A Trip Across the Pond

I was asked by Chris Howlett why the Hawg Wild was flown to England instead of taking her apart and shipping her to the museum. Here is my long winded response:

It turns out that it was cheaper to fix up Hawg Wild and fly her over the pond than it was to take it apart and ship it. I remember Jack telling a story about the project engineers from Duxford when they were assessing the possibilities of getting her airworthy. They were talking about removing the engines to have them rebuilt and Jack said "why?" The engineers thought that the engines would be frozen after having sat idle for 30+ years. Jack walked over the aircraft and pulled a prop through by hand to the amazement of the Imperial War Museum staff. He said that the original engines would most likely be perfectly good and except for number threes "unfortunate appetite for oil" they were.

I heard that Jack's company was over $10,000 cheaper than any of the other bidding companies. It was comforting to know that aircraft was being made airworthy by the lowest bidder! Seriously though, Jack was the man for the job. His company made a living bringing aircraft out of the bone yard at Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson. I doubt that there was a better outfit to do that job, not to mention that he had done it two times previous with FiFi and The Mission In.

How my Father and I got on the B-29 was an interesting story. I was a volunteer at the Pima Air Museum in Tucson throughout the summers of my high school years and I mostly worked on the B-29 Sentimental Journey. My friend and boss at Pima was Bob Johnson who was the Director of Restoration. Bob called me at home to tell me about the Hawg Wild project at China Lake. He gave me the contact information for Geoff Bottomley and said jokingly that maybe I could get a ride. I talked to Geoff about the project which was fascinating. I did express an interest in riding along at the time. My Dad had some good contacts at Hughes and he was able to arrange a trip to go and see the H-1 Hercules or Spruce Goose. The H-1 was still tucked away in secret in her original hangar in Long Beach and was not open to the public. My Dad invited Geoff Bottomley along on to see the H-1 with us. What an incredible sight to see the Hercules in her original home. I remember as we walked in to the hangar we were standing beneath the horizontal stabilizer and elevator. We just stood there with our mouth agape looking up at this immense aircraft truly in awe. I remember Geoff saying, in his beautiful British accent, that "that horizontal is bigger than the main plane on the Lancaster".

I believe that Geoff felt that he owed my Father a debt of gratitude for arranging the visit to the H-1 so he offered for us to fly on the B-29 with one caveat; He didn't want us to fly past the East coast of the United States as he didn't have complete confidence that she would make it all the way and he didn't want to have to tell my mother what had happened to her husband and son. Needless to say my Father eagerly accepted the offer much to the consternation of my Mother! She really was bent that my Dad didn't consult with her before deciding to go. I thought it was the right thing to do just in case Geoff changed his mind!

My Father and I were originally just passengers on the flight with no duties except to be in Jack's way. I remember Skip Cregier, the Aircraft Commander, coming into Jack's office once and asked who his Navigator was going to be. Jack said that Dr. Ramey here was a B-29 Navigator in WWII. Skip turned to my Dad and asked him if he had a sextant to which he replied "Yes, I do". Skip asked him if he could navigate the B-29 across the pond and he said that he could.

Jack had been trying to have an Inertial Navigation System loaned to the project but it didn't work out. He was also trying to get the Flux Gate Compass system operational and even had borrowed parts from Pima's B-29 but he was having trouble getting it to work. The remote transmitter was the biggest problem which mounted in the wing. There was a big concern as to how the navigation was going to go as the aircraft would be out of radio range a lot of the time and would have to rely on dead reckoning as pilotage was not that useful over the frozen North Atlantic.

My Dad was welcomed to the crew but since he was an unknown he would be put to the test on the first few legs of the trip. My Dad used dead reckoning from Tucson to Flint and his positions were verified by Skip and Don with their VOR and DME. They were slightly more confident in his abilities but the true test still was before them.

My Dad navigated the B-29 across the North Atlantic using his old WWII A-10A sextant and Astrocompass and the only modern thing was an Hewlett Packard HP-65 programmable computer that he used for the navigation tables and calculations. The Flux Gate Compass system was unreliable and the VOR's didn't work at our altitude and distance from the station so he was able to take sun and moon line fixes with the Astrocompass. I had the honor of mounting it in the astrodome and aligning it on the sun and moon. I would give it back to him and he would use the readings to calculate a line of position.

After we landed at Sondestrom, Greenland, my Dad, Skip and I were the last to get off the B-29 and Skip turned to my Father and said "You are one hell of a tough old WWII Navigator" and he thanked my Dad for getting him there safely. I think that this was one of the best compliments that my Father ever received. I could not have been more proud of my Dad.

How lucky could I possible be; My Father Navigated B-29's out of Saipan in WWII and I got to see him do exactly that in 1980. My Dad is, in my eyes, the last true B-29 Navigator.

This whole trip was a once in a life time experiences that I am so fortunate to have been a part of. I want to thank Bob Johnson and Geoff Bottomley for allowing my Father and I to have had this incredible opportunity. We all took turns flying and what a kick it was.

Photos of Hawg Wild

This is a photo taken by Frank Farrell of It's Hawg Wild at Kadena Air Force Base around 1952

She currently rests in the American Air Museum at Duxford Air Field near Cambridge, England.

