North American B-25B Mitchell: Front Plan

North American B-25B Mitchell: Front Plan

North American B-25B Mitchell: Front Plan

Front plan of the North American B-25B Mitchell, showing the famous gull wing.

B-25 Mitchell Bomber – Photos and Videos

During the Second World War, the high adaptability of the B-25 Mitchell Bomber–named in honor of the pioneer of U.S. military aviation, Brigadier General William Lendrum Mitchell–paid off as it served extensively in missions including both high and low altitude bombing, tree-top level strafing, anti-shipping, supply, photo reconnaissance, and other support.

Production of this twin-engine medium bomber commenced in late 1939 by North American Aviation, following a requirement from the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) for a high-altitude medium bomber. By the end of the war, about 9,816 Mitchells were manufactured, with several variants.

North American B-25 Mitchell production in Kansas City in 1942

Generally, the Mitchell bomber weighed 19,850 pounds when empty, had a maximum take-off weight of 35,000 pounds, and was built to hold a crew of six comprising the pilot and co-pilot, a navigator who doubled as a bombardier, a turret gunner who also served as an engineer, and a radioman who performed duties as a waist and tail gunner.

It was powered by two Wright R-2600 Cyclone 14 radial engines which dissipated about 3,400 hp, and performed with a top speed of 272 mph at 13,000 feet, although it was most effective at a speed of 230 mph.

North American Aviation factory workers mounting an engine on a B-25 bomber, Inglewood, California, United States, 1942.

Its performance range was 1,350 miles with a service ceiling of 24,200 feet.

Anywhere from 12-18 12.7mm machine guns, a T13E1 cannon, and 3,000 pounds of bombs comprised its armament. It had a 1,984-lb ventral shackle and racks, capable of holding a Mark 13 Torpedo and eight 127mm rockets for ground attacks, respectively.

B-25 Mitchell of the USAAF 12th Bombardment Group

The B-25 performed in all the theaters of the Second World War and was mainly used by the United States Army Air Force, Royal Air Force, Soviet Air Force, and the United States Marine Corps.

Mitchell bombers participated in campaigns in the Solomon Islands, Aleutian Islands, Papua New Guinea, and New Britain, among others. Owing to the tropical nature of the environment, mid-level bombing was less efficient, and thus the B-25s were adapted to serve as low-altitude attack bombers.

B-25 leaving installations aflame in the Wewak area, 13 August 1943.

During the Southwest Pacific campaigns, the B-25 enormously contributed to Allied victories as the 5th Air Force devastated the Japanese forces through skip-bombing attacks on ships and Japanese airfields.

In the China-Burma-India theater of the war, B-25s were widely used for interdiction, close air support, and battlefield isolation.

Crew member sweeping ashes off a B-25 of the 340th Bomb Group at Pompeii Field, Italy. Ash came from an eruption of Mt Vesuvius on 23 March 1944 that rained hot ash and brimstone on the area damaging several aircraft. Note the front wheel in the air.

B-25s also took part in campaigns in North Africa and Italy, providing air support for ground forces during the Second Battle of Alamein. They took part in Operation Husky, which was the invasion of Sicily, and accompanied the movement of Allied forces through Italy, where they were instrumental in ground attacks.

The B-25’s extraordinary capabilities as a bomber were first brought to the limelight following their performance in the Tokyo Raid of 18 April 1942, in which the hitherto impregnable home islands of Japan were attacked.

Doolittle Raid B-25Bs aboard USS Hornet

Their sturdiness and ease of maintenance under primitive environmental conditions were characteristics that aided the durability of the B-25s during the war. By the end of the war, they had completed more than 300 missions.

Several B-25s remained in service after World War II, including two that were used by the Biafran side in the Nigerian Civil War, before being retired in 1979.

More photos

North American Aviation plant, Inglewood, CA

From the radio operator’s position in a USMC PBJ Mitchell, Japanese POW 2Lt Minoru Wada looks for landmarks to find the Japanese 100th Infantry Division headquarters complex, 9 August 1945, Mindanao, Philippines.

B-25 Mitchell bombers of 321st Bomber Group, US 447th Bomber Squadron flying past Mount Vesuvius, Italy during its eruption of 18-23 March 1944.

B-25 Mitchell bomber of the 405th Bomb Squadron “Green Dragons” employing the skip-bombing technique against enemy shipping. Southwest Pacific, 1944-45.

Spectacular crash at Byoritsu oil refinery, Formosa, was photographed by a B-25 of the 5th Air Force’s 345th Bomb Group on 26 May 1945. Just as it released its string of parafrags B-25 NO. 192 was hit by flak from a camouflaged battery and trails smoke. A gaping hole is visible on the piolot’s side.

Aft flight deck of USS Hornet while en route to the launching point of the Doolittle Raid, April 1942. Note USS Gwin and USS Nashville nearby.

A U.S. Army Air Force North American B-25B Mitchell bomber taking off from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) during the Doolittle Raid on 18 April 1942.

James Doolittle sitting by the wing of his wrecked B-25 Mitchell bomber, China, 18 April 1942.

B-25D ‘Red Wrath’ bombing anti-aircraft sites, Wewak & Boram, New Guinea, 16 October 1943.

Armorer cleaning the bore of a 75mm cannon mounted in a B-25G Mitchell bomber of the 820th Bomb Squadron, Tarawa, Gilbert Islands March-April 1944.

PBJ-1 Mitchell bomber of Marine Squadron VMB-413 is hit in the port engine by anti-aircraft fire over Tobera, New Britain 5 May 1944. The aircraft crashed a short time later killing all 6 of the crew.

Five PBJ-1J Mitchells of Marine Squadron VMB-614 in a training flight over an undisclosed location in the US, 1944-1945. Note radomes on starboard wingtips.

US B-25J of 499th ‘Bats Outta Hell’ Bomb Squadron of 345th ‘Air Apaches’ Bomb Group attacking Japanese Type-C Escort Vessel No. 1, in Taiwan Strait south of Amoy (Xiamen), China, 6 April 1945.


North American’s B-25G Mitchell from the AAF TAC Center, Orlando, Florida, April 17, 1944.

Armorers load four 1,000-lb MC bombs into the bomb-bay of a North American B-25 Mitchell, for an early morning sortie from B58/ Melsbroek, Belgium.

Loading bombs to B-25 Mitchell. Photo: FORTEPAN / National Archives

Abandoned B-25J bomber of 822nd Bomb Squadron of 38th Bomb Group of US 5th Air Force, 25 January 1949

WAA Surplus with stored B-25’s, B-26’s and B-17’s etc. Photo: Bill Larkins / CC-BY-SA 2.0

North American B-25B Mitchell: Front Plan - History

The North American B-25 Mitchell

The profiles on this page are based on the photographs and text currently available to

New profile! - "Whiskey Pete" - aircraft #3 piloted by Lt. Robert Gray
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Aircraft #8 - piloted by Capt. Edward York
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Aircraft #16 - "Bat Out of Hell" - piloted by Lt. William Farrow
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B-25B Specifications and Data:

Manufacturer: North American Aviation
First Flight August 19, 1940
Number Built: 119 (actually it was supposed to be 120, but one crashed before delivery to the US Army Air Forces)
Powerplant(s): Wright cyclone R-2600-9 14 cylinders each
Weight (empty) 20,000 pounds
Maximum Horsepower (per engine) 1,700
1,350 HP at 13,000 feet
Maximum Speed 322 mph
300 Miles per Hour at 15,000 feet
Initial Rate of Climb 1,704 feet per minute
Ceiling 23,500 feet
Maximum Range 1,300 miles (with 694 gallons of fuel and a 3,000-pound bomb load)
Gross Take-off Weight 26,208 pounds
Maximum Take-off Weight 28,460 pounds
Span 67 feet 7 inches
Wing Area 610 square feet
Length 52 feet 11 inches (without broomsticks :-) )
Height 15 feet 9 inches
Normal Bomb load 2,400 pounds
Various combinations of bombs could be carried. Total weight depended on amount of fuel carried and other variables
Normal range 2,000 miles
Crew: 5
USAAF serial numbers 40-2229 to 40-2242 and 40-2244 to 40-2348
Guns 1 .30 caliber Browning machine gun
4 .50 caliber Browning machine guns in top and bottom turrets (bottom turret was deleted on all Doolittle Raid B-25Bs)

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North American B-25 Mitchell

By Stephen Sherman, Aug. 2002. Updated January 21, 2012.

O n April 18, 1942, sixteen B-25B's leapt off the storm-swept decks of the carrier Hornet, 700 miles from their targets on the Japanese Home Islands. Still reeling from the devastating blow at Pearl Harbor four months earlier, Navy Captain Francis Low had hatched the plan to launch the USAAF twin-engine medium bombers at sea and have them land in China. Army Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle signed on to lead the raid.

