HILL AIR FORCE BASE — After three years of work, the story of a famed World War II bomber is ready to be told at the Hill Aerospace Museum.
Museum staff, volunteers and contractors recently completed an exterior restoration on the facility’s B-29 Superfortress, turning it into a replica of a retired WWII bomber that was used in Northern Utah to train for top secret war operations.
According to a Hill Air Force Base press release, the restoration will add years of life to the airframe and included new markings and insignias that represent the history of famed WWII bomber “Straight Flush.”
Nicknamed after pilot Capt. Claude “Buck” Eatherly’s fondness for gambling, the Straight Flush first went into service in 1945 with the U.S. Army Air Force’s 509th Composite Group. The group conducted atomic warfare and nuclear weapons training at Wendover Field in Utah. According to the base release, the plane played an important role in the Enola Gay’s atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.
After training in Utah, Eatherly eventually flew the plane to Tinian, a small Pacific Ocean island from where B-29s would drop two atomic bombs on mainland Japan. From June to August 1945, the Straight Flush flew 11 training missions and six combat missions, dropping bombs on Japanese targets. On Aug. 6, Eatherly flew the plane on a weather reconnaissance mission over Japan, ultimately giving the go-ahead for the Enola Gay to drop the bomb on Hiroshima.
Hill Aerospace Museum director Aaron Clark said the museum’s newly restored B-29 better portrays the history of Northern Utah aviation during WWII. The previous paint scheme on museum’s B-29 represented a different mission, unit, and airframe.
“We felt it was prudent that this (plane) represent a historically significant aircraft,” Clark said in the release.
Work on the plane, which lasted three years, included sanding its frame to bare aluminum, corrosion control, sheet metal work, and more. Clark said the majority of the markings were stenciled and painted by hand.
The Hill Aerospace Museum, 7961 Wardleigh Road, is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.