This photo was sent in by Richard Goold. Thanks Richard!

Here is a photo sent by John Rankin. What a nice photo.

If you have any other shots of the Hawg Wild that you think might benefit this web page please send them along. Any other exterior or interior images showing her present condition would be most appreciated. Thank you in advance for your help with this.

This photo shows her while in storage at China Lake Naval Weapons Test Center in California. This shot was taken in 1979 just before she was to be fixed up for the flight to Duxford, England. This is the before picture.

The red stripes were painted on when she was used as a target tug. She towed dart like targets for gunnery practice.

Jack Kern and his company Aeroservices of Tucson was contracted to get the B-29 flyable and to get her safely to Duxford. Jack had flown three B-29's out of China Lake; one for Dave Talichet (now at March Field Museum), one for the CAF (FiFi) and Hawg Wild for the Imperial War Museum in England. This shot shows her on one of her test flights turning onto the base leg to land at Tucson International. From this angle you can see that the outer left wing panel has been replaced for the flight as the original wing had some corrosion and damage. Clearly visible are its squadron markings from the Korean War.

Here she is on the same test flight around Tucson. The flight from Tucson to England had the following legs; Tucson to Flint, Michigan, Flint to Loring Air Force Base in Maine, Loring to Gander, Newfoundland, Gander to Sonderstrom, Greenland, Sonderstrom to Keflavik, Iceland, Keflavik to Mildenhall Air Force Base in England, Mildenhall to Duxford where she is today.

In the photo on the left, that is my Dad, Henry J. Ramey Jr. and myself, Taigh Ramey (with the nice hair) in Tucson getting ready for the flight. This is the Flight Crew of Hawg Wild. On the left is the officer assigned to try and keep the crew in line while we were at Loring Air Force Base in Maine, which was no easy task. The U.S. Air Force was very generous to us on the trip. At Loring they parked the B-29 in a heated hangar nose to nose with a B-52 which was quite a sight in deed. We were at Loring for a week fixing oil leaks to try and cut down on the oil loss/consumption. Number three engine consumed 75 gallons of oil on the trip from Tucson to Flint Michigan. This consumption limited the range of the B-29 to oil range instead of fuel range which eliminated the possibility of flying across the Atlantic non stop.

Other Crew members were: Skip Cregier, Sharon Kha, Henry Zappia, J.R. Kern, Don Davis, Millie Kern, (I am trying to find the names of the other crew members and I apologize if I have misspelled any names). Ken Kroeger, one of the crew chiefs on board the flight of Hawg Wild, has answered this question, click here to skip to Ken's great e-mail.

What does the sporty civilian B-29 crew member wear? As many layers of surplus flight gear as he can find. I even used a WWII electric flying suit which worked well. In this shot I have the WWII sheepskin flying boots. These boots were later replaced when I was allowed to scavenge condemned flight gear at Loring AFB. They even loaned us a Herman Nelson ground heater which was secured in the forward bomb bay and ducted into the ventilation system in the old bomber.

This worked beautifully until a spark plug stripped out of a cylinder head and killed the engine. We froze, literally, after the heater flamed out on the leg from Gander to Sondestrom, Greenland. It was so cold (about 20 below zero) that the moisture from our breath frosted the inside of the cockpit glass. The same freezing moisture jammed up the air filter for the vacuum instrument system and caused the gyros to tumble. Skip jumped back into the seat and kept the B-29 right side up by flying partial panel saved us from one of several near death experiences. Skip went on to shoot an instrument approach into Sondestrom and did a masterful job, as usual, as there was no real missed approach available for us. I believe that this may have been Skips first night landing in a B-29 but you couldn't tell by looking as he was an awesome pilot in deed.

My Father took the next two shots of her on her trip to Duxford. Here she is in Keflavik. After the long cold journey it sure was nice to be in the balmy blowing rain and volcanic pebbles.

Henry J. Ramey Jr., my Dad, taking a break from navigating to act as a pilot on the B-29 Hawg Wild.

Here is a poor scan of a post card that shows her about to make her last landing at Duxford.

Here are two scans of the Navigation log that my Father used while navigating Hawg Wild across to Duxford.

This is an article from Aeroplane Monthly from May of 1980 that chronicles the flight. Thanks to Chris Howlett for the copies of the article.

Here she is today in the American Air Museum at Duxford Air Field in England. This photo was sent in by Richard Goold. Thanks Richard!

The next three shots show how she looks today. The Imperial War Museum in Duxford has done a magnificent job of restoration and it shows in these photos. This is the Navigators cabinet with the APN-9 loran set in the middle. You can also see the hydraulic tank mounted to the top of the cabinet. The silver box is one of two interphone amplifiers that were used for communication between the crew throughout the ship.

This is the Radio operators position at the right rear of the forward pressure compartment. The big radio on the table is the BC-348 Liaison Receiver. The radio at the lower left is the ART-13 Liaison transmitter. The device sitting on the table with the red knob is the mount for the astrocompass that my Father used in the astrodome.

This shot shows the right side of the nose with the pedestal gun sight mounted on its pantograph arm. The co pilots instrument panel is on the right side of the picture. At the bottom is the SCR-718 radio altimeter that the bombardier would use to get an accurate height above the ground.