They determined that medium bombers could take off from aircraft carriers (just barely), but they could never land on them. Thus the planned landings at airfields in China. Doolittle recruited volunteers. (ed. I don't know if any of the volunteer fliers were handsome P-40 fighter pilots who had been at Pearl Harbor, as presented in that movie.) On February 3, 1942, they successfully test-launched B-25's from Hornet. To prepare the planes for the mission, they overloaded them with 1141 gallons of gasoline, removed the ventral turrets (more on that later), and stuck black-painted broomsticks in the tail as dummy guns (okay, they got that detail right in the film).

On April 2, with 16 Mitchells on board, Hornet steamed from San Francisco, heading for a launch point in the North Pacific, 400 miles from Tokyo. But they met Japanese picket boats well outside of that range, and felt compelled to launch. Strictly speaking, in a material sense, the raid inflicted some minor damage on four Japanese cities: Tokyo, Kobe, Yokohama, and Nagoya. All the bombers were lost eleven crews bailed out, four crash-landed, one was interned in the Soviet Union. Most of the fliers who were downed in China eluded the Japanese, and made their way back to the States.

But the raid's impact on Japanese morale and planning was incalculable. Among other effects, the raid immediately stilled any opposition to the proposed Midway attack amongst senior Japanese military planners. And the destruction of four Japanese carriers at that battle marked the end of Japanese advances in the Pacific.


The B-25 originated in a 1937 Army request for a twin-engine attack bomber that could out-perform existing single-engine types. Several companies submitted proposals North American's NA-40 featured a crew of five, and narrow fuselage (made possible by unusual tandem seating of the pilot & co-pilot), shoulder-mounted wings, two Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial engines, and provision for up to seven .30 caliber machine guns. (which grew to fourteen .50 calibers during the development of the B-25). The NA-40 didn't fly as fast as desired, so more powerful, 1600 hp Wright Cyclone R-2600 engines were installed in the next prototype, resulting in a top speed of 287 MPH. This prototype, the NA-40B crashed in April, 1939, and the Army selected the Douglas A-20 for the original attack bomber contract.

But another requirement, put out in March of 1939, proved to fit North American's ideas. For this contract, they built the NA-62, a somewhat larger version, with a noticeably wider fuselage and side-by-side seating for the pilot & copilot. This aircraft won the competition for the 1939 medium bomber contract, and the Army ordered 184 planes, designated B-25 the first example accepted by the Army in February, 1941. Lee Atwood, a North American's chief engineer, suggested naming the B-25 for Billy Mitchell, which the Air Corps agreed to. Personally, I find it ironic that Billy Mitchell, the advocate of heavy bombers, was honored by an attack bomber - an aircraft type that, in many ways, was anathema to his concept of air power.

B-25A & B-25B

As with all U.S. bombers in World War two, the development of the B-25 is marked by increasing armament, more armor, installation of self-sealing tanks, and, consequently, more weight. Until engines were correspondingly up-rated, performance inevitably suffered. Inadequate firepower in the nose and problems with gun turret installations, issues seen in many bombers, also challenged the Mitchell's designers.

The B-25A included pilot armor and self-sealing tanks. The B-25B introduced the notoriously unsuccessful Bendix ventral turret. Harold Maul, a B-25 crewman, described the ball turret in Eric Bergerud's Fire in the Sky: The Air War in the South Pacific:

"The worst thing ever designed was the bottom turret of the B-25. It was the stupidest bit of equipment. My God, the operator is sitting in one place getting a reverse image through a mirror. He couldn't hit a thing. It slowed the damn plane down, and we weren't getting belly attacks anyway. What they really needed was a tail gun, which they eventually installed."

North American B-25B Specs:

  • Engines: Two 1700 hp Wright R-2600-9 Double Cyclone fourteen-cylinder air-cooled radials.
  • Maximum Speed: 300 mph at 15,000 feet.
  • Ceiling: 23,500 feet.
  • Range: 2000 miles with 3000 pounds of bombs.
  • Weight: 20,000 pounds empty, 28,460 pounds loaded, 31,000 pounds maximum.
  • Wingspan: 68 feet, Length: 53 feet
  • Fuel: 692 gallons. Provison for one 420-gallon drop tank
  • Armament: One nose-mounted .30 caliber machine gun. Four .50 calibers, a pair in two Bendix turrets (one top and one bottom).

B-25C & B-25D

Between December, 1941 and May, 1943, North American turned out 1,619 B-25C's, the first large-scale production version of the Mitchell. The armament and the outward appearance of the "C" model closely resembled the "B." Changes included improved carburetors, a cabin heater, a larger (515 gallon) drop tank, a flame-dampening exhaust system, and underwing bomb racks. In the way of weaponry, the single .30 caliber in the nose was replaced by two .50's - one in the tip and one in the starboard side.

The B-25D was essentially identical to the "C." 2290 were manufactured by North American at the government-owned plant in Kansas City (ed. note - Some sources say that the B-25D was built at Dallas. Joe Baugher says Kansas City. Case closed.)

An unusual character named Paul "Pappy" Gunn entered the B-25 story in the South Pacific, in the Fifth Air Force's Third Bomb Group. The relatively ancient Captain Gunn, 40 years old - thus the nickname "Pappy," a master of the American "can do" spirit, modified a number of aircraft for 5AF boss, General George Kenney. Gunn and his team transformed the B-25, tossing out the useless ventral ball turret, removed the bombardier position, and then added six forward-firing .50 caliber machine guns. The resulting power of these massed .50 caliber machine guns was awesome, and the 3rd BG's pilots used them to good effect, blasting away at Japanese barges and shore targets. A Zero caught by such a lead hailstorm simply exploded.

The field-modified B-25 strafers made their debut at the Battle of the Bismarck. Their murderous effect on the Japanese soldiers on the heavy loaded troopships was terrible. World War Two was a tough proposition. For better or worse, both sides knew it was a fight for national survival, and they waged war accordingly. At the Bismarck Sea, the U.S. airplanes killed as many Japanese soldiers as they could. Then, when the barges sank, and the survivors leapt into the water or life-rafts, the B-25 and A-20 airmen machine-gunned them. Not very pretty. I guess the kind of war that we have more recently waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, where we answer to the U.N. for every stray bullet and every "collateral damage," is more humane.

B-25G - The Big Gun

The "G" model featured a 75mm cannon in the nose, one of the largest weapons ever mounted in an airplane. After extensive testing at a secret base in California, the engineers made the idea work, but the B-25G was not very successful. While it could carry 21 rounds, aiming the big cannon was difficult, and it required a long "straight-in" run at the target. During this run, the aircraft was extremely vulnerable and could only get off four rounds. A number of B-25G's were modified by Pappy Gunn at the Townsville Australia Modification Depot, adding more machine guns and occasionally removing the 75mm cannon.

A more successful 75mm cannon-equipped B-25, the "H" variant carried fourteen (14!) machine guns and a lighter-weight 75mm cannon. Room for all this hardware was made, in part, by deleting the co-pilot's position. The picture shows the position of the machine guns:

Four machine guns across the middle of the nose.

The 75mm cannon is partially hidden in a 'well' low in the nose.

Four machine guns in side 'blisters' (only port-side pair visible).

Two in waist positions (again only port-side shown).

By late 1944, when the "H" appeared in the field, there were few targets that couldn't be attacked with .50 caliber machine guns, so the cannons were frequently removed.

North American produced 1,000 B-25H's.

4,318 B-25J's were built (all at Kansas City between Dec. 1943 and Aug. 1945), the largest production run of any B-25 version. No more cannons, but with eighteen machine guns (as many 'J's were modified) it was a formidable strafer. Bomb Groups in the Mediterranean and the Pacific received their first B-25J's in mid to late 1944.

North American B-25J Specs:

  • Engines: Two 1700 hp Wright R-2600-13 Double Cyclone fourteen-cylinder air-cooled radials.
  • Maximum Speed: 275 mph at 15,000 feet.
  • Ceiling: 24,000 feet.
  • Range: 1275 miles with 3200 pounds of bombs.
  • Weight: 21,100 pounds empty, 33,000 pounds loaded, 41,800 pounds maximum overload.
  • Wingspan: 68 feet, Length: 53 feet
  • Fuel: 974 gallons. Provison for one 515-gallon drop tank (plus other options)
  • Strafer Version Armament: Eight nose-mounted .50 caliber machine guns. Four in side blisters. Two in top turret. Two in the waist. Two in the tail.

