The United States played a significant role in the Second World War when they entered the chaos. They supplied the Allies with soldiers, weapons, and supplies. More importantly, the country largely contributed bombers and fighter planes that soared through the sky. Japan should’ve taken the hint when they bombed Pearl Harbor, which housed battleships and aircraft, on December 7, 1941. Whenever we talk about the bombers of World War II, we usually think of the legendary Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, the North American B-25 Mitchell, or maybe the Boeing B-29 Superfortress but rarely of the B-32 Dominator. Here’s why.

A Fallback

The Consolidated B-32 Dominator was developed by Consolidated Aircraft Corporation, the company that produced the B-24 Liberator. It was created mainly as a fallback in case the B-29 Superfortress failed to meet the expectations. We now know that the B-29 would turn out to be the bomber aircraft that the military could ever dream of, making the B-32 unnecessary. Even so, the company still produced more than 100 B-32 Dominators deployed in 1945, becoming part of the final air battles of the US before World War II ended.

The Dominator’s development fell behind the Superfortress of Boeing. However, some of its many important measurements like speed and the number of crew needed to operate the aircraft were the same. It all boiled down to the pressurized fuselage of the B-29, enabling it to climb at high altitudes, while the B-32 was considered a low to medium altitude bomber only.

So, Consolidate and Boeing were racing to create a fully pressurized, streamlined, and massive heavy bomber that could effectively soar in the skies of Germany or maybe even Tokyo.

B-29 VS. B-32

Consolidated’s prototype was the B-32, a mega-bomber with Davis airfoil wings and the unmissable double tail like the B-24 Liberator. It had a cigar-shaped fuselage with a multi-paned “birdcage” nose. Its flight deck didn’t look good either to most observers. They thought that the B-32 was not attractive at all. These would be later revised and improved like the more modern nose, cockpit glass, and the tall single vertical tail.

Side view of the Consolidated XB-32 (S/N 41-142), taken on February 28, 1944. (US Air Force photo)

Both the B-29 Superfortress and the B-32 Dominator used Wright’s R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone 18-cylinder radial engines that drove four large four-bladed propellers. Both were also fully pressurized, could arm themselves with up to 20,000 pounds of bombs, and could travel at 357 miles per hour. The Dominator was slightly smaller with a bit faster speed than normal cruising speed.

B-29 in flight. (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Almost Not Used

Only a few of the B-32 saw combat. One was nicknamed Hobo Queen II, with aircraft serial number 42-108532. Hobo Queen was assigned to the 286th Bombardment Squadron after undergoing initial combat evaluation in the Philippines and attacking targets in Formosa. As the Pacific War started to come to an end, the recon missions of the 386th continued with B-32 Dominators often working in small groups and conducting search missions of flying over the islands of Japan to conduct photographic reconnaissance. They continued flying even after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing and even after Japan’s surrender on August 15. This time, the unhindered photos taken by the Dominators were used in locating and aiding prisoners of war camps, as well as in assisting in the operations of the Allied forces and making sure the Japanese airfields and ports were not doing any suspicious activities.

While the Consolidated B-32 Dominators were only used for a few months in the war and only saw little combat, the US Army Air Forces began to take down the planes from their inventory one by one. Soon, they all went into storage before chopping them into pieces. As for the Hobo Queen II, her landing gear retracted while parked on an Okinawa airstrip. The accident caused her nose to be crushed, and when the crew attempted to lift the plane, the operator damaged the aircraft further by dropping it twice more. A few months later and she was no more, just like the rest of her kind.

The Dominator did enjoy the historic distinction in fighting in the last air battles of WWII. Two days after the cessation of hostilities with Japan on August 17th, 1945, four B-32 Dominators overflew Japan on a photo recon mission to ensure Japanese compliance with ceasefire terms.  The flight of four ran into Japanese fighters that attacked them.  Some units in Japan were reluctant to surrender in spite of the Emperor’s order to lay down their arms. What ensued was an hours long-running gun battle in the skies as the Japanese fighters struggled at the high altitude and speed of the Dominators. They would make a head-on pass and then zoom by to climb again and strain to get in front of the bombers again to make another pass. All four dominators made it back to base with just a few holes in them for their trouble.  They were also lighter by about 4,000 rounds of ammunition they expended on the fighters.

The next day, the Hobo Queen and another Dominator took off to fly the exact same mission in order to determine if the Japanese at this airfield were really determined to continue resistance.  Sure enough, they found themselves attacked again. This time by 14 aircraft including A6M Zeroes and the new and superb, Kawanishi N1K “Rex” which was armed with 20mm cannons.  Once again, the 2 outnumbered Dominators managed to fight off all the fighters without losing a plane but with two wounded and one crewman killed.

For a new bomber, that wasn’t bad at all.  The army may have been a bit hasty in rejecting the Dominator as an ugly duckling.