More pictures will follow when I can come up with a good way to scan in the slides that my Father took on the trip.

Here is a link to the official web page for Hawg Wild at Duxford:http://aam.iwm.org.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.1132

Here is a link to some great old photos of the China Lake B-29s way back when:http://www.chinalakealumni.org/Relics-b29-1.htm

Click here for a nice shot of Hawg Wild before she moved indoors at the American Air Museum in Britain.

Email Submissions

Sharon Kha

I just received an e-mail from Sharon Kha. Sharon was one of the crew members who was on the flight from Tucson to England. She was also a news reporter for KGUN TV in Tucson and was sending back stories on the trip and its progress. Henry Zappia was not only working as a crew chief on the B-29 but also doubled as a camera man for Sharon.

Here is her e-mail:

"Taigh, I remember both you and your father very clearly, as well as the details of the flight. I remember you talking about your love for the sheer artistic beauty of the aircraft. Your father spent the trip at the small wooden navigator's table built into the back of the cabin, sometimes standing up to look out the bubble window above him. I remember being awed at the magical ability he had to chart our path across the Atlantic without radio contact or modern navigational equipment.

My clearest memory is of the flight to Greenland as the plane grew colder and colder. In the back of the plane, people huddled together with sleeping bags piled over them for warmth but even that was not enough to ward off frost bite. In the front of the plane, I made a circuit from Jack to Don to Skip, rubbing their feet to keep the circulation going and prevent them from getting frost bite. As our breath created a thin layer of ice on the glass on the nose of the plane, I began scraping the ice with a tiny razor blade to try to improve the visibility for the pilots as we made our approach to Sonderstrom in the darkening skies. Ambulances met the plane and the crew hobbled inside to bathe our frozen fingers and toes in basins of tepid water. When morning came and we were able to repair the space heater, weak puffs of warm air felt like a sauna compared to the frozen temperature of the day before.

When your father had to leave us in Iceland because of a conference he was hosting, it was a scary time. The weather in Iceland turned from sun to sleet in a nanosecond. Day after day we loaded up the plane and sat on the runway, hoping for a clear patch that would allow us to leave, but none ever came. The day we finally took off with frayed nerves, ice formed on the wings and Skip had to take the plane straight up where ice couldn't form. The B-29 was not pressurized of course, and we had one canister of oxygen in the front of the plane, to be passed from hand to hand as we each took a breath and longed for your father's reassuring guidance. Finally the clouds thinned and we could see the coast of Ireland.

As we made our final approach to England, we remarked to each other about the traffic congestion on the narrow country roads. Little did we know that people were pouring into the air force base by the thousands just to catch a glimpse of the Hawg Wild as she finally touched down.

Sharon Kha"

Thanks for writing Sharon. We really appreciate you sharing your memories with us.

Scott Doremus

"Hi, I Found your information regarding "It's Hawg Wild" facinating. I have several pictures of this aircraft at Duxford that I took in the late 1980's. I'll send some when I get a chance. Attached is an interesting web site I stumbled across with some detailed shots of that plane."

Thanks for the kind words Scott and the great link. This web site has some awesome interior shots of Hawg Wild and you should check it out.

Ken Kroeger

Not long after I put this web page together I received the e-mail (copied below) from Ken Kroeger who was one of the crew members on the Hawg Wild. Here is Ken's e-mail.

"WOW - I am impressed with the page you did for the B-29. We flew together on the flight, Ken Kroeger - I am the one that took the stills, video, mechanic and general gopher. It is funny that I stumbled across the web page you just built. I have been with Henry Zappia for the past three days on a project in Las Vegas and we were doing some reminiscing about that trip - we even called JR up to say hi. What is really funny is that a few weeks ago Don Davis had gotten in touch with Henry just to say hi. When Henry and I were talking about the trip your name came up and I had asked Henry if he had heard from you or knew what you were doing and he said he had not. I even forgot what I was looking for on the Internet when I ran across the page you had made on the B-29. Here is a list of everyone that was on the flight and their job titles (hope this helps):

Mr. Skip Cregier - Pilot
Mr. Don Davis - Copilot
Mr. Jack Kern - Engineer (owner of Aero Services of Tucson, AZ and restoration project officer)
Dr. Henry Ramey - Observer-Navigator (former B-29 navigator during WWII)
Mrs. Millie Kern - Wife of Jack Kern
Mr. Henry Zappia - Mechanic (trouble-shooter)
Mrs. Joann Zappia - Wife of Henry Zappia
Mr. Ken Kroeger - Observer - photographer
Ms Karen Summers - Observer
Mr. Taigh Ramey - Observer (son of Dr. Henry Ramey)
Mr. James Miller - Observer
For part of the trip we had:
Ms. Sharon Kha - News reporter from ABC - Channel 9 in Tucson
For your information Karen was dating Don at the time and Sharon was dating Skip.

I do have a lot of papers and pictures - mostly slides from our trip. We had made a half-hour documentary for ABC and I know that I had sent your dad a copy but that was over 20 years ago. We have lost our master copy of the tape that we wanted to make DVD copies from.

