWII planes flew over the State Capitol in honor of this tremendous day. Over seven hundred veterans and thirty thousand people showed up to view this once in a lifetime event.
When you’re a photographer you get to be a part of many great moments that most people don’t even know about. I’ve been fortunate in my young career as a photographer to have been a part of some of these moments. Of all the ones I have been a part of, none have been more impactful on me then this one. Seeing a B-29 fly is pretty amazing in todays world but seeing one fly over the National Mall is epic.
One of the most iconic bombers of WWII, the B-29 Superfortress helped bring an end to the war by dropping thousands of pounds of bombs on the Pacific held Japanese bases. The most famous missions were the dropping of the atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The B-29 went on to serve as a platform for the advancement of high altitude aircraft as well as sixteen years of service with the USAF. It was retired on June 21st 1960. Today, two airworthy examples can be seen in the sky and both are worth seeing.
Scale was always something that I found fascinating when it came to photography. Something so large could always be summed up in such a small image. Often times those subjects are photographed with a small lens, like this B-29 with it’s 141ft wingspan, captured with a 24-70 AF-S. Finding the right combination to show the correct amount of scale can be challenging but when done right it can look very natural.
Truthfully I don’t need a reason, I’m always happy to put up a picture of a big bomber. Most of these planes were work horses then and after WWII. Well today actually marks an interesting day in aviation history, in 1944 B-29 bombers of the Twentieth Air Force took off from Air Bases in China to bomb mainland Japan. It was the second proper raid against Japan in the history of the Pacific and it was the 1st raid after the famous Doolittle raid in 1942. It was the start of a bloody bombing campaign that left many dead. Only one of those magnificent silver planes is left flying today but hopefully Doc, the second B-29, will be up flying at Airshows soon.
I’m always reading up on new dates in history and trying to remember them. That’s usually the hard part. I was doing some light reading the past night and found that today was the first day during WWII that B-29’s were launched from the Marianna Islands to bomb Truk Atoll. Truk was a major sea and air base for the Japanese and was considered as valuable to them as Pearl Harbor was for us. In February of 1944 Task Force 58, a combined strength of 8 carriers and 6 battleships, under the command of Admiral Mitscher launched against Truk Atoll. Bombers from the Twentieth Air Force bombed Truk Atoll as part of the island hopping campaign to destroy the stronghold.
They always say it’s better to be lucky than good. In some cases that’s a very true statement in photography. Even the best of plans can go south, which especially goes true when dealing with light. Often times the best moments were the unexpected ones, when life does it’s own thing without planning. This brings me to this photograph of the B-29 Superfortress “FIFI.” When photographing it one early morning it was of big surprise, and at first glance annoyance, to see 12 national guards doing their morning routine. This included walking around the plane. But it turned out to be a very fortuitous circumstance, because they ended up looking like a flight crew going out to the plane. The B-29 could hold a crew of eleven and their happens to be twelve people here, pretty darn close! The illusion comes across of this plane going out on a early mission instead of just being parked. Luck was on our side that morning.
In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film
I love how much thought goes into all the different routines and acts that are incorporated in the airshow. One of my favorite was on Friday when “FIFI” the only B-29 Superfortress flying in the world right now flew overhead with three B-25 Mitchell bombers and two TBM Avengers. It flew after the Tora! Tora! Tora! display which in itself is a great performance! The bombers flew in support of the bombing effort of WWII
It was great to see FIFI flying over the field. After she took off she started to make a high orbit and for a moment it looked like she was going to stay that way. Thankfully she lined up on runway 36 and made a slow northward pass. Afterward she did an orbit with the other planes that were going to be in the formation and came in overhead in a arrowhead formation. I actually had to switch to the 70-200 to get the shot of all the planes together they were flying so close overhead and in such a tight formation. Then again that B-29 is one big ass plane.
In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 200-400 VR, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film