PBJ-1 - The Navy's B-25

In a complex, inter-service deal, the Navy (and Marine Corps) got some B-24 Liberators and B-25 Mitchells for patrol and anti-sub work. 706 Mitchells were assigned for use by the naval services almost all of the PBJ-1's were flown by Marine Bomb Squadrons. Beginning in March 1944, seven of these VMS squadrons operated in teh Philippines, Saipa, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

Post-War Service

A few countries, notably China, France, Indonesia, and Brazil, operated Mitchells after the war. Unlike some WW2 types (P-51's and DC-3's), they did not see lengthy service anywhere, and were largely retired by the early 1950's. Some also served in the U.S. Air National Guard.

North American converted a number to civilian uses - executive transports and fire-fighting aerial tankers.

Many were used in the making of Catch-22, Joseph Heller's anti-war novel, made into a movie by Mike Nichols, in which Yossarian, General Dreedle, Colonel Cathcart, Major Major Major, Milo Minderbinder wage reluctant and crazy aerial warfare. "Save the bombardier." Nately's Whore's Kid Sister. "Take out the next man who moans and have him shot."


North American B-25 Mitchell, by Jerry Scutts, featuring chapters on the plane's development, its use in the Pacific, by the RAF, over Burma, and in China. With a full appendix on all airplanes and crew participating in the Doolittle raid over Tokyo.

Thirty Seconds over Tokyo (on VHS), the 1944 movie starring Van Johnson and Spencer Tracy, based on Captain Ted Lawson's book of the same name.

I Could Never Be So Lucky Again, by James Harold Doolittle, Carroll V. Glines (Contributor), Barry M. Goldwater

North American B-25 Mitchell

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 03/15/2021 | Content © | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) fielded two major medium bomber types during World War 2 (1939-1945) - the Martin B-26 "Marauder" and the North American B-25 "Mitchell". Both were designed during the same pre-war period with the former's production totaling 5,288 and the latter's registering 9,816 before the end. The Mitchell's legacy was solidified by its use in the 1942 "Doolittle Raids" which brought the war to Japanese soil for the first time. The medium bomber went on to become one of the classic American aircraft of the war and fulfilled its various over-battlefield roles faithfully.

The Need Grows

By the late 1930s, with emerging threats in Japan, Italy and Germany, it was pressed upon American aircraft manufacturers to deliver on a new generation of fighters, bombers and attack platforms. In a March 1938 release by the USAAC, a specification was put forth calling for a design capable of reaching speeds in excess of 200 miles-per-hour out to a range of 1,200 miles with a bomb load of up to 1,200lb. Lofty goals for the period to-be-sure but the need was becoming desperate to better help the United States military (and its allies) contend with new aircraft developments being witnessed overseas.

Back in 1936, North American Aviation (NAA) had developed a medium-class bomber for evaluation by the USAAC as the "XB-21". This entry was a twin-engine type with each nacelle fitted to each wing mainplane member outboard of the centralized fuselage. The cockpit was stepped with the nose glazed for a navigator/bombardier's position and the crew complement numbered up to eight personnel. The tail unit incorporated a single vertical fin with low-set horizontal planes. For ground-running, a tail-dragger landing gear arrangement was used. Power was from 2 x Pratt & Whitney R-1280-A "Twin Hornet" turbosupercharged air-cooled radial piston engines. Defensive armament was centered on 5 x 0.30 caliber M1919 air-cooled machine guns while the bomb load could reach up to 10,000lb in the internal bay.

Only one prototype of the XB-21 was completed to the tune of $122,000 USD and flown, this for the first time on December 22nd, 1936. The XB-21 competed directly with another twin-engine design of the period that would eventually be adopted by the USAAC - the Douglas B-18 "Bolo" (detailed elsewhere on this site). The USAAC still held some interest in the XB-21 for they contracted for multiple evaluation models but, in the end, only a single form was ever completed. The Bolo went on to bigger and better things in the pre-war world, production reaching 350 units, leaving the XB-21 without a role or interested customer.

The NA-21, being North America's first twin-engine product, provided company engineers with priceless experience in designing, developing and selling a combat warplane to the United States military. The framework was more or less set up for the company to deliver a more modern, thoroughly-refined aircraft in the coming years and this new initiative (the "NA-40") moved at such a pace that a first-flight of a revised form was had as soon as late-January 1939. Before the end of March 1939, the aircraft was fitted with more powerful engines to extract performance gains and other facets of its design were ironed out for the better. That same month, the now-NA-40B was readied for evaluation by the USAAC and faced competition from designs offered by Douglas, Martin, and Stearman. The NA-40B failed to secure its future in the coming weeks and, on April 11th, 1939, the prototype was doomed in a crash.

The NA-62 Becomes the B-25

Undeterred, North American Aviation continued to pressed on and began molding the already-completed work of the NA-40B into the new "NA-62". The NA-62 was fleshed out to meet a newer USAAC requirement for an all-modern medium bomber type with speeds nearing 300 miles-per-hour out to a range of 1,200 miles with a 2,400lb war load. In September of 1939, USAAC authorities liked what they saw and committed to the NA-62 - the war in Europe (World War 2) had just broken out on September 1st, 1939 so there was a sense of urgency now. The NA-62 would enter USAAC service under the "B-25" designation and to be fielded side-by-side with a competing medium bomber design, the Martin B-26 "Marauder" (detailed elsewhere on this site).

Production of the new North American bomber ramped up and, following the ninth completed example, the company addressed stability of its product by adding anhedral to the outer wing panels (that is those panels outboard of the engine nacelles). The vertical tail fins also had their surface area increased to add to stability and control.

Early Mitchell Marks

Initial production forms were designated simply as "B-25" and carried 2 x Wright R-2600-9 radial piston engines of 1,350 horsepower each. The bomb bay could accommodate up to 3,600lb of droppable stores and defense was through just three 0.30 caliber machine guns - one fitted at the nose, one at the waist (beam) position, and the final installation in a ventral mounting. A single 0.50 caliber heavy machine gun was installed at the tail to better protect the aircraft's more vulnerable rear. Production ended after 24 examples and the fleet more-or-less served as pre-series aircraft pending the arrival of the B-25A models.

The B-25A was the first-in-line to be deemed combat-capable. To the base form was added better survivability features such as self-sealing fuel tanks and a revised tail-gunner's station. However, this mark only saw production reach 40 total units before attention had shifted to the upcoming B-25B.

The B-25B was improved by way of twin-gunned (2 x 0.50 cal) dorsal turret and remote-controlled, retractable ventral turret. The B-model was the first definitive mark in the series with production reaching 120 units. Some were supplied to the British Royal Air Force via Lend-Lease and served locally under the designation of "Mitchell Mk.I".

The Doolittle Raids of 1942

B-25B aircraft were selected for the famous Doolittle Raid in April of 1942 which showed the Japanese that their homeland could be reached by the United States. Sixteen B-models were used in this daring mission which occurred just four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The bombers were launched from USS Hornet. Of the 80 airmen involved, 69 made the eventual trip home - though fifteen of the bombers crash-landed en route to China.

Mitchell Models Continued.

The B-25C was brought online as an improved form of the preceding B-25B mark. The engines were now switched to 2 x Wright R-2600-13 series air-cooled radial piston engines with added much needed power. The nose section was upgraded by the addition of 2 x 0.50 cal HMGs with one being trainable and the other fixed to protect against head-on attacks. The navigator was given a sighting blister to better account for the bomber's position when en route and anti-icing equipment was installed for cold weather service. The C-model quickly leaped out in front of all other Mitchell bombers for 1,625 total aircraft were built to the standard. Its reach was such that the British, Canadians, Chinese, and Dutch all became recipients of this much-needed bombing platform. For the British, the new model was known as the "Mitchell Mk.II".

The B-25D was a similar mark to the C-model but its production was handled in Kansas City, Kansas (as opposed to Inglewood, California for all others prior). D-model aircraft were also fashioned to photographci-reconnaissance platforms by incorporation of photography gear (3 x K.17 cameras) and operated as the "F-10". In 1944, at least four D-models were further converted to serve in the weather reconnaissance role.

Developmental Mitchells

The XB-25E was a single B-25C set aside to be used as a test bed for more advanced anti-icing/de-icing equipment. The XB-25F-A was similarly used. The XB-25G was a single Mitchell modified for the gunship role. Its nose assembly was shrouded over and carried 2 x 0.50 cal HMGs along with a single 75mm M4 automatic cannon for ground-attacking.

The XB-25G was successfully tested and led to the development of the B-25G. Four-hundred production models were completed to this standard. In service, these aircraft carried more armor and fuel stores to better survivability and improved range.