As I look through some of my notes I found the following which is on a torn piece of paper and is missing some information:
2/17 - Tucson - Flint - 10,000 VFR
2/18 - Fling - Loring - 9,000 VFR
2/19 - 2/23 - Loring
2/24 - Loring - Gander - 10,000 VFR
2/25 - Gander - Greenland - 12,000
2/26 - Greenland - Iceland - 14,000
2/27 - 2/29 - Iceland
3/1 - 3/6 - England

This is what I know of the crew members now:
Mr. Skip Cregier - Passed Away
Mr. Don Davis - Working at General Motors retiring in a few months.
Mr. Jack Kern - Passed Away
Dr. Henry Ramey - Passed Away
Mrs. Millie Kern - Still in Tucson
Mr. Henry Zappia - Working for Union Pacific as an Engineer and has a side radio business
Mrs. Joann Zappia - Still wife of Henry Zappia
Mr. Ken Kroeger - Leave of absence from Union Pacific as an Engineer and working for the BLET Union as Education and Training Coordinator
Ms Karen Summers -
Mr. Taigh Ramey - Working at Vintage Aircraft
Mr. James Miller - Had an electric business, Saguaro Electric, which he sold and is now retired.

There sure are a lot of coincidences. It looks like you are in Stockton and my wife is going to be driving on Saturday - our daughter and her husband are moving from Tucson to Vancouver Washington and my wife is going up there with them. In my job capacity I do travel most of the year and it would be nice to get together if we are ever close. Do you travel at all or get down to Tucson at all?

Several years ago a gentleman named Joe (I forget his last name) got in touch with me about the B-29 and said his brother had flown in it during the war and wanted to meet and some of my items to make copies of and get a copy of our tape. After a few years I gave into him and he came over to the house and took several items, unfortunately I have never gotten them back, which is exactly what I was afraid of. I guess he caught me in a weak moment. I still have a small box of items, articles, both newspaper and magazine. Would be nice to get together and share what we have with each other. This might just be the push I need to get an album made of everything I have.

I have taken enough of your time. Hope I have helped some and hope to hear from you soon."

How wonderful to hear from you Ken! The internet is a wonderful thing indeed. Thanks Ken for all of this awesome information. I think we need to get the crew together for a reunion in Duxford for the 30th anniversary of the flight in 2010.

Mike Overstreet

Here is an e-mail that I just received from Mike Overstreet who was instrumental in the early video documentation of Hawg Wild when she was just coming out of China Lake. Mike was kind enough to share some of this early history with us. Thanks for writing Mike and I look forward to seeing some of your videos. I hope we can post some of Mike's videos on this web page in the future.

"This weekend my wife was out of town and I decided to dub some old video tapes over to DVD. I haven't gotten to my broadcast tapes yet (28 years in broadcasting) but I was dumping all my old VHS tape that was worth keeping to DVD. The Flight of The Hawg Wild was one of the old video tapes. Brought back so many memories I decided to search the web and I found your sight.

My name is Mike Overstreet. At the time Jack got the job for the original restoration in China Lake I was a business partner of Skip Creiger and GOOD friends with Henry Zappia and Ken Kroeger. A couple of weeks after the Duxford flight I was the last one to talk to Skip on the radio as he turned radio and phone control of our communication system over to me while hetook Truly Nolens 421 for a test flight after tail damage repair (Truly Nolen taxied the tail into a light pole at the airport). Skipdied at Ryan field during that test flight, and I often mourn Skips death. I'm happy to report that Henry and Ken and I are all still good friends.

I went with Skip and Henry to China Lake as the videographer documenting the restoration of the aircraft eventually bound for Duxford. In fact, without anyone meaning too...I was ON the aircraft the first time it left the ground and landedin some 30 years. It was an accident really. We were supposed to be doing a high speed taxi run testat China Lake early one morning and the aircraft kept drifting off the runway to the left. This got a little serious at near rotate speeds and so, against plan, Skip lifted the plane off the ground, moved it back over the runway and set it down to keep us from running off into the desert. Problem turned out to be low air pressure in the nose gear left tire.

I remember Henry (who had an A&P license)on a work stand between the number 3 engine and the wing trying to tune the engine while it was running (this was the famous oil burner on the trip).I was sure I was going to video tape an "ass-ectomy" because there wasn't much room between the rotating prop and Henry's behind but Henry knew what he was doing. He always does.

I remember going up in the twin engine BeechcraftKing Air that the project was using to shoot another high speed taxi run from the bathroom window at the left rear of the plane. SOMEONE, I think it was Jacks son, let a CAT on board the King Air. That cat got scared and took a dump in the plane and that, combined with the full flap low speed effort to observe the B-29, made EVERYONEair sick. I remember getting off the King Air and actually laying on the tarmac....but I got the video.

Shot the final take off from China Lake from the King Air and then rushed ahead to document the Tucson flyby and eventual landing. This time I thouht I'd be video taping the first crash of a B-29 ever in Tucson. Henry had 1 video camera in the B-29 and I had a total of5 ideo cameras on the ground....but Skip managed to both show off and land like he had been flying B-29's all his life; it was a beautiful sight.

