The Last Mission

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Marc A. Garcia
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

It’s August 15, 1945, and the 411th Bomb Squadron is flying over Tokyo, Japan. His eyes were focused on the Tokyo Imperial Palace. He could feel the cold metal of the aircraft beneath him as he flew at approximately 30,000 feet. He didn’t know then, but a coup d’état was taking place. As he flew over Tokyo his thoughts were on his target — a refinery in Akita, Japan.


Marvin Martin, a B-29 Superfortress radar observer, shared his story of being on the last flying mission of World War II with members from McConnell and the Order of Daedalians.


“We took off like cats on tails,” Martin described the takeoff for the final mission. “Our B-29s were taking off every 30 seconds from two separate runways on Guam.”


Martin was flying on Big Hutch, one of 300 specially-crafted B-29s used in the last mission of World War II. These modified B-29s were capable of carrying heavier bomb and gas loads.


“The target was a refinery in Akita, Japan approximately 4,000 miles away, which was the longest mission any man had flown throughout World War II,” said Martin.


The B-29 flew nonstop, carrying 52 bombs weighing 250-pounds each with only 6,785 gallons of gas. According to Martin leadership feared that Russia would soon enter the war.


“If Russians entered the war, they would get access to that refinery,” said Martin. “If they got that fuel, it would allow them to roll on down the islands.”


Martin explained that the mission was crucial. The objective was to break the Japanese and to stop the Russians from entering the war. If Japan gained the support of Russia, the war may have continued.


“Truman was concerned [the Japanese] were going to double-cross us and hit Pearl Harbor again and then ask for negotiations,” said Martin. “So he ordered an all-out airstrike against Japan to hit every place he could hit in Japan at the same time.”


Martin stated that roughly 100 planes were flying over Tokyo, leading the Japanese to believe they were being raided. Fearing another atomic bomb attack, they went into a blackout — the cities lights went completely dark.


“What I didn’t know for about 50 years was that there was a coup d’état underway to stop the ending of the war,” said Martin.


During the fly-over of Japan, a group of roughly 2,000 rebels were attempting to stop Japanese Emperor Michinomiya Hirohito’s broadcast of surrender.


Once the rebels could not find and destroy the recording of the broadcast, Maj. Kenji Hatanaka, leader of the Japanese rebellion, returned outside with a handful of men to perform a ritual suicide known as hara kiri.


“We’ve always said that our flight stopped World War II from continuing,” said Martin.


Martin thought the Japanese were afraid of a third atomic bomb as the 411th BS flew over Tokyo — hence why they went into a blackout. During the blackout, the coup on the Tokyo Imperial Palace was interrupted.


The crew of Big Hutch made it to Akita and hit the refinery. On the way back, Martin and his crew heard the news of the war ending and he wrote his thoughts down in his personal journal. A few tears ran down Martin’s face as he read the entry to the audience of McConnell.



“Coming home, we heard the big news — after 3 ½ years — the war is finally over! Thank God!”


“I wouldn’t part with [the experience] for a million dollars,” said Martin. “[But] I wouldn’t go through it again for another million.”