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Cool Things - Boeing Model Airplane

Boeing  Superfortress model airplane

Boredom at a minor airstrip in northern Japan led Oliver "Ted" Riddle to build this model airplane.

Ted Riddle didn't build just any model. He chose a B-29 Superfortress, an important Kansas contribution to the war effort in World War II. The majority of these planes were built at the Boeing plant in Wichita, and training for the B-29s was carried out at four Kansas Army Air Fields. 

B-29 in Kansas

A real B-29 Superfortess in flightThe Boeing aircraft company introduced plans for its B-29 bomber before the United States entered World War II. The Superfortress had guns that could be fired by remote control, and pressurized crew areas. But its importance in wartime was its increased bomb load and ability to fly longer distances.

Boeing made the majority of B-29s at its Wichita plant, although they also were built by the Bell Aircraft and Glenn L. Martin companies. At the peak of production, a new B-29 was completed each four hours and 45 minutes of the workday.

The B-29s were mostly used in the war's Pacific Theater, as their range was particularly suited to flying long distances over open water. Appropriately enough, the prairie lands of Kansas were an ideal training ground. The Army Air Force bases at Great Bend, Pratt, Salina, and Walker all trained B-29 crews.

At the end of the war, B-29s named "Enola Gay" and "Bockscar" dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. B-29s again saw service in the Korean War before being retired in September, 1960.

Tokyo Rose

Ted Riddle's scale model, the "Tokyo Rose" (pictured here), is a very detailed version of the original which was the first B-29 to fly a mission over Japan. The symbolic value of this plane bombing Japan was in its name:  "Tokyo Rose" was also the radio disc jockey who broadcast Japanese propaganda into Pacific war zones.

Riddle, an Oklahoma native, was an Airman First Class stationed at Chitose Air Force Base in northern Japan when he decided to build this model in February 1955. He later explained:

"There wasn't much in the way of recreation, so most of the boys turned to hobbies. This model was mine. Some of the materials were hard to come by. The plastic covering for the cockpit and the nose are an example. I finally got the base librarian to save worn out book covers until I had enough to finish the job."

It took Riddle 2,000 hours over 13 months to finish the model. Outfitted with four small gasoline engines, Riddle's "Tokyo Rose" flew at least four times and won trophies in competitions. Its bomb bay doors opened and closed and dropped "bombs" during  demonstrations.

Riddle died in 1958. His family later sold the "Tokyo Rose" model to the Boeing Aircraft Company, which in turn gave it to the Kansas Historical Society. The model is displayed in the main gallery of the Kansas Museum of History.

Specifications of the "Tokyo Rose" Model

  • Materials—Balsa wood and plywood
  • Wing span—7 feet
  • Length—5 feet
  • Weight—12 pounds
  • Speed—62.5 miles per hour
  • Gas tank capacity—12 ounces
  • Duration of flight—6 1/2 minutes

Entry: Cool Things - Boeing Model Airplane

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2005

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.