Skip and I spent a LOT of time in the air, usually in helicopters shooting production or news video, often just doing this or that or moving aircraft from the bone yard over to the west ramp at TIA for Jack. I was originally scheduled to go to Duxford but production schedule conflicts, along with a new found healthy fear, after several flights around China Lake,of ever again flying in an aircraftolder than I was, kept me from going.

As I go through more video tape to DVD dubbing over the coming months I'll probably find video (from which stills can be taken) that might add to your page. Interested? In any case...nice site....nice memories."

Barbara Gabner

Here is an e-mail that I received from Barbara Gabner who knew Skip Cregier:

"I just found your web site about the aircraft and Skip's trip to England. I went to high school with Skip and had remained friends with him through the years. I worked with him at the county communications center and he taught my sons how to pick up waitresses.

I noticed there were a couple of people that used to have, or thought they had, a tape of the trip to England. I have a video tape of that trip -- first thing I ever recorded. If you do not have one and would like me to get a DVD made of the tape, let me know and I will send it to you.

Skip was a great guy -- the only guy I knew that could take you to lunch or dinner and tell the waiter to "put it on the tab"."

Thanks for the note Barbara. Skip sure was a fascinating and talented guy to say the least. What a tragedy that he died at such a young age.

Sandy Bindon

Here is an e-mail that I just received from Sandy Bindon, one of Jack Kern's Daughters, who was kind enough to share her experiences with Hawg Wild.

"Hi there Taigh; I ran across your B-29 page and was flooded with so many memories. My name is Sandy Bindon, maiden name of Sandy Kern...I am one of Jack's 5 daughters.

I loved your story, it mirrored the memories that I have. I remember when my father first brought the B-29 in from China Lake....I took one look at it and wondered how in the world they ever got that plane airworthy enough to land it at his hangar. I was just 17 at the time and remember how cool my sisters and I thought it was once we were allowed to climb all through it and play around inside of it. Being the naive kid that I was I didn't realize then just how lucky we actually were. We would spend hours climbing through the tunnel and sitting the the gunners seat or acting like we were the pilot or co-pilot. All we thought at the time was how big it was and how cool it was to discover every nook and cranny of it. I was on that test flight pictured, Skip set me in the gunners seat right in the nose of the planeand told me to trust him, he was going to take us on an incredible flight. I remember vividly how awesome it was to watch the runway disappear at my feet and then the exhilaration of having that runway coming at us as we were landing. I prayed to God and asked him to please help Skip land that thing without any little problems!

I called my brother J.R. today and told him about your web-site, hopefully he was able to access it all right...I was at work and didn't exactly recall the full web address, but if he found it then I'm sure he'll send you note as well. I remember meeting you and your father briefly 25 or so years ago at my fathers hangar...if my memory serves me right you were very young back then as well, a teenager as well, right? I'm glad that you share the love of vintage aircraft as well, it still runs deep in our blood. J.R. ran his own restoration business after my father passed away and did a lot of work with Constellations.

I will look through some of my things and see if I have any pictures that you don't...I know that we have a clean, sharp copy of the picture of the landing that you list as a "poor scan"...it's just a matter of finding where exactly they ended up. I can also check with J.R. to see if he has some interesting stuff. I do believe that he has a copy of the Documentary that was done by Sharon Kha. So, if you are interested in what we might have drop me a line and we'll see what we can come up with.

Thanks for taking the time and effort of putting that together, you did a really nice job!"

Thank you Sandy. It is the great stories like yours that make this whole Hawg Wild history so fascinating. Thanks again!

Greg Sullivan

"Hello. I found your web site purely by chance. I was doing Google searches for the Enola Gay. The role the B-29 played in U.S. history fascinates me.

I was stationed at Loring AFB Maine from 1976 through 1980. I was the senior maintenance tech (Staff Sergeant) on a KC-135 flight simulator - 2nd shift. The simulator was built inside a rail car for mobility. It was parked on a rail siding very near the hangar where the B-29 was secured.

Your Dad walked in the door, introduced himself and made me an offer. He told me that he is basically stranded at Loring until some repairs could be made to the B-29 that he is ferrying to England. He said he would love to spend some time flying the simulator and in exchange he would give me a personal guided tour of the B-29! That was an offer I could not refuse!! It was a great thrill and honor to be allowed to sit in the cockpit of that B-29. I did not take any pictures - still don't know why. I remember your Dad telling me that the engines leaked so much oil, he had to limit the distance between refueling stops.

This event was one of the top highlights of my Air Force experience (four and a half years). Thank you for putting the web site up. It's a great trip down memory lane."

Thanks for writing Greg. I hadn't heard that story about my father flying the KC-135 simulator. I wonder if it was one of the other crew members like Skip or Don. Any of you Hawg Wild crew take the KC-135 sim up for a flight? How cool was that! Thanks again for writing Greg!

I wrote Greg back about who may have flown in his simulator and here was his reply:

"I guess it's been too many years for me to say with any certainty who actually flew my simulator. I seem to remember him telling me that he was an instructor pilot in Arizona when he's not flying B-29s to England. I heard (second hand) much later that he was killed while giving flying lessons in Arizona. Does that clarify who was actually in the simulator?"

