The beginning of the jet age toward the end of WWII was a huge change in military aviation. Fast and powerful jet fighters could now climb to the high altitudes that heavy bombers like the Boeing B-29 Superfortress were thought to be safe at. Although the bombers could still fight back with their own guns, bombing raids in the next war would become even more dangerous.
During the Korean War, the B-29 was initially employed in much the same way as it was during WWII. Large formations flew at high altitude on strategic daytime bombing runs. However, the B-29 quickly bombed itself out of a job as North Korea’s few strategic targets and industries were destroyed in a short amount of time. Moreover, the Soviet MiG-15 jet fighter posed a serious threat to the bomber formations. After the loss of 28 aircraft, B-29s were restricted to nighttime raids; primarily supply-interdiction missions.
The B-29 flew the duration of the Korean War, from 1950-1953. During that time, B-29s flew a total of 20,000 sorties and dropped 180,000 tons of bombs. Although 57 Superfortresses were lost to enemy action, B-29 gunners are credited with 27 enemy kills. The most notable of these was the B-29 named Command Decision, with a record five MiG-15 kills; the world’s only bomber “jet ace.”
To become an ace, a pilot must score five aerial kills. Although bomber crews are not officially recognized as aces for their aerial kills, unofficial counts are recorded by the individual crews. However, the Air Force does officially recognize Command Decision‘s historic five jet kills. During the Korean War, Command Decision flew with the 28th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomb Group. In addition to their five jet kills, the crew flew a total of 121 combat missions and dropped 2,500,000 millions pounds of bombs.
According to the Air Force, the aircraft was named after a popular 1948 film about the difficult decisions and heavy casualties faced by bomber crews over Europe during WWII. Today, Command Decision and her crew are honored with a walk-through fuselage display in the Korean War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Although the fuselage is not the original Command Decision, it is painted to represent the famous aircraft. The exhibit does feature equipment from the original aircraft including its compass, altimeter, and sighting station.