The B-29s that were shot down over the Pacific island of Tinian in 1945 were “very dangerous,” a former pilot testified before a Senate committee on Wednesday, as lawmakers pressed the Air Force to declassify documents about the disaster.
The testimony was part of a wider effort to re-open the classified records, which had been sealed by President Trump and the Air National Guard.
Among those who testified in the Senate were Air Force Lt.
Gen. Stephen R. Tully, who commanded the B-26s that crashed in Japan in 1945 and is now a professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Tully testified that the B29s were “not very friendly,” and “very unsafe,” because they were “flying in low-level, low-altitude conditions.”
“The B-47s are very dangerous,” Tully said, referring to the B6 bombers that dropped the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
“You see the B7s and B8s and the B9s and that sort of thing.
You don’t see any of the B1s and they’re all very dangerous.”
Tullin added that the pilots who died in the B17s were among the “greatest pilots of all time.”
“There were some pilots who got to the other side and didn’t survive the crash,” he said.
“Some were very lucky, some were not.”
Tully said that when the B21 was shot down in the Philippines, it was “probably the worst crash of the war,” adding that the pilot was “almost killed.”
“He was a very skilled pilot and he was very good at his job,” Tullin said.
One B-25 pilot who was on the ground during the B27 crash in 1943 said that the plane that crashed into the Philippines was “the best airplane in the world.”
He also told the Senate panel that “in some ways, it is a better airplane than the B19.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked Tully whether the B24 crash in Korea in 1951 was similar to the 1945 B17 crash.
McCain said he “felt” that the “troubling thing” was that there were “no bodies” when the plane crashed into a riverbed.
Senators also heard testimony from former Air Force commander Richard B. Bales, who served as the chief of staff to President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1951 to 1953.
Balsley, a former Marine Corps pilot who commanded a B-24 bomber squadron during World War II, told the committee that “a lot of people thought it was an accident, and I don’t think that’s the case.”
Balsley said he had no regrets in having flown the B20 bombers during the Korean War, saying the B23s and its B21 counterparts were “great.”