Yes Greg, that does clear it up. This would have been Skip Cregier the pilot of the B-29. Skip was killed after he returned home from the B-29 trip while test flying a Cessna 421.

Taigh Ramey

I remember Jake Huffman, a B-52 Bombardier/Navigator, befriending my father and I when we were at Loring AFB in Maine. It was great to see a current SAC Bombardier Nav and my Dad, a WWII Nav, swapping stories. Jake gave us a grand tour of the base and let us sit in on a briefing for a tactical bombing training mission that he was going to fly in the B-52. This was an awesome experience; thanks Jake. I still have the Navigation tools that you gave my Father. Jake also got us into the maintenance hangar where several B-52's were going through major overhaul and repair. I remember sitting in the Bomb/Nav position and letting my feet dangle because the hatch below the the downward ejecting seat was removed. I was amazed to see the bomb intervalometer for spacing bombs on the ground was exactly like the one in Hawg Wild from WWII. Jake also got us into a KC-135 and I was shocked to see an indicator for the SCR-718 radio altimeter mounted on the side of the navigators position. This radio was also installed in the B-29 for the bombardiers and the Navigators to verify their height above the ground. The radio inside the KC-135 had a data plate on the side with a 1944 contract date on it. I have often wondered how a WWII radio was still in service in the 1980's.

My Dad and I were delighted to meet you Jake. I want to thank you for your kindness and hospitality during our visit to Loring. I hope you read this some day and maybe you can write about your experience with the Hawg Wild.

Derek Pinsonat

Here are two pictures from Derek Pinsonat which were taken in June 2002. Thanks Derek for sharing these shots with us.

Graham Finbow

Here are some photos from Graham Finbow, a true fan of It's Hawg Wild. He painted his Harley Davidson with her nose art.

"Taigh, just found your site on Hawg Wild, great job. I saw Hawg Wild a few years ago (maybe 12?)at Duxford and having always been into Custom Motorcycles, thought "what a superb piece of artwork"... So I took a picture and when I came to customising my current Harley, found I had unfortunately lost the pic. Two years ago I was back in the UK with the family and took another pic.Back in South Africa I found a great airbrush artist who transformed the artwork onto my 1990 Heritage Softail. She paid specific attention to the rivets on the fuselage and has created a brushed aluminium (British spelling!) base withmuch of the rivet work as it actually appears.

The bike is used daily between my house in Pretoria and my office in Johannesburg. It grabs attention whenever I park It and I am becoming ade-facto historian on WWII bombers, B-29s, anything on WWII and Hawg Wild of course!

I grew up in the UK andlived near Duxford at Saffron Waldenand have always ridden Harleys and Triumphs.I can truly say nothing brings tears to the eyes more than blasting down a country lane and having a multi-engined bomber cruise straight over you. It happened to me once with the RAF memorial flight just East of Duxford.

When I lived in the UK I used to visit Duxford now and then and chat to the restoration folks and have to say you couldn't have found a better resting place for the plane. Hope you like the pics of the bike - I'm sure I am not the first to do this but you never know!"

David Shearman

"I am writing to you to share my story of Hawg Wild. I saw the aircraft at Loring AFB when it landed there. I was fortunate to be a part of a small group of plastic modelers who formed IPMS Loring, a chapter of IPMS USA in the early 80's. I was the token Canadian, living as I did, in the small village of Perth-Andover, New Brunswick about a half hour from the base.

We learned about Hawg Wild from Major (later Lt. Colonel) Tom LeBar who headed up one of the maintenance squadrons at Loring. Tom was a superb modeler in his own right. The word was "There's a B-29 coming in!" We scheduled a meeting and Tom took us over to the hanger at about 9:30 in the evening. It was dark, with the hanger lights on quite low. Other than a guard, who saluted when he saw Major LeBar, we were alone with the aircraft. Out came the cameras. I have my slides somewhere and will transfer them some day to digital. The experience was quite haunting. Here we were, in the middle of a major American air base, with the weapons of mass destruction all around us, and here was a B-29; almost simple in comparison. If one listened, I am sure we could hear the voices of the past crews talking.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I'll dig out my slides and see what I can have scanned"

Thanks for writing about your experiences with Hawg Wild. She undoubtedly has a profound affect on everyone who comes across her path. I remember what she looked like in that hangar at Loring. It was awesome to see her nose to nose with a B-52. What a comparison. I would love to see your slides some day!

Jerome Casey

"Taigh, I just managed to get it scanned at work. It�s not cropped but you can probably manipulate it better than I can here. My Dad�s name is Robert Casey (now deceased). I was 16 when this was taken. I remember driving to Loring AFB for the purpose of seeing this aircraft and taking a wrong turn on base and winding up in a place I wasn�t supposed to be. I found myself looking at a Squadron of F102�s or F106�s (can�t recall for sure which), which I later found out were to destroy Loring AFB if it were to fall. My Dad was a 32 year Army vet- WW2, Korea.

I remember the noting the tail cone was missing on Hawg Wild and someone had plugged the hole with a piece of plywood and spray painted �The End� on it. I think I may have more photos- if I can find them I�ll forward them. This one was taken with a Kodak 110 instamatic! Not that I�m a huge Arkansas Razorback fan but what a coincidence- I now lift in NW Arkansas, home of the U of A Razorbacks where they are �Hawg Wild�."

