Delmar Stevens

B-29 Pilot

Artwork and Research By;

Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

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Signed and numbered by the Artist and autographed by Captain Stevens.

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This is my painting of "Battlin' Beauty". Painting size is 2x4 feet.

I met Delmar Stevens at a small air show in Keystone Heights, Florida in February 2009. I told him that I had not worked with a B-29 pilot and asked if he was interested. He said yes.

This is a great photo of Stevens bomber artwork.

This is Stevens and his crew with their B-29, "Superstitious Aloysious". This was his second B-29 he flew over Japan.

Airplane Commander, Delmar Stevens

Delmar Stevens was born in 1920 in Michigan. Before Stevens graduated from college, the United States entered the WWII. He graduated form Michigan State University and enlisted in the Army Air Corp. After basic training and earning his wings, Delmar was sent to Hobbs , New Mexico for training in the B-17. After Stevens completed training in the B-17, he was one of eleven pilots selected to join the first B-29 group. The B-29 was the most advanced bomber in the war. Not only was the bomber larger than the rest, it was equipped with the latest equipment and technology that was available at the time.

In 1943 Delmar arrived at Pratt Air Field in Kansas which was the home of the 40th Bomb Group where he was assigned to the 25th Squadron.  The 25th only had one B-29 at the time because the B-29 was still new and construction was just getting geared up for mass production. His first flight in the B-29 was uneventful and filled with a little tension because one of the engines blew a cylinder and they had to circle the airfield and land right away. His second flight came later once the squadron received their full complement of bombers. Stevens’s second flight was to fly to Washington DC and back loaded with the heaviest load the B-29 had ever flown with before.

The B-29 had two bombays. Each bombay was loaded with two 600 gallon auxiliary tanks totaling four tanks in all. The additional 2400 gallons plus full wing tanks gave the pilots and crew the felling of how the plane would perform when weighted down in combat. Stevens was flying as co-pilot and said that the take off was uneventful and the bomber handled perfectly.

However, by the time they reached Wichita, Kansas, number four engine lost oil pressure at 6,000 feet. They tried to feather the prop but it would not work. Colonel Wilkinson, the pilot started to turn back to Pratt when the flight engineer informed the pilots that number three engine was now loosing oil pressure. They were able to feather the number three prop as they turned back for the airbase which was about 30 miles away. The pilot had four hours of flying time in the B-29 where as Delmar had only flown the pattern around the airbase one time. "Not much experience between us,” Stevens told me as they were flying the new bomber which was loaded with gasoline. Wilkinson and Stevens agreed that they should jettison the auxiliary fuel tanks. So somewhere over Kansas, four tanks containing 2,400 gallons of gasoline was dropped. A gallon of gas weighs six pounds per gallon so this would reduce the landing weight by14400 pounds.

As they were heading back to Pratt, Wilkinson and Stevens were going over procedures for landing. The bomber was all electrical operated by six generators. Three of the generators were on the dead engines and they worried if the remaining generators were able to operate the landing gear and the flaps at the same time.  Wilkinson had Stevens lower the landing gear first and held off on dropping the flaps. This was a wise decision because they were running the risk of either the landing gear or the flaps working but not both. As a consequence the flaps did not fully lower as the wheels hit the runway. Since the landing speed was faster than normal, both pilot and co-pilot stood on the brakes as they ran off the end of the runway into a snow bank. The right tire had blown and was on fire yet everyone was safe. The B-29 had many problems with its production that still needed to be worked out. Engine failure was the worst of the problems.

Other flights from the squadron followed until the entire Group was ready for combat and were transferred to India. Once in India they found that they had some things to do before they could even enter combat. In order to carry out the first mission against the Japanese mainland the squadron had to fly their bombs and gasoline over the Hymalia Mountains to their forward bases in China. They had to bring everything they needed to operate as a squadron with them over the high mountains. Stevens flew as a co-pilot on eleven missions back and forth over the “Hump” bringing in supplies. Gas and bombs, gas and bombs one flight after another. Later C-47’s and other cargo aircraft would take up the burden of bringing in their supplies after the bomb group settled in. This was one hell of a way to go into combat.

Stevens started his combat tour flying co-pilot with the Squadron Commander. In fact during his first six missions he flew co-pilot with the first three Squadron Commanders flying two missions with each Commander. Col. Wilkinson, Col. Luna, and Col. Kingsberry. All Commanders were experienced pilots with Wilkinson flying combat in B-17's early in the war. Luna was a veteran pilot with American Airlines and Kingsberry had flown with Western Airlines. Stevens told me that all three men had different types of personalities but they were all excellent pilots and good men.

As to the type of missions the squadrons attacked at first were targets in China and Southeast Asia. Stevens flew on two missions over Manchuria hitting steel mills and other related military industrial targets. Another two missions were over Formosa hitting ammunition depots. Not long after their missions started replacement crews were already filtering into the squadrons replacing crews that had been lost in combat or through accidents. Seriously injured personal were sent back to the States as well. Some crew members were sent back to train new crews.