The XB-28 "Dragon" (NA-63) (detailed elsewhere on this site) was an offshoot of the B-25 program. It was proposed to the USAAF through two completed prototypes as a high-altitude medium bomber to serve over the vast expanses of the Pacific Theater. The aircraft lost the trademark twin-tail rudders of the B-25 with a single rudder unit in its place. While proving an excellent entry when tested, the XB-28 was not adopted due to several factors - including the American switch to low-level bombing.

The B-25H was an improved form of the G-model. Two additional 0.50 cal HMGs were added to the nose. Before long, twin-gunned gun packs were added to the forward fuselage sides adding four more 0.50 caliber HMGs to the mix. While fixed to fire only forward, these guns could prove highly lethal to anything unfortunately caught in its path. The dorsal turret was pushed forward on the fuselage spine to provide for better views. The original M4 autocannon was succeeded by the developmental T13E1 model. Total production netted another 1,000 Mitchells.

The B-25H was crewed by six personnel made up of two pilots, a navigator (doubling as the bombardier), a dorsal turret gunner (doubling as the flight engineer), a radio operator (doubling as a beam gunner) and a tail gunner. Structurally the aircraft has a running length of 52.10 feet, a wingspan of 67.6 feet, and a height of 16.3 feet. Empty weight was 19,500lb against an MTOW of 35,000lb. Power was from 2 x Wright R-2800-92 "Twin Cyclone" 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines outputting 1,700 horsepower each and used to drive three-bladed propellers. Performance included a maximum speed of 272 miles per hour, a cruising speed of 230 miles per hour, a range of 1,350 miles and a service ceiling up to 24,200 feet. Armament ranged from 12 to 18 machine guns of the .50 caliber variety as well as the aforementioned 75mm autocannon. Beyond the 3,000lb of conventional drop stores held internally, the bomber could be equipped with external shackles for carrying and releasing Mark 13 series torpedoes. Beyond this, the wings could field eight 5" HVAR rockets fro ground/ship attacks.

The B-25J was a meshing of D- and H-model qualities to serve as either in medium bomber or gunship roles. The mark was produced at the Kansas City location and could carry up to eighteen forward-facing machine guns for ground attack sorties or be used in the traditional bombing role. 4,318 of the type were ultimately built and about 316 were shipped to the British where they were known as the "Mitchell Mk.III". The J-model was the most produced Mitchell in the entire family line.

Other Mitchell Forms

The Mitchell series also included non-combat forms such as the CB-25J which was modified for the transport role. Similarly, the VB-25J was outfitted to serve in the military VIP transport role. The airframe also proved suitable as pilot, bombardier, navigator, gunnery and crew trainers through the TB-25 variant series which encompassed TB-25D through TB-25N. The United States Navy and Marine Corps also made use of the medium bomber in various guises: the PBJ-1C was modified to serve as an anti-submarine platform complete with airborne search radar fitted. The PBJ-1J was a Navy/Marine mark suitable for submarine hunting and carrying radar and rockets.

The B-25 saw widespread service across the globe, both in wartime and in the post-war world. Operators ranged from Argentina and Australia to Uruguay and Venezuela. Brazil, Canada, the Republic of China (Taiwan), France, Poland and the Soviet Union all fielded some form of the bomber or another. The RAF alone operated over 700 B-25s for their part in the story across nine total squadrons.

The B-25 In Service

The B-25 series proved its worth in combat all over the globe during World War 2. Like other bombers of the period, it could take an unbelievable amount of punishment and remain airborne. It was capable of flying on one engine and was noted for its excellent handling characteristics. The aircraft was a viable candidate for a plethora of sanctioned and unsanctioned conversions leading to a myriad of official and unofficial variants being had. The tricycle undercarriage, coupled with the heavily glazed and stepped cockpit, provided excellent vision out-of-the-cockpit for the pilots during landing and take-off actions.

The End of the Road

Like other wartime aircraft - even classic ones remembered to this day - the Mitchell series was quickly given up by the Americans with the close of the war. By 1947, just a few hundred examples remained in now-USAF service. Those that managed existences in American service into the 1950s were used solely for training and second-line roles before ultimately being passed on to Air National Guard units and th elike. The final USAF B-25 was retired in 1960. Other national powers continued to field the B-25 until the late 1970s.

North American B-25B Mitchell: Front Plan - History

Pilot Lt. Ted W. Lawson, O-399549 (WIA, survived)
Co-Pilot Lt. Dean Davenport, O-427310 (WIA, survived)
Navigator Lt. Chas. L. McClure, O-431647 (WIA, survived)
Bombardier Lt. Robert S. Clever, O-432336 (WIA), survived
Engineer Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 19019573 (WIA, survived)
Ditched April 18, 1942 "Doolittle Raid"
MACR none

Aircraft History
Built by North American Aviation (NAA). Constructors Number 62B-2930. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25B Mitchell serial number 40-2261.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 17th Bombardment Group, 95th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Ruptured Duck" with nose art of Disney Donald Duck character with crossed crutches. One of sixteen B-25's assigned to the "Doolittle Raid".

Mission History
On April 18, 1942 took off at 8:43am from the USS Hornet (CV-8) piloted by Lt. Ted W. Lawson as aircraft number seven (no. 7) of sixteen bombers on the "Doolittle Raid" against targets in Japan. Over the target, this B-25 dropped three demolition bombs and one incendiary bomb on an industrial section of Tokyo.

After the raid, this bomber ditched in the China Sea west of Shangchow in China. Three crew were badly injured, injured, one slightly injured and delployed their life raft. Thatcher was only slightly injured and swam back to the wreck to get the medical kit from inside.

Fates of the Crew
Chinese fishermen were persuaded by Thatcher to carry his injured crew mates to temporary safety. Then for three days Chinese fishermen were forced or persuaded by him to carry the injured crew members over difficult mountainous terrain for medical treatment. All the crew were rescued as a result of Thatcher's leadership.

USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25B Mitchell 40-2261
"2261 (17th BG, 95th BS, "Ruptured Duck") was Doolittle raider. Was 7th aircraft launched from USS Hornet, bombed Tokyo, ran out of fuel and ditched on coast near Shangchow Apr 18, 1942."
General Doolittle's Report on Japanese Raid April 18, 1942

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North American B-25B Mitchell: Front Plan - History

Jimmy Doolittle's North American Mitchell B-25

One of the best light bombers of World War II. It was named after General Billy Mitchell who, as far back as 1920, had the foresight to urge the U.S. to build a stronger and better-prepared air force. On the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, only 40 B-25s were in service, but before the end of the War more than 11,000 were operating on all fronts in almost all Allied air forces, achieving extraordinary feats.

One of these was the bombing of Tokyo on April 18, 1942, by16 B-25 Mitchells which took off from the carrier Hornet commanded by the ex-sports pilot Jimmy Doolittle. After completing the mission the aircraft landed in China.

Arriving at it's target, Lt. Ted Lawson's B-25B commences it's bombing run in "30 Seconds over Tokyo" by Craig Kodera

The Raid in a Nut Shell

THE LEGENDARY Doolittle Raid was named after its commander and famous race pilot Jimmy Doolittle, but was conceived by Navy Capts. Francis Low and Donald Duncan.

Low and Duncan figured that if aircrews could take off in a fully loaded medium bomber from a 700-foot runway, they could launch from a Navy carrier close enough to strike Japan. The plan became reality in the dark days of spring 1942, and 16 B-25B Mitchell's and their crews left Alameda Naval Air Station in California aboard USS Hornet.

The bombers, stripped of nonessential items to save weight and thus carry more fuel, were supposed to launch from the undetected carrier, drop bombs on Japan, then fly to airstrips in China, beyond Japanese-held territory. Simple bomb-aiming devices were installed instead of the secret Norden bombsight in case an aircraft should fall into enemy hands.

The B-25B had no tail guns, but to ward off stern attacks by Japanese fighters two broomsticks were mounted in the clear tail blister.

The Hornet was still 200 miles from the launch point when it was spotted by a Japanese picket ship. Adm. William (Bull) Halsey ordered the Army bombers into the air, instead of running the risk of the task force coming under attack. The extra 200 miles the bombers had to fly limited the choice of landing strips in China - if they made it that far.

All 16 Mitchell's took off from the Hornet without mishap. The targets hit included industries and shipyards in and around Tokyo. The Japanese, who seemed to have received no warning, put up little resistance.

Many of the bombers crash landed near the coast of China, some ditching into the sea. One made it to Vladivostok in the Soviet Union, the only Mitchell to land in one piece. Eight fliers were captured by the Japanese in China, and four died in prison camps.

After the raid was revealed to the public, reporters asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt where the bombers were based. He answered, N.Shangri-La the fictitious utopian city in James Hilton's popular novel "Lost Horizon."