Barb Hartwig

"Hi Taigh. A friend just sent me your website on the Hawg Wild and how wonderful that your dad had another chance at flying in a B-29, the Hawg Wild, on its journey to England as its navigator and you got to go too. As you said, it was a once in a lifetime experience for both of you. I have been inside of FiFi and the B-29 is such a beautiful piece of history. I am glad that Hawg Wild has been restored for others to view.

My dad, Eugene Harwood, was the navigator of the other B-29 Hog Wild (Z-28, 44-70136) out of Saipan which had been shot down at the end of WWII (during Armistice) not by the Japanese but by the Russians while on a mercy mission to drop supplies at a POW camp in North Korea. The Hog Wild was the last B-29 shot down during WWII and the first B-29 shot down during the Cold War. The crew did not know if they would live or die. It caused an international incident in which General MacArthur had to intervene to get the crew released from the POW camp where they were delivering the supplies to. My dad is now deceased but we have coauthored a book of his life and specifically this incident in a book from his words entitled �Honorable Heart� by Eugene Harwood and Barb Harwood Hartwig. It details his duties as a navigator on the B-29 and uses a lot of his personal photos from the War (two are enclosed) including photos of the POW camp and some of the POW prisoners. It is available on www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com. The copilot�s son, Terry Rainey, has also written an article in the Cold War Times, November 2009, about the Hog Wild (online at http://www.coldwar.org/text_files/ColdwartimesNov2009.pdf (page 28, the Hog Wild story). A friend, Dwight Rider, is now writing an extensively researched and more detailed book about the downing of the Hog Wild.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who might have been associated with the Saipan Hog Wild Z28 or anyone who might have known the crew while on Saipan including any of the crew family members. Love your website, Taigh, and there are so many interesting areas to read about on it. I am active in a WWII Roundtable group where I live that has meetings once a month (sounds similar to your Warbird Group) and we get to hear the stories of these wonderful WWII veterans who devoted so much to our country. I am also active in our local Honor Flight taking these veterans for free to the WWII Memorial in DC. It warms the soul� A big thank you to these WWII veterans!! Barb Hartwig, bjh72731@msn.com."

73rd Bomb Wing 882nd Bomb Squadron Lt. Queen Saipan. Aircrew: Top row: Joe Queen, Bob Rainey, Gene Harwood, Marian Sherrill; Front row: Tony Renaldo, Jesse Owens, Art Strilky, Cliff McGee, Cy Bernacki, Richard Turner, Doug Arthur; Ground crew not pictured Sgt R Newton, Sgt C Miller, Sgt A Wasner, Cpl H Gordon

Thanks for writing Barb. I hope someone can help you with your search. Great photos too. The aircraft that your Father is Navigating does not have the upper forward turret installed. Thanks again Barb, Taigh

Patrick Grosvenor

I recently came across your story of �Hawg Wild� and the preparation for her trip to the U.K. from the U.S.A. in 1980, as well as the details of the amazing flight to Duxford. I thought you might be interested in my personal view of her restoration at Duxford prior to being placed in the fabulous new American Air Museum, together with some pictures I took at the time. I am an ex RAF Air Radar technician who worked on English Electric Lightning�s and Canberra�s in the 1960�s. After a career in the computer business with IBM, Digital and AT&T I retired early in 1996 and volunteered to work for the Imperial War Museum at Duxford restoring historical aircraft. I was assigned to work with Harmon King, the crew chief for the project. Harmon was a great choice as he was ex USAF and he decided to stay in the UK after completing his military service.

Despite having spent nearly 30 years in the China Lake desert and a further 16 years in the open at Duxford Hawg Wild was in reasonable condition with not too much corrosion evident during restoration. After taking out all removable parts we decided to completely strip her back to bare metal inside and outside in order to apply corrosion inhibitors, as well as carrying out any repairs needed before re painting. We spent two years on the task, with others helping from time to time. We had a deadline for finishing which was the opening of the new museum by The Queen and Charlton Heston, which we just achieved with a lot of effort from the team. The problem was that the aircraft had to be placed in to the museum before the glass front was fitted. Once the glass front was fitted we were told it could cost a fortune to remove and re fit to get an aircraft as big as the B29 or B52 in or out, not something they wanted to do regularly!