New pilots were first sent on missions as co-pilots with an experienced pilot and crew before they got their own bomber with the crew they had trained with in the States. The pilot and crew were trained together in the States but the pilot had to gain experience first and then he would be assigned a bomber manned by the crew he originally trained with.

Unfortunately one of the new pilots was shot down on a mission over Rangoon, Burma so his crew was assigned to Stevens who was still a co-pilot and was at this point a Second Lieutenant. He received a rapid promotion to First Lieutenant yet he had the dubious distinction of being the lowest ranked Airplane Commander of the 40th Bomb Group even though it was a very brief period of time.

Stevens said that he was fortunate because the crew he inherited were well trained and worked together as a team. Together they flew thirty missions all over South East Asia with many missions over Japan. Stevens said that during his combat missions he had a lot of close calls but none where he or his crew members were injured and the bomber badly damaged. I asked him if his close calls were with enemy aircraft, anti-aircraft fire, or aircraft malfunctions. He said some of each.

I asked him to describe one aerial combat encounter. He said that the Japanese figured out that attacking the rear of the B-29 was suicidal so they would attack head on. During one mission they were to hit the Japanese Naval Base at Kure, Japan. Stevens was concentrating on his bomb run when a twin engine enemy fighter attacked his bomber head on. With both aircraft racing towards each other the rate of closure was quick. At first Stevens was sure that the Japanese was going to forfeit his life and collide with his B-29. With Stevens sitting in the front row seat he admitted that he was anxious when at the last moment the twin engine fighter swerved sharply to the left and tore off the wing of the B-29 that was next to him. The B-29 that was hit was his wingman. Unfortunately the collision was fatal sending the bomber and its crew towards the earth. Many men did not survive these shoot downs because once the bomber started to spin or roll the centrifugal  force can keep a grown man pinned to the inside of the airplane unable to move. Thus they were unable to escape.

During his service Stevens earned the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross with 4 Battle Stars and the Presidential Unit Citation.

To read more about Delmar please consider one of our prints or one of our upcoming books. Thank you.

This is Delmar autographing the painting of the "Battlin Beauty".

Here is Delmar and the Artist.

If you like to build scale models of your favorite bomber, do not forget to visit our Hobby Shoppe.

Sir Hamilton's Hobby Shoppe, U.S. Heavy Bomber Models

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On July 5, 2010 I got a call from Delmar's family. They wanted to let me know that He had passed away the day before.

On July 4, 2010 I spent all day and into the night typing on my first book. I found the experience the most patriotic thing I had ever done. I spent hours and hours reading and writing about the bravest men that ever fought for our country under the most unusual conditions. Delmar served the United States of America with cool-headed assuredness that all American bomber pilot are known for.

This was the day I first met Delmar at a local air show in Keystone Heights, Florida.

Delmar always took his Superfortress and crew to the target and back many times. But he left us on July the Fourth, Two-Thousand and Ten.

If you like to build plastic model kits then here is a kit by Revell/Monogram in 1/48 scale. This is a large model but worth the effort.

We also have this kit by several different companies in 1/72 scale.

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Interesting B-29 facts;

In the May 2010 issue of Aviation magazine, they had an article about a B-29 pilot named, First Lieutenant O. Dann DeWitt. Dann as you can imagine experienced all the same hardships that all the other B-29 Groups faced when they were sent to bomb Japan. It was a great article but what caught my eye was some incredible statistics. Lt. DeWitt mentioned that his Group, the 504th lost 26 B-29's to combat and four to operational failures. He continued with a staggering series of numbers that I need to check. He claims that "nearly" 500 B-29's were lost by all groups in the Pacific. This represents the loss of 5,000 airmen. Fewer than 200 of the 5,000 airmen survived.

That is incredible. This fairly much says that if your B-29 was shot down, you could pretty much kiss it all good-bye. However, each man held his own conviction that "it wouldn't happen to him." How stout the heart can be when the need arises.

I would like to add that I do not doubt the statistics but I do want to see this referenced in another book. The consequences are astounding. When I first started to research WWI  was wondering why the Japanese did not make a better account of themselves. Apparently they did. The Japanese did a great job of defending their island as best they could. The Japanese were simply overwhelmed by our numbers as were the Germans. But the size of the Superfortress was overwhelming to the Japanese fighter pilots. Huge beautiful silver super-bombers. A Luftwaffe pilot in a small Messerschmitt 109 would have though that the B-29 was insurmountable as well.

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All research, writings and artwork are by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette.

No one is permitted to republish any part of this story with out my personal permission.

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Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

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Green Cove Springs, Florida 32043

E-Mail Address; aviationartstore@peoplepc.com

Posted March 22, 2009

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