A Square 9 "Sky-Scrapper" was delivered to Air Commander Lt. John Garvin and his crew on Sept. 3, 1944 at their deployment base in Herrington, KS. where this crew photo was taken next to their new B-29.


Reports sourced by Mark Maloy   ASHF Archives

Shortly after noon on November 27, 1944 at Isley AAF Base, Saipan.

Japanese fighters are attacking the field.  During my research in 2011, I found this amazing photo from The National Archives that shows "Sky-Scrapper" on the right just before it was strafed by a Zero.

On November 27, 1944 another mission took off to bomb Target 357 in Tokyo.  "Sky-Scrapper" was flown by an alternate crew and the Garvin crew used the B-29 A Square 11. Shortly after take off "Sky-Scrapper" had an engine fail and catch fire. Its bombs were dropped into the ocean and the fire was put out. "Sky-Scrapper'"safely returned to Saipan. The B-29 was parked for repairs with 5,690 gallons of gas still in its tanks. A couple hours later Japanese fighters from Iwo Jima attacked the base,

  Aircraft Record Card for the B-29 that would become:                                                                                                              A Square 9,  "Sky-Scrapper", of the 869th  Squadron 497th Bomb Group.                                

While "Sky-Scrapper" was getting new props and its fuselage hammered out, half of the Garvin crew flew a solo mission to Tokyo  in Squadron Leader Robert Morgan's B-29 "Dauntless Dotty". They were to check for radar activity and flak accuracy over Tokyo in preparation for the the first mission by the Bomb Wing. Faulty maps and severe weather  made the effort only slightly successful and they barely made it back to base due to low fuel.

On November 24, 1944 the "Sky-Scrapper" crew flew A Square 8 "Coral Queen" with 110 B-29's on the first historic mission to begin the constant bombing of Japan. It was led by Gen. Emmett “Rosie” O’Donnell piloting "Dauntless Dotty". Unfortunately, even with the use of radar, overcast skies and bad weather proved an insurmountable obstacle at their bombing altitude of 30,000 feet. Despite the barrage of bombs that were dropped, fewer than 50 hit the main target, the Nakajima Aircraft Works. Known as "Target 357" it would be the most bombed Japanese military target by the B-29's in the months ahead.

  Standing left to right:   Right Gunner: Sgt. James Braun    Left Gunner: Sgt. David Caldwell                        Radio Operator:  S/Sgt. John Ciezarek   Air Commander:  1st Lt.  John Garvin                                                    CFC: Sgt. Frank Oblock  Radar: S/Sgt Felix Liles  Tail Gunner: Sgt. Alvin Borden
 Kneeling left to right:   Flight Engineer: 2nd Lt. Richard Bauml  Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Henry Miller                 Navigator:  2ndLt. Harold Erlandson                                                                                                                Missing from  photo:   Copilot: 2nd Lt. Edwin A. Seitz  

Three days after arriving on Saipan the crew attempted to fly a practice mission -  possibly to bomb sub pens at Truk Atoll or Japanese garrisons on some of the neighboring islands. At the controls during the taxi was "Check Pilot" Major John Carroll with Lt. John Garvin as his Copilot.       They didn't make it to the take-off runway - more trouble.

"Sky-Scrapper" had a unique distinction in the 869th squadron. The employees at John Garvin's former employer, Guaranty Trust Company in New York City, paid for the plane with War Bond Drive subscriptions. (See Outreach section for more of the story)  

"Sky-Scrapper" was given a special decal to wear noting the unique purchase.

John Garvin Collection   ASHF Photo Archives

This wouldn't be the only "Sky-Scrapper" to meet a dramatic end on the ground at Isley AAF Base for Air Commander John Garvin and his crew.

Their story continues in:

1st Lt. Garvin pointing to special decal announcing the source of funds to "buy" the B-29. Note the white strips on the photo - they hide information about the B-29 stenciled to all the aircraft.     This was a censored photo.                  

Photos from The National Archives and John Garvin Collection of the ASHF Photo Archives​

The search for the reason there were 3 B-29's called "Sky-Scrapper" is how   A Square Heroes Foundation came to be. The effort led to some of its crew families connecting 70 years after WWII.

The invaluable records of its Air Commander, Captain John Garvin, and other "Sky-Scrapper" crew families are now combined to offer a unique narrative to this history. 

The first "Sky-Scrapper" is an example of everything that could go wrong with the new un battle-tested B-29's and how dangerous they were. The original "Sky-Scrapper" seemed to be jinxed from the moment it left the U.S. for Saipan in late October 1944 with the first groups of B-29's going to commence bombing the Japanese home islands from the Marianas.  Though it tried -  this hard luck B-29 never flew a mission before it was destroyed by the Japanese.

Guaranty Trust held a contest with its employees to pick a group of names the crew would use to decide what to call their B-29.

The fiery end of "Sky-Scrapper"

  John Garvin Collection  ASHF Photo Archives

  Sourced by Mark Maloy   ASHF Photo Archives

The first 10 B-29's of the 869th Squadron departed the deployment base at Herrington, KS and flew to Mather Field outside of Sacramento, CA then on to Oahu. The trouble started en route to Hawaii for the newly christened "Sky-Scrapper".  It suffered engine problems, perhaps multiple. The B-29 had to stay in Hawaii for 10 days getting engine replacements while the other 9 B-29's flew to Saipan arriving on time and without incident.

The crew of "Sky-Scrapper" arrived safely back from their mission to Tokyo flying the borrowed A Square 11. 

What a sight this must have been for them. All that remained of their B-29 bought by the employees of Guaranty Trust Bond Drive was a charred tail section  and 4 melted engines.

The 5,690 gallons of gasoline onboard had all but vaporized "Sky-Scrapper". 

Garvin crew smiling in Hawaii with "Sky-Scrapper"  October 1944

LEFT TO RIGHT -  Ground Crew Chief: M/Sgt. Paul Grissom - Flight Engineer: Lt. Richard Bauml - Radio Operator: S/Sgt. John Ciezarek - CFC Gunner: T/Sgt. Frank Oblock - Navigator: Lt. Harold Erlandson - Pilot: Lt. Edwin Seitz - Air Commander: 1st Lt. John Garvin - Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Henry Miller - Tail Gunner: S/Sgt. Alvin Borden - Left Gunner: S/Sgt David Caldwell - Radar Operator: S/Sgt. Felix Liles

John Garvin Collection  ASHF Photo Archives

Thousands of names were submitted and a committee of 6 WWI pilots boiled them down to these names that were sent to Lt. Garvin's crew to decide on. They chose "Sky-Scrapper" instead of "Yen For Tokyo", "Bank on Us"     and others.                          

John Garvin Collection      ASHF Photo Archives