The pictures were taken after Hawg Wild was stripped and prepared for painting with all cabling, control cables etc. masked up. As you can see the whole interior and exterior had been cleaned back to good metal before inhibiting, priming, and painting. This was a huge painstaking task with many hours spent grinding away corrosion in almost inaccessible places, often in freezing conditions as the hangar was unheated in the winter and my skin often stuck to the freezing metal! The worst corrosion was on the top mid section of the wing in the centre fuselage (and it would have stopped her flying again). This was ground out with a variety of shaped drill bits before treatment. We also had to be careful with abrasive disks, brushes, and drills as some parts were made of magnesium which catches fire if heated up! The pictures showing Hawg Wild being moved to the paint shop show Harmon King driving the tractor, and I am the chap in blue overalls where she is parked on the perimeter track. (Note the cylindrical object in the hangar is a �Bouncing Bomb� as used by Lancaster�s in �The Dam Busters� raids). We then bead blasted all the hundreds of parts removed and re painted them before re fitting. I remember being quite confused replacing the control cable pulley assemblies in the fuselage below the pressure bulkhead, trying to make sure that the controls worked in the correct sense when the control column and rudder pedals were moved. There seemed to be duplicate control cables so that if one side was disabled the other side took over. Amazing for such a large machine to be controlled by cables! I must hold the world record for sitting in the main gear undercarriage bays, as I spent weeks clearing desert sand, birds� nests, a dead snake and rodent out of the nooks and crannies before stripping back to bare metal for treatment and spraying. To prevent the tyres going flat they were filled with a rubber liquid which hardened, so they will never go flat again. They were so heavy after filling that we had to use a fork lift truck to move the wheels. Restoring the wings was like cleaning a tennis court with a tooth brush but they came up lovely and shiny in the end.

It was an honour to work on such a great airplane and there was definitely a sense of history present when working in her. She may have been your baby for a while but she is now in good hands in England. Hopefully she will now be good for 100+ years in her new air conditioned home at Duxford being part of the story of the USAF in Europe and the Far Eastern conflicts."

Fred (unknown last name)

Hello, I was just looking at the website regarding "It's Hawg Wild". I am fairly certain that, when this aircraft stopped over at Loring Air Force Base, Limestone Maine, in 1980, that my father Fred W. Martin assisted there as a mechanic. In fact, I was there to watch it take off, when it left Loring. Dad had told me then that the call went out at Loring for anyone that knew the B-29. Since he was a mechanic / crew chief on a couple of B-29's during the Korean war, he volunteered. In 1952, he was on Okinawa, with 19th Group 30 Sqdn.

So, he worked with the crew at Loring. In the end, he gave them his Korean-era bomber jacket to take to Duxford. I often wonder if it is on display, there. Anyway, I just wanted to say hello and say that I'm glad the information is available on the twinbeech.com website."

Gary Verver

Here are a set of great photos from Gary Verver. Thanks for providing them Gary!

"This is how Hawg Wild looked when she was still at China Lake. This is the before picture when Jack Kern and Aero Services were just beginning to bring the old gal back to life."

Looks like engine number two is coming to life.

Main gear retraction test

This is Don Hart standing in front of Hawg Wild when she was on the hard stand at China Lake, holding a little model of a B-29

The flight crew who took her out of China Lake from left to right: Skip Cregier, Don Davis, Jack Kern, Millie Kern, Bob Weinhart, J.R. Kern, Henry Zappia and I am not sure who the last person is.

Removing the tail turret from another China Lake B-29 for eventual restoration/installation in Hawg Wild

Fueling Hawg Wild

Christopher Norfolk

"Hi my name is Christopher Norfolk and I work at the imperial war museum Duxford and over the last few days the museum have been emptying the American air museum on site and over the last few days have towed the B17, liberator, B29 and the B52 out.

The B29 is outside on the hardstand next to the taxiway and as I cycle past her every day I took some photos. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your awesome photos with us!"

Mark Bergthold

"My dad, Ray Bergthold, was in the USNR Air Wing @ China Lake, and helped restore it to flight status. He said they had to replace one entire wing, as it was in bad shape. They also rebuilt the bomb bay, which was corroded badly. He watched it take off on its way to England.

Fast forward a few years - while he & my mom were in England doing volunteer work with Wycliffe Bible Translators, he & a few other guys took a trip to the Imperial museum. As he walked around the plane, he mentioned that he had worked on it at China Lake - but it took awhile before the guys believed him!

Thank you for putting the info on the web. It was a part of my dad's life during its rebuild, which connects me to it vicariously."

Thanks for writing Mark. Cool story. Its Hawg Wild sure has touched many peoples lives throughout her 70+ years.

Roger Iddon

Roger wrote to say that the KGUN (evidently KPTV now) documentary is on YouTube here. Thanks Roger!

Leon Cleaver

"Taigh, I viewed your Facebook page in regard to your father being the navigator on the B-29 flight to Great Britain. I have attached a copy of 2 flight progress strips that I had saved when I was an Air Traffic Controller at Cleveland ARTCC during the early 1980's. The top strip is the departure strip from Flint, Michigan dated Feb 17, 1980 - destination Loring AFB. The routing took the Superfort over Canadian airspace most of the way.

The second strip is the arrival strip - this leg from Tulsa to the Flint landing. This was dated Feb 16, 1980. It appears they stayed overnight. The times are in Greenwich Mean Time. Please enjoy..."

Thanks Leon!

Alan R.

"Hello Taigh, Just encountered this on YouTube; don't know if you are aware of it; no harm sending it again if you are! Here is is. My father was a CFC gunner in the 499th BG, Saipan, Nov.'44-Oct.'45."

Thanks Alan, for the cool link to a good Hawg Wild video!

If you have any other information, stories or photos of this great old B-29, or any other for that matter, please let me know as would be glad to post the information on this web page. You can e-mail me at: taigh@twinbeech.com