The damage caused by the raid was insignificant, but it was damage to Tokyo, the enemy's capital. Coming only a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it boosted morale among American fighting forces and the folks back home.

The raid also showed the Japanese that they too could fall victim to a surprise attack. Like the Germans, the Japanese had convinced their citizens that their homeland was invulnerable. But the Doolittle raid was a portent of the massive bombing campaign that would end the war three years later.

Sixteen B-25Bs crowd the Hornet's Flight Deck as the carrier steams toward it's launch point.

Doolittle Raiders

The surprise Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was only the beginning of bad news from the Pacific. In the ensuing weeks, Wake Island, Singapore, Hong Kong and most of the Philippines were overrun by the Japanese army.

Within an incredibly short time, the Japanese had invaded and conquered huge land areas on a front that extended from Burma to Polynesia. By April 1, 1942, Bataan had fallen, and 3,500 Americans and Filipinos were making a brave last stand on the tiny island of Corregidor. There seemed to be no end to the Japanese aggression. Never before had America's future looked so grim.

Soon after the death toll at Pearl Harbor had been totaled, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked America's top military leaders, Army Generals George C. Marshall and Henry H. "Hap" Arnold and Admiral Ernest J. King, to figure out a way to strike back at Japan's homeland as quickly as possible. Although there was nothing they wanted to do more, it seemed an impossible request to carry out.

In response to the president's persistent urging, Captain Francis S. Low, a submariner on Admiral King's staff, approached King and asked cautiously if it might be possible for Army medium bombers to take off from a Navy carrier. If so, could they be launched against Japan?

The question was passed to Captain Donald B. "Wu" Duncan, King's air operations officer. After studying the capabilities of several Army Air Forces (MF) medium bombers, Duncan concluded that the North American B-25 might be capable of taking off from a carrier deck. He recommended takeoff tests be conducted before any definite plans were made.

When this basic idea was passed to General Arnold he called in Lt. Col. James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle, a noted racing and stunt pilot who had returned to active duty in 1940 and was now assigned to Amold's Washington staff. He asked Doolittle to recommend an MF bomber that could take off in 500 feet from a space not more than 75 feet wide with a 2,000 pound bomb load and fly 2,000 miles. Arnold did not say WHY he wanted the information.

Doolittle checked the manufacturers' data on the AAF's medium Bombers-the Douglas B-18 and B-23, North American's B-25 and -Martin B-26. He concluded that the B-25, if modified with fuel tanks, could fulfill the requirements. The B-18 could not carry enough fuel and bombs, the wingspan of the B-23 was too large and the B-26 needed too much takeoff distance.

The plan called for a Navy task force to take 15 B-25s to a point about 450 miles off Japan. There, they would be launched from a carrier to attack military targets at low altitude in five major Japanese cities. including Tokyo, the capital. The planes would then fly on to China, where the planes and the crews would be absorbed into the Tenth Air Force, then being organized to fight in China Burma-India (CBI) theater.

On February 2, 1942, two B-25s were hoisted aboard USS Homet, the US's newest carrier, at Norfolk, Va. A few miles off the Virginia coast, the lightly loaded bombers were fired up and took off without difficulty. Hornet was then ordered to proceed to the West for its first war assignment.

Jimmy Doolittle, a very energetic man, decided that the B-25 crews would consist of five men: pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier and engineer-gunner. Twenty-four B-25s and their crews would be assigned to the mission from the three squadrons of the 10th Bomb Group and its associated 89th Reconnaissance located at Pendleton, Ore. To preserve secrecy, Doolittle personally began making all the arrangements for the training equipment without revealing why he wanted things done.

The four squadrons were ordered to Columbia, S.C. En route, designated planes were modified with extra fuel tanks and assorted plumbing at Minneapolis, Minn. New incendiary bomb shackles were ordered, along with electrically operated motion-picture cameras that would be activated when the bombs were released. Intelligence information, maps and target folders for the five major Japanese cities were prepared.

When the four squadrons arrived at Columbia, the word was passed that volunteers were needed for "a dangerous mission." Almost every man in the four squadrons volunteered the squadron commanders chose 24 crews, plus extra armament specialists and mechanics to ready the aircraft. The selected men and the planes were sent to Eglin Field, Fla., beginning in the last week of February.

Doolittle arrived at Eglin on March 3 and assembled the entire group of 140 men. "My name's Doolittle," he said. "I've been put" in charge of the project you men have volunteered for. Its a tough one, and it will be the most dangerous thing any of you have ever done. Anyone can drop out and nothing will ever be said about it.

Doolittle paused and the room was quiet. Several hands went up and a lieutenant asked if Doolittle could give them any more formation. "Sorry, I can't right now. " he said. "I'm sure you'll start getting some ideas about it when we get down to business-that brings up the most important point I want to make- and you're going to hear this over and over again. This entire mission must be kept top-secret. I not only don't want you to tell your wives or buddies about it, I don't even want you to discuss it among yourselves.."

From the first day of training, it was understood that all the volunteer crews would participate in the training however. only 15 planes would eventually go on the mission. This was done to ensure that there would be plenty of spare crews on hand to replace anyone who became ill or decided to drop out.

As the takeoff training of the pilots progressed, it proved to be harrowing experience for most of them. Army Air Force pilots were not taught during their training to take off over extremely short distances at bare minimum airspeed. Taking off in a medium bomber with the tail skid occasionally striking the ground was unnatural and scary to them. But under U.S. Navy Lieutenant Henry J. Miller's patient instruction, they all soon learned the required skills.

In addition to takeoff practice, it was hoped that each crew would receive 50 hours of flying time to be divided into day and night navigation, gunnery, bombing and formation flying. But maintenance problems kept the planes on the ground most of the time.

Every B-25 model at that time was equipped with one upper and one lower turret, each with twin .50-caliber machine guns. But the upper and lower turret mechanisms continually malfunctioned the lower turret was especially difficult to operate. Doolittle ordered the lower turrets removed and additional gas tanks installed in their place.

There was a single .30-caliber movable machine gun in the B-25's nose, which was placed in a gun port by the bombardier when needed. There were no guns in the tail, so Captain C. Ross Greening, the armament officer, suggested that two broomsticks be painted black and installed there to deceive enemy fighters. Since the bombing was to be at 1,500 feet or less, Greening also designed a simple bombsight he called "Mark Twain" to replace the top-secret Norden bombsight. It was made from two pieces of aluminum that cost about 20 cents.

One of the volunteer gunners had other duties. When 1st Lt Robert "Doc" White, a physician attached to the 89th Reconnaissance Squadron, heard of the call for volunteers, he asked to be included. He was told there was no room for a passenger The only way he could go was as a gunner. White said that was all right him. He took gunnery training, qualified with the second highest score with the twin .50s on the ground targets, and was assigned to a crew. His presence on the mission would prove to be fortuitous..

Meanwhile, Captain Wu Duncan had arrived in Honolulu and conferred with Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, and conveyed the plan for an attack from to transport the Army bombers to the launch point. Nimitz liked the idea and gave the task of carrying it out to Admiral "Bull" Halsey, who was anxious to tangle with the enemy in any way he could.

Duncan worked with the CINCPAC (commander in chief Pacific) planning staff on the details for a 16-ship task force. It was decided that seven ships would accompany the Homet from the Alameda Naval Air Station near San Francisco and rendezvous with an eight ship force that included Halsey's flagship, the carrier Enterprise. The linkup would take place near the 180th meridian.

By the middle of March, Homet, now destined to be the ship that would deliver the B-25s to the takeoff point, had passed through the Panama Canal and proceeded to Alameda. At the end of the third week in March, Captain Duncan wired Washington from Honolulu: "Tell Jimmy to get on his horse."

This coded message was all Doolittle needed to get his men and planes moving to the West Coast. Since two of the B-25s had been damaged in training, the 22 remaining were flown to McClellan Field, in Sacramento, Calif., for final inspections before proceeding to Alameda. All of these crews would go aboard the carrier.

Captain Duncan flew to San Diego to confer with Captain Marc A. Mitscher, skipper of Homet. Mitscher had not been told about the mission until then and was delighted to have a part in it. Since he had watched the first two B-25s take off successfully several weeks earlier, he was confident it could be done. Duncan then went to San Francisco to await the arrival of Doolittle from Florida, Halsey from Hawaii and Homet from San Diego.

