Veteran takes off again in only remaining B-29
His favorite quote is, “Whenever you’re flying, never fly your airplane faster than the Angels can fly.”
North Fort Myers resident Joseph Monesmith and wife Charlotte (known as Rue) now have angel statues all over their home to remind him of that wartime motto.
Recently, Monesmith flew on the only flying B-29 Superfortress in the world, FIFI as she is called.
“It is best known for its missions that brought about the end of the war in 1945. Almost all of the B-29s were destroyed when they became obsolete after the Korean conflict,” said ride coordinator Kim Pardon of the B-29 Squadron.
“The reason we fly this airplane is to tell the story of people like Joe Moesmith,” she said. “He had a great flight.”
FIFI is one of the few remaining B-29s, the only one still flying, and was a big hit at the Florida International Air Show in Punta Gorda.
Monesmith got a ride prior to the show as a special guest as one of the flight engineers that flew the planes during the war.
“I had 35 missions from Guam to Japan. That was 3,000 miles round-trip. I had to figure the fuel.”
He was part of the Army Air Corps.
“They hadn’t formed the Air Force yet,” he said. “When we had it, it was 90,000 pounds empty, and gross weight was over 140,000 pounds; figure 20,000 pounds for the bombs.”
Of his recent journey, he said. “It felt wonderful. The weather was clear as a bell. My last mission was in 1945, and it sure took me back. I got to sit across from the flight engineer’s panel and watch him do what he had to do, which brought back memories of what I used to do.”
He had an interesting start in becoming a bomber flight engineer.
“I was a mechanic,” he said. They needed flight engineers so they took many off the mechanic flight line and trained them for about a year.
“It was special,” he said.
His son Fred recently penned a special biography honoring his father:
“Joseph Monesmith is a decorated B-29 Flight Engineer, who completed the maximum 35 missions over Japan from his base at Guam. His first mission was during the infamous first fire-bombing raid on Tokyo, March 10, 1945 and his last mission was on the last day of the war.
“Joseph received the Air Medal with four clusters, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He vividly remembers joining the Army Air Corps about a year before the Pearl Harbor attack as an 18 years old and later serving as a aircraft mechanic at the Midland/Odessa, Texas Airfield.
“In 1944 as a staff sergeant, he had the opportunity to train as a flight engineer, since the Army Air Corps was looking for mechanics for the very technical Flight Engineer MOS. The B-29 flight engineer, who sat behind the co-pilot at a control panel controlled the settings on the engines, fuel transfer and calculated fuel consumption.
“On March 30, 1945 while on his ninth mission, targeting an aircraft factory, the tail of his B-29 was all but shot off by a Japanese fighter. Fortunately, the crew was able to return safely. His crew received the Distinguished Flying Cross for that mission. When asked about his service, he states that, We had a job to do and we did it .
“Joseph continues to be a very active since his retirement as a pipefitter 24 years ago. He throws horseshoes weekdays at Pioneer Village in North Fort Myers. Five years ago he started competing in Masters Track and Field. He has earned medals in throwing events at National and World Masters Championships. He earned All American honors in the discus, shot put and javelin last year at the World Masters Championship and a second place medal in the 12-pound weight throw.”
“In his scrapbook he has copies of photos from the July 1945, Air Force magazine with a cover picture of the B-29 Flight Engineer panel and another photo of his plane with a enemy fighter flying through the formation. For years after the war, his crew would get together for reunions.
“Nowadays, his wife of 69 years, two sons, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren are happy that he did return safely.”