Historical Society to screen videos of historic B-29 ‘Doc’

Historical Society to screen videos of historic B-29 ‘Doc’The Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert will screen two short films about Doc — the historic B-29 that was rescued in 1998 from a China Lake boneyard, restored, and returned for a visit last fall — at HSUMD’s Tuesday, Jan. 21, 7 p.m. meeting in the Historic USO Building.

“We’ll have Mark Pahuta present two short videos and Doug Lueck relate his part in moving Doc from China Lake’s Baker Range to Inyokern,” said Program Chair Andrew Sound. “We invite anyone else with a tale to tell about Doc to come to the meeting and share.”

The first video (actually a 10-minute 16mm film) “299 Foxtrot” (1976) tells the story of a B-29 sitting for years in the China Lake boneyard waiting to be dragged out on the ranges to serve as a target for an air-to-ground weapon test. Instead, a group of aviation historians managed to intercede and refurbish the plane for eventual museum display. The aircraft flew out of China Lake’s Armitage Field on June 15, 1976.

The second video, made in 1998, documents the B-29 Doc and its four-day journey from Baker Range to Inyokern. Although the video ends with Doc arriving at Inyokern, the rest of the story is even more amazing. After the move Doc was trucked in pieces back to its original plant in Wichita, Kans. — where it had been built during World War II —and then restored to flying status.

Doc is now one of only two flyable B-29s in the world. Perhaps not so coincidentally, both came from China Lake’s boneyard.

Videographer Mark Pahuta was fresh out of USC film school when he started work in TID’s Film Projects Branch in late November 1976. “299 Foxtrot” was one of the first films he worked on as a government employee. He will speak of the making of the two shows, including information about how 299 Foxtrot was completely fabricated after the fact, how segments from William Wyler’s famous WWII documentary, “Memphis Belle,” were used in the film, how the film won many national and international awards, and what Gen. Curtis LeMay thought of the film after he saw a rough cut at China Lake in 1977.

Some 20 years later Pahuta co-photographed and edited the Doc video strictly on a volunteer basis.

Many folks in our town also volunteered their efforts in moving Doc from Baker Range to Inyokern and never got recognition for their efforts. “We feel this would be a great opportunity for those people to come forward and tell their stories about what they did to get Doc flying again,” said Sound.

HSUMD meets on the third Tuesday of most months. Meetings are free, and the public is welcome to attend. For more information call 760-375-8456.

Pictured: Doc starts its journey to Inyokern in April 1998. — Still from video

Story First Published: 2020-01-03