The three men, joined by Captain Miles Browning, Halsey's chief of staff, met informally in downtown San Francisco to discuss the details and determine if anything had been left undone. The plan was for Hornet, in company with the cruisers Nashville and Vincennes, the oiler Cimarron, and the destroyers Gwin, Meredith, Monssen and Grayson-to be known as Task Force 16.2-to leave San Francisco April 2. Halsey, aboard Enterprise, was in charge of Task Force 16.1 and would leave Hawaii on April 7, accompanied by the cruisers Northampton and Salt Lake City, the oiler Sabine, and destroyers Balch, Benham, Ellet and Fanning.

The rendezvous of the two forces would become Task Force 16 and would take place on Sunday, April 12, at approximately 38 degrees O minutes north latitude and 180 degrees 0 minutes west longitude. The force would then proceed westward and refuel about 800 miles off the coast of Japan. Then the oilers would detach themselves while the rest of the task force dashed to the launch point.

Halsey later reported in his memoirs, "Our talk boiled down to this: we would carry Jimmy within 400 miles of Tokyo, if we could sneak in that close but if we were discovered sooner. we'll have to launch him anyway, provided he was in reach of either Tokyo or Midway."

What Halsey did not discuss was the tremendous risk the Navy was taking. If marauding Japanese submarines discovered the task force steaming westward, it would be an excellent opportunity to cripple what was left of the Navy's strength in the Pacific Doolittle knew full well that if Halsey's ships were under heavy attack, the B-25s stored topside would be pushed over the side to make the flight deck available so Homet's fighters could be back on deck to help protect the task force.

When the B-25s landed at Alameda on April 1, Doolittle and Captain Ski York greeted each crew. "Anything wrong with your plane?" they asked. If a pilot admitted some malfunction, he was directed to a nearby parking ramp instead of the wharf.

Originally, only 15 planes were to be loaded, but Doolittle asked for one more to be hoisted aboard. When the carrier was at sea, it would take off and return to the mainland to show the other B-25 that takeoffs were not only possible but could be made easily. Although the bomber crews had been told that B-25s had made successful takeoffs previously, none had ever seen it done, nor had they done it themselves. Lieutenant Miller, the Navy pilot who had instructed them in carrier takeoffs, would be aboard that B-25.

The next morning, Task Force 16.2 prepared to depart from San Francisco Bay. Just before Hornet was to depart, Doolittle was ordered ashore to receive an urgent phone call from Washington. He recalled: "I thought it was going to be either General Hap Arnold or General George Marshall telling me I couldn't go. My heart sank because I wanted to go on that mission more than anything.

It was General Marshall. 'Doolittle?' he said. 'I just called to wish you the best of luck. Our thoughts and our prayers will be with you. Goodbye, good luck, and come home safely." All I could think of to say was, 'Thank you, Sir, thank you.' I returned to the Hornet feeling much better. "

Shortly before noon, Hornet passed under Golden Gate Bridge. That afternoon, Mitscher decided to tell his men where they were going. He signaled to the other ships, "This force is bound for Tokyo

As he recalled later, when he made the announcement "Cheers from every section of the ship greeted the announcement, and morale reached a new high, there to remain until after the attack was launched and the ship was well clear of combat areas."

The next day, April 3, Doolittle changed his mind about sending the 16th plane back to the mainland. A Navy blimp, the L-8, arrived overhead with spare parts for the B-25s. Air-patrol coverage was provided as far as possible by a Consolidated PBY Catalina.

Doolittle assembled his crews and introduced Commander Soucek and Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Jurika. Soucek was the ship's officer, and he described the basics of carrier operations. Jurika, Homet's intelligence officer, briefed them on the target cities am surrounding areas.

Jurika had been an assistant naval attache in Japan in 1939 and had obtained much valuable information about Japanese industry and military installations. He spoke to the crews almost every day, telling them about Japanese customs, political ideologies and history. Doolittle allowed the pilots to choose their targets in the assigned cities. Lieutenant Frank Akers, the carrier's navigator. gave the pilots a refresher course on navigation. Doc White, the physician-gunner on Lieutenant Don Smith's crew, gave talks about sanitation and first aid.

Doolittle made it a practice to meet with the crews two or three times a day. He continually warned them not to bomb the Imperial Palace and to avoid hospitals, schools and other nonmilitary targets. He said that most planes would carry three 500-pound demolition bombs and one 500-pound incendiary. He planned to take off in the late afternoon with four incendiaries and drop them on Tokyo in darkness. The resulting fires would light up the sits and serve as a beacon for those following and guide them to their respective targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe, Nagow Osaka. All aircraft would then proceed to China and be guided by homing beacons to landing fields where they would refuel before proceeding to Chungking, the ultimate destination.

Mitscher and Halsey joined forces as planned. Meanwhile arrangements in China were not going well. Japanese ground were moving in strength toward the airfields where the B-25s were to refuel. Although the Americans and Chinese in ChungKing told that they could expect some aircraft to arrive and to prepare for them by placing fuel and setting up homing beacons. They not told that the planes would be arriving from the east after bombing Japan. Misunderstandings developed and were compounded when Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek asked that the arrival of the planes be delayed so he could move his ground forces into position to prevent occupation of the Chuchow area where one of the refueling airfields was located.

As the task force continued westward, the Japanese knew from intercepted radio messages as early as April 10 that an an enemy carrier force was steaming toward them. However, it was estimated that it would have to approach to within 300 miles of their coast in order to launch any carrier planes. If that was where the task force was headed, there would be plenty of time to intercept it.

Unknown to the Americans, a line of radio-equipped picket ships was positioned about 650 miles off Japan, and they could signal the approach of any large force and warn the land-based air defense forces to prepare for an attack.

Meanwhile, a Japanese navy air flotilla was alerted to back up homeland air defenses. Patrol bombers would be dispatched when the enemy force was estimated to be about 600 miles out. However, when the American task force observed radio silence for the last 1,000 miles, the Japanese cautiously decided that it might be headed elsewhere.

In the early morning hours of April 18, Enterprise's radar spotted two small ships. The force changed course briefly to avoid them. The weather turned sour, light rain was falling, and green water was plunging down Homet's deck. A dawn patrol was sent up from Enterprise to scout the area. One of the pilots sighted an enemy surface ship and dropped a message to the "Big E's" deck, noting the ship's position and adding, "Believed seen by enemy."

Admiral Halsey promptly flashed a message to Captain Mitscher: "Launch planes to Colonel Doolittle and gallant command luck and God bless you."

The B-25s were quickly loaded and one by one moved into takeoff position. Doolittle was first off at 0820 hours the 16th was off an hour later. Just as the pilot of the last plane had started his engines, a deckhand slipped on the wet deck and fell into B-25's whirling left propeller, which severed his arm.

One by one, the B-25s droned on toward Japan. None flew close formation with another, and only a few actually saw other B-25s as they proceeded toward their respective targets.

Shortly after noon, Tokyo time, Doolittle called for bomb doors open, and Sergeant Fred Braemer sighted down the 20-cent bomb sight and triggered off four incendiaries into the capital city's factory area. Fourteen other crews found their respective targets however, one B-25, with its top turret inoperative and under attack by fighters, dropped its bombs in Tokyo Bay. Several others were also attacked, but none suffered any noticeable damage.

All of the planes except one turned southward off the east coast of Japan and then westward toward China. Captain York had a difficult decision to make. Both of his B-25's engines had burned excessive amounts of fuel on the way to Japan, and he knew he and his crew would have to ditch in the shark-infested China Sea if they followed the planned route to China. He elected to proceed against orders to Soviet territory and landed near Vladivostok. He had hoped he could persuade the Soviets to refuel the plane and allow them to continue to China, but the aircraft and crew were promptly interned because the Soviet Union wanted to retain its neutral status with Japan. The crew finally escaped into Iran 14 months later.

As the other aircraft turned toward China, they experienced head winds, and it appeared that few, if any, would reach the coast before running out of fuel. Although the head winds then fortuitously turned into tail winds, the weather worsened in the late afternoon as they were approaching the coastline. Doolittle and 11 other pilots elected to climb into the clouds and proceed inland on instruments. When their fuel reached the zero mark, the crews bailed out. One crew member was killed attempting to depart the airplane. All others made it with only bruises, slight cuts or sprained ankles and slowly made their way to Chuchow and Chungking with the help of Chinese peasants. More than a quarter-million Chinese subsequently paid with their lives when ruthless Japanese soldiers murdered anyone suspected of helping the Americans and even people whose villages the Americans had passed through.

Four pilots elected to crash-land or ditch their aircraft. Two crewmen drowned while trying to swim to shore. Four members of one crew were seriously injured they were assisted by the rear gunner, corporal David Thatcher, and friendly Chinese to a hospital run by missionaries and were joined there by Lieutenant White and his crew. It was there that "Doc" White amputated the leg of the pilot Lieutenant Ted W. Lawson, and gave two pints of his own blood to save Lawson's life. Lawson later wrote about his experiences in Thirty Seconds over Tokyo. Thatcher and White later rewarded the Silver Star for their gallantry.

