The B-52 was born of the experiences in the Pacific during World War II. Thousands of American soldiers died on the beaches of dozens of small atolls in the quest to build air bases ever closer to the island of Japan. Each island base was another step toward bringing mainland Japan within reach of the Pacific's heavy bomber, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Ultimately, from one of these bases, America entered the Nuclear Age when the B-29 "Enola Gay" dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
In the wake of the war, military planners felt that the human costs of such a campaign were too high. A less costly strategy would be to develop a bomber that could strike across great distances without having to be based overseas. In the next war, America would be ready to take its new atomic bomb directly into the heart of the enemy's homeland, anywhere on the globe.
The challenges in technology to build such a plane were extraordinary. The new bomber would be equipped with the new generation of jet engines, be able to take advantage of the advent of air-to-air refueling, employ high altitude radar bombing technology. The Boeing Military Airplane Company, a company whose proud tradition had spawned both the B-17 and the B-29, stepped up to the plate to design the next generation of bomber.