Building the B-29 (Smithsonian History of Aviation and Spaceflight)
The B-29 Superfortress bomber was the single most complicated and expensive weapon produced by the United States during World War II. Nearly 4,000 B-29s were built for combat in the Pacific theater, including the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima. Assembled on a rush basis by a vast manufacturing program that involved hundreds of thousands of workers, the B-29 boosted the Allies' wartime fortunes as it transformed the economies of cities and towns from Seattle, Washington, to Marietta, Georgia, and from Wichita, Kansas, to Woodridge, New Jersey.
Well-illustrated with photographs of factories and diagrams of the plane's design, Building the B-29 presents the social and institutional history of this monumental industrial project. Envisioned in the late 1930s as a way of demolishing the military infrastructure behind enemy lines, the Superfortress was at first resisted by the reluctant, isolationist Congress of the late 1930s. Jacob Vander Meulen describes the efforts of Henry "Hap" Arnold and others to launch the project via a process now called "concurrency," in which production is set up while the product is still on the drawing boards. He describes the technical and financial gambles on the part of manufacturers and, using photographs and diagrams, he illustrates the far-reaching changes the B-29 plants brought to their communities, as Depression-era unemployment gave way to labor shortages and as farm workers and women entered U.S. factories for the first time.
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