Sixty four of Doolittle's "Raiders" eventually arrived in Chungking.. some were retained in the theater to serve in the Tenth Air Force others were returned to the States and assigned to other units. Three pilots and one navigator later became prisoners of the Germans.

Eight crewmen were captured by the Japanese, tortured, given mock court-martial and sentenced to die. Three of them were executed by firing squad one died of malnutrition. The remaining four-George Barr, Jacob DeShazer, Robert L. Hite and Chase L Nielson-survived 40 months of captivity, most of it in solitary confinement, and returned to the States after the war.

The question has been asked: Can this raid be considered successful if all aircraft were lost and relatively little damage was done to the targets?

The answer is a strong affirmative. The mission provided the first good news of the war and was a tremendous morale booster for America and her allies. Japanese morale, on the other hand shattered because their leaders had promised that their homeland could never be attacked.

The original purpose of the raid, as stated by Doolittle before he departed, was to prove that "Japan was vulnerable and that a surprise air raid would create confusion, impede production and air defense forces to be withdrawn from the war zones to the home islands against further attacks." All of that occurred.

Besides being the first offensive air action against the Japanese home islands, the Doolittle-led raid accomplished some other historic firsts. It was the first combat mission in which the US Air Forces and the U.S. Navy teamed up in a full-scale operation against the enemy. Jimmy Doolittle and his raiders were the first to fly land-based bombers from a carrier deck on a combat mission and first to use new cruise control techniques in attacking a distant target. The incendiary bombs they carried were forerunners of those used later in the war. The special cameras specified by Doolittle to record the bomb hits was later adopted by the AAF. The after-action crew recommendations armament, tactics and survival equipment were used as a basis for other improvements.

Jimmy Doolittle's famous air raid against Japan marked the beginning of the turnaround toward victory for America and her allies in World War II.

Historical Snapshot

The North American B-25 Mitchell, a twin-engine bomber that became standard equipment for the Allied air forces in World War II, was perhaps the most versatile aircraft of the war. It became the most heavily armed airplane in the world, was used for high- and low-level bombing, strafing, photoreconnaissance, submarine patrol, and even as a fighter and was distinguished as the aircraft that completed the historic raid over Tokyo in 1942.

It required 8,500 original drawings and 195,000 engineering man-hours to produce the first one, but nearly 10,000 were produced from late 1939, when the contract was awarded to North American Aviation, through 1945.

Named for famed airpower pioneer Brigadier General William &ldquoBilly&rdquo Mitchell, it was a twin-tail, mid-wing land monoplane powered by two 1,700-horsepower Wright Cyclone engines.

Normal bomb capacity was 5,000 pounds (2268 kilograms). Some versions carried 75 mm cannon, machine guns and added firepower of 13 .50-caliber guns in the conventional bombardier's compartment. One version carried eight .50-caliber guns in the nose in an arrangement that provided 14 forward-firing guns.

North American B-25B Mitchell: Front Plan - History

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B-25, also called Mitchell, U.S. medium bomber used during World War II. The B-25 was designed by North American Aviation, Inc., in response to a prewar requirement and was first flown in 1940. A high-wing monoplane with a twin tail and tricycle landing gear, it was powered by two 1,700-horsepower Wright radial engines, had a wingspan of 67 feet 7 inches (20.6 metres), was 53 feet 6 inches (16.3 metres) long, and carried a crew of four to six. The B-25 had a range of 1,350 miles (2,175 km), a maximum speed of about 300 miles (480 km) per hour, and a ceiling of 24,000 feet (7,300 metres). It could carry 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg) of bombs internally in the bomb bay and more externally on underwing racks.

The B-25 was built in a number of versions with wide variations in offensive and defensive armament. The B-25B, the first version to see widespread combat, had turrets mounting twin 0.50-inch (12.7-mm) machine guns in the upper fuselage, belly, and tail. The upper fuselage and belly turrets were powered in addition, the belly turret was retractable and was fired remotely by a gunner inside the fuselage. Though the B-25 was intended primarily for short-range daylight bombing missions, a considerable number had the Plexiglas nose for bomb aiming replaced with a “solid” nose mounting heavy forward-firing armament for ground strafing and for flak suppression during attacks on enemy shipping. In these cases the most common forward-firing armament was the 0.50-inch machine guns, eight being the typical number however, the B-25H and G versions were armed with a 3-inch (75-mm) cannon plus four forward-firing machine guns. The final production version, the B-25J, had a larger internal bomb bay and no belly turret, but it had flexible manually operated single 0.50-inch guns in waist positions and four fixed forward-firing guns in external “package” mounts on the sides of the forward fuselage. The B-25J was built both with a transparent nose for bombing and with a solid nose mounting eight machine guns for strafing.

The North American B-25 Mitchell

* North American Aviation contributed three great aircraft to the Allied cause during World War II: the "AT-6 Texan" trainer, the "P-51 Mustang" fighter, and the "B-25 Mitchell" medium bomber. While the Mustang is clearly the most famous of the three, the Mitchell was likely the most important aircraft in its own class, built in large quantity and proving its worth in both the Pacific and European theaters of war.

In particular, the Mitchell gave America one of its first victories during the dark days of early 1942, when Jimmy Doolittle's raiders swept over Japan to humiliate the enemy. This document provides a short history of the Mitchell.

* In the years leading up to World War II, the North American Aviation (NAA) company of Inglewood, California, led by President James H. "Dutch" Kindelberger, developed new aircraft to help meet the demands of the US military as they prepared for war.

In 1936, in response to a US Army Air Corps (USAAC) competition for a new medium bomber, NAA developed a twin-engine "tailsitter" aircraft designated the "NA-21", with the aircraft's first flight on 22 December 1936.

The NA-21 was not a very impressive aircraft, with the appearance of a civilian transport, but it was NAA's first multi-engined aircraft. The NA-21 had a bigger bomb load than a B-17, and although its defensive armament was light, consisting of five 7.62 millimeter (0.30 caliber) machine guns, it had the first hydraulically-operated gun turret to be used on a USAAC aircraft. The turret was designed by Edgar Schmued of NAA, a German immigrant who would play a vital part in the development of the P-51.

Unfortunately, the NA-21 weighed over 18 tonnes (40,000 pounds), while its twin 14-cylinder Pratt & Whitney (P&W) R-1830 Twin Wasp two-row radial engines only provided 800 horsepower each, making the aircraft seriously underpowered. The NA-21 was flown to the USAAC test facility at Wright Field, Ohio, in March 1937, for competitive evaluation.

The NA-21 lost the competition to the Douglas "B-18 Bolo", largely because Douglas was only asking half as much for the B-18 as NAA wanted for the NA-21. However, the USAAC decided to purchase the NA-21 prototype anyway.

The aircraft went back to California, where it was rebuilt and refitted with turbosupercharged 14-cylinder P&W R-2180 Twin Hornet two-row radials, providing a maximum of 1,250 horsepower at medium altitude. The aircraft, now with the company designation of NA-39 and military designation of "XB-21 Dragon", flew back to Wright Field in early 1939. NAA proposed to sell a batch of Dragons to the USAAC, but the price was still too high. The XB-21 was flight-tested at Wright Field for several more years.

* The NA-21 was not a promising start for NAA in the bomber business, but the company's engineers knew they were taking baby steps and could do better. In fact, they were already working on what they believed would be an improved bomber aircraft, the "NA-40", for a USAAC requirement issued in 1938.

The NA-40 first took to the air on 29 January 1939 and didn't prove to be quite the step forward envisioned. The NA-40 at least looked more modern than the NA-21. It had a long narrow fuselage, with the pilot and copilot sitting in tandem, rather than side-by-side, in a greenhouse-style canopy a solid nose and high mounted wings, each carrying a 1,100 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1830-563CG Twin Wasp radial engine.

The NA-40 had tricycle landing gear, and a wide horizontal tailplane capped by vertical tailplanes at the end. Defensive armament consisted only of three 7.62 millimeter machine guns: one in the nose, one that could be moved around the belly or waist position, and one in a rear dorsal turret.

Flight tests proved the NA-40 left very much to be desired. The NA-40 suffered from severe vibration, and the top speed was only 425 KPH (265 MPH). After only a little more than five hours in the air, the NA-40 went back to the factory for rework.

* The updated "NA-40B" first flew on 1 March 1939, and featured twin 1,600 horsepower 14-cylinder Wright R-2600-A71-3 two-row Twin Cyclone radials a glazed nose and many aerodynamic changes. Flight tests showed that the new design did much to eliminate the vibration problems, and that top speed had increased by 32 KPH (20 MPH).

