Updating the James Bond Movie Legacy

James Bond MoviesPerhaps one of Britain’s most famous actors, Daniel Craig has been in a multitude of movies and plays throughout most of his life. It could even be said that he was born to be an actor, performing in plays since the age of six. Although initially having a difficult career during his teen years, in the 1990’s his break came through, acting in his first motion pictures. In more recent years, starting in 2006, he took the role as the current James Bond from Pierce Brosnan, and has been hugely successful in this role to this day, starring in Spectre which came out in 2015. He also received an uncredited role as Stormtrooper JB-007 in the newest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens.

He was born Daniel Wroughton Craig on March 2, 1968, in Chester, Cheshire, England. His mother, Carol Olivia, was an art teacher and his father, Timothy John Wroughton Craig, was a landlord for a chain of pubs. Daniel’s parents divorced when he was four years old, in 1972, and he and his older sister, Lea, lived with their mother in Liverpool. It was there where Daniel would obtain the desire for performing, when his mother would regularly take him to the Liverpool Everyman Theatre. At the age of six, he began acting in school plays, and by the age of 16 he finished school and moved to London and enrolled into the National Youth Theatre, also working as a waiter part-time to help finance his education. Afterwards, he enrolled into the Guildhall School of Music and Drama; he graduated in 1991.

Daniel’s first motion picture movie in which he was featured in was The Power of One, a movie set in South Africa during the Second World War. His role was that of Sergeant Jaapie Botha, a South African. Afterwards, he was featured in a series of other movies, and guest starred on various television show episodes. In 2006, however, when he was appointed as the new Bond, his name became known, from the Casino Royale to Spectre. A fact that is less well-known is that while Spectre  was being filmed, Daniel went over to the building where The Force Awakens was being filmed, which was only a few yards away, and after gaining the approval of director J.J. Abrams, he suited up in Stormtrooper armor and appeared for a brief scene in the movie.

Some of the planes used in the Bond movies include this famous plane, the Boeing B-50.

Even though its appearance to the B-29 of World War Two fame is nearly identical, the Boeing B-50 of 1947 is virtually a completely new aircraft, having only 25% in common with its predecessor. And despite the fact that it was built specifically as an interim bomber in the immediate postwar years, it went on to serve the Air Force for nearly two decades, longer than some of the aircraft that were intended to supersede the B-50! The B-50 went on be the backbone bomber of Strategic Air Command, or SAC, in the immediate postwar years, and went on to be the Air Force’s first ‘purpose-built’ atomic bomber. That wasn’t the only role the B-50 performed, however; it also performed as an aerial refueling tanker, a reconnaissance plane and it even served in the duty of atmospheric analyzation.

In 1945, Boeing wanted to expand and improve upon its B-29 line, replacing the four Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclones with newer Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Majors. The Boeing Company felt that this would further improve the B-29’s range, a crucial factor in the Pacific Theater. The new prototype, a B-29 fitted with the above-mentioned Pratt & Whitney’s, became known as the XB-44, and took to the air in May of 1945. The aircraft’s performance was pleasing, but some changes were required. The engines were much more powerful than its predecessors, thus creating more torque, and adding difficulty to the overall stability to the aircraft. This would be eradicated in the production B-50, as it would be known, by increasing the height of the vertical stabilizer (tail).

Boeing’s new aircraft was actually intended to be in the B-29 as noted, receiving the designation ‘B-29D.’ The Army Air Force, as the U.S. Air Force was known then, seemed interested in the idea, and placed over 200 orders for the new machine. With the end of the Second World War, however, and the nearing completion of the larger and more promising B-36 and B-47 nuclear bombers, the Army Air Force lost interest in the program, and reduced the order to just 60. Moreover, the United States, due to the end of the war, had begun reducing its military budget drastically (as with most every other nation except that of the Soviet Union). In the viewpoint of Congress, this left no room for ‘obsolete’ aircraft such as the B-29, and large amounts of B-29’s were condemned to storage or scrapping. Boeing did not want their new B-29D to share the same fate as the B-29’s, so Boeing renamed the B-29D as a whole ‘new’ aircraft, christening it the B-50A. The Air Force, as it became known from 1947 on, saw that the B-50 was still a useful aircraft, and welcomed it into service as a stopgap aircraft until the above-mentioned B-36’s and B-47’s were available.

The first actual ‘B-50’ was rolled out of the Boeing hangar in June of 1947, and flew that same month. The final product had nearly nothing in common with its B-29 ancestor, despite appearance. Aside from the obvious installation of the Pratt & Whitney Wasp Majors and the heightened vertical stabilizer (which was able to fold down over the starboard horizontal stabilizer for easier storage), the B-50 had a multitude of differences, such as including a lighter, yet stronger, aluminum skin. It also had pneumatic bomb bay doors, allowing them to open and close quicker than the earlier B-29. Less noticeable changes include the installation of Curtiss Electric propellers, and a streamlined frontal turret. And, although being an ‘atomic bomber,’ it still possessed the capability of packing conventional explosives like those included on standard B-29’s.

B-50’s were delivered for squadron service by 1948-49. SAC, a former branch of the Air Force, had only expected the B-50 to be an interim aircraft, and had wanted to prematurely retire it from bomber service by 1950. However, with delays in the later B-47 (the B-36 had already entered service at around the same time as the B-50) postponed the cancelation date. This gave the B-50 to prove itself as an earlier nuclear deterrent in the opening years of the Cold War. That being said, the B-50 actually had great trouble adapting to the ‘atomic bomber’ role. At the Boeing production line, the engineers and envisaged a bomber that, from the start, was capable of carrying an atomic warhead, without having to undergo conversion like the ‘Silverplate’ B-29’s. However, in the late 1940’s the developers of the atomic bombs were still highly secretive of their work, and wouldn’t even so much as give the weights or dimensions of the atomic bombs in development. Therefore, the Boeing engineers had nothing to work with, so, like the B-29, the B-50 had the wait until the bomb was available, and reconfigure the bomb bay accordingly. Nonetheless, the B-50 was still the first aircraft that Strategic Air Command had as a postwar deterrent, and remained in bomber squadrons until 1955; although she never dropped a bomb in anger, she proved her worth with the hard-hearted SAC generals.

This, of course, wasn’t the only role the versatile B-50 performed. As early as the bomber variants of the B-50 were entering squadron service, converted B-50’s were serving as reconnaissance platforms. These were perhaps the most dangerous missions of the B-50’s two-decade-long career, with aircrews slipping their aircraft along the border of the great expansion of the Soviet Union, picking up priceless information, whilst trying to avoid fighter interception at the same time. Some of SAC’s only ‘combat’ losses were from unfortunate reconnaissance bombers whom fell to the guns of Soviet MiG fighters. A similar, but rather unknown, task the Superfortresses performed was that of atmospheric sampling. This is when heavily-modified B-50’s would fly high up in the atmosphere (again close to the borders of the Soviet Union, and later China) and sample the atmosphere for any radioactive fallout. When or if any fallout is obtained, it is examined by scientists on the ground, and use the fallout sample to judge how powerful their most recent nuclear bomb test was, and how to take the appropriate measures; it was this method that informed the United States of the Soviet Union’s first detonation in 1949 (although it was a B-29 that gathered the sample).

The Boeing B-50’s last career was as an inflight refueling tanker, and served in this role all the way into the opening of the Vietnam War, the last B-50s retiring in 1966 because of metal fatigue. From 1948-1966, the B-50 demonstrated that she was more than a mere stopgap aircraft, with 18 years to prove it. She even out-serviced her much larger B-36 counterpart, which retired in 1959 from all roles. The B-50 not only served outstandingly in her military service, but also set a major world record. In 1949, ‘Lucky Lady II,’ as she was dubbed, became the first aircraft in history to circumnavigate the globe without landing, landing back at her home base in just over 90 hours. Even though no B-50’s are in flying condition today, they are still a common site at any major U.S. Air Museum, and will be for decades to come.

This airplane has been seen in countless movies and theaters. A real movie classic.

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