The NA-40B was flown to Wright Field for USAAC evaluation, but on 11 April 1939 the aircraft lost one engine and spun into the ground. The crew managed to get out unharmed, but the NA-40B caught fire and was destroyed. NAA didn't get a production contract. The company's engineers went back to the drawing board to think things over again.

* Their incentive was yet another USAAC requirement for a medium bomber, this one having been issued in March 1939, even before the crash of the NA-40B. The USAAC wanted a bomber that had a range of 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles), a maximum speed of 480 KPH (300 MPH), and a bomb load of 1,360 kilograms (3,000 pounds).

The result was the "NA-62". The USAAC was sufficiently impressed with the design to sign a preliminary contract for 184 aircraft with NAA in September 1939, even though the machine hadn't been flown. The aircraft was given the designation "B-25", and first flew on 19 August 1940, with NAA test pilot Vance Breese at the controls. There never was an XB-25.

The B-25 was clearly derived from the NA-40. It had tricycle landing gear the same twin vertical tailfins Wright Twin Cyclone engines (the R-2600-9 variant, offering 1,350 horsepower) and defensive armament of three 7.62 millimeter guns with one each in the nose, waist, and floor, plus a 12.7 millimeter (0.50 caliber) in the tail position. The tail gunner had to lie flat to fire the tail gun, directing fire through a telescopic sight.

Despite the resemblances, the NA-62 was clearly a new aircraft. The deep and narrow fuselage of the NA-40 was replaced by one not so deep and wider, with pilot and copilot sitting side by side in a cabin, rather than tandem under a greenhouse canopy. The wing roots were fixed to the middle of the fuselage rather than the top.

The initial B-25 had wings with a constant dihedral from root to wingtip. This led to serious directional stability problems, however, so with the tenth production B-25, the wings outboard of the engines were set horizontal. All following B-25s had this "gull wing" configuration, and initial production was refitted with the new wing.

The prototype's vertical tailplanes were in the shape of rounded-off rectangles, but NAA engineers experimented with five more shapes until settling on a more satisfactory configuration with an angled leading edge. The end result of such tweaking was an aircraft with excellent handling characteristics, despite its relatively high performance.

The USAAC took delivery of its first B-25 in February 1941. 24 B-25s were built in all, and were used for coastal patrol. The very first B-25 was retained by NAA as a company transport, fitted with five passenger seats and various conveniences. This aircraft was named the WHISKEY EXPRESS, and served through the war until it was lost in a belly landing in early 1945.

* The next variant, the "B-25A", was largely similar to the B-25, but featured crew armor protection and self-sealing fuel tanks. These modifications resulted in slightly reduced speed and range. The first B-25A flew on 25 February 1941.

Following a suggestion by NAA's Lee Atwood, the USAAC formally assigned the type the name of "Mitchell", in honor of General Billy Mitchell, who had pioneered concepts of air power in the 1920s. 40 B-25As were built, and were also assigned to coastal defense. One B-25A claimed the sinking of a Japanese submarine off the West Coast of the US on 24 December 1941.

* The defensive armament of the B-25 was clearly ineffective, and so the "B-25B" featured twin Bendix power turrets, each with two 12.7 millimeter guns. One of the turrets was placed on top of the rear fuselage and was manned. The other was a retractable belly turret, positioned just forward of the top turret, and remotely sighted through a periscope. The tail gun was deleted, but the 7.62 millimeter machine gun in the nose was retained.

The additional armament resulted in an increase in weight, which further reduced performance, since the engines remained unchanged. The wingspan and length of the aircraft were increased slightly. A total of 120 B-25Bs were delivered, all in 1941, finishing off the original USAAF (the "Air Corps" having become the "Air Force" on 29 June 1941) B-25 production contract.

The B-25Bs were delivered in time to be thrown into fighting all over the world. 23 were provided as "Mitchell Mark Is" to the British Royal Air Force (RAF), with these aircraft used for operational training out of the Bahamas. A handful of B-25Bs were provided to the Soviets. 40 were slated to be provided to the Dutch in the Netherlands East Indies, but were diverted for American use.

* The B-25B had many deficiencies, but would nonetheless perform one of the most daring and spectacular air raids in history.

For months after the Japanese attack on the US Navy base at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the Americans were staggered by a string of disastrous defeats. The US was poorly prepared for war, had been distracted by the fighting in Europe, and had generally dismissed Japanese military capabilities.

The resources weren't yet available to seriously turn the battle against the Japanese, but the humiliated Americans were desperate to prove they could fight back. A strike on Japan using conventional carrier-based aircraft was out of the question. The US had only a few precious carriers to counter Japanese naval thrusts, and the Japanese would be delighted if the Americans were so foolish as to bring their carriers close to Japan, where they would certainly be sunk by superior Japanese air and naval power.

The USAAF did not have bombers that had the range to reach distant Japan from any available land bases. However, on 10 January 1942, a month after Pearl Harbor, a US Navy captain named Francis S. Low was flying to inspect the new carrier HORNET, when he saw Army bombers perform simulated bomb runs over the outline of a carrier deck painted on a runway.

He realized that a collaboration between the US Navy and the USAAF might do the trick. Low, who was on the staff of Admiral Ernest J. King, immediately went to King to suggest that relatively long-range Army bombers be launched off a carrier to attack Japan.

King had another of his staff officers, Captain Donald B. Duncan, perform some "back of the envelope" calculations that showed the idea was feasible. King contacted General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, commander of the USAAF, to promote the idea. Arnold was agreeable, and assigned implementation of the plan to Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, one of his own staff officers. The plan was given the cover name of the "First Aviation Project".

Jimmy Doolittle had built a reputation before the war as a stunt flyer, air racer, and pioneer in aviation technology. He had all the skills and competence to put together such a mission, but Arnold did not intend for Doolittle participate in the actual raid. Doolittle was too valuable to risk and, at age 45, was regarded as too old for a difficult combat mission.

* Doolittle considered the bombers available to the USAAF, and found the Mitchell the best suited to the job. 24 B-25Bs were modified at the Northwest Orient Air Lines center in Saint Paul, Minnesota for the mission. Armor was removed the remote control lower turret, which nobody found particularly useful, was replaced by a 190 liter (50 US gallon) fuel tank. Other fuel tanks were added, increasing the capacity of the B-25B to a total of 4,320 liters (1,140 US gallons) from a normal capacity of 2,625 liters (694 US gallons).

Painted broomstick handles were fitted in the tail as dummy guns. As the raid was to be at low level, the top-secret Norden bombsight was removed and replaced with a simple post-and-notch sight made from a few pieces of metal. The reduced armament allowed the crew to be cut from 7 to 5 men, further cutting weight, as well as manpower requirements and the number of crewmen at risk.

Doolittle had calculated that the weight reductions would be enough to get the B-25s off the carrier deck safely, but he was enough of an engineer to know that theory and practice were two different things. While the new carrier HORNET was on her shakedown run off of Norfolk, Virginia, in February 1942, a pair of B-25s took off from her flight deck without incident. It could be done.

Volunteers were selected from the coastal patrol B-25 crews for an unspecified dangerous mission. In early March 1942, they arrived at Eglin Field in Florida for three weeks of specialized training. There they met Doolittle, who told them nothing more about their mission and emphasized that it would be risky. He told them if anyone wanted to pull out, they were free to do so without recriminations. None did.

The crews were trained by Navy Lieutenant Henry L. Miller to make takeoffs in less than 230 meters (750 feet) by hauling back on the control column and pulling up in a steep near-stall climb. The pilots learned the procedure quickly and became adept at it, although two of the aircraft were lost without casualties in crackups. They also practiced low-level bombing runs using the new sight, with the bombers coming in very low and then pulling up over the target to release ordnance at about 450 meters (1,500 feet).

The flight crews were given a wide range of vaccinations for tropical diseases, but Doolittle discouraged them from speculating on the nature of their mission, even with their wives.

* In mid-March, Doolittle went back to Washington to brief Hap Arnold on the progress of the First Aviation Project. During the briefing, Doolittle asked Arnold: "I'd like your permission to lead this mission myself."

Arnold turned him down, but Doolittle was stubborn and persistent, and Arnold finally told him that if the Air Corps' chief of staff, Major General Millard F. Harmon, gave his consent then Doolittle could lead the raid.

Doolittle knew that Arnold would call Harmon and order him to turn Doolittle down, so the instant Doolittle left Arnold's office he took off at a sprint over to Harmon's office. Stretching the truth a bit, Doolittle told Harmon that he had spoken with Arnold about leading the Tokyo raid, and Arnold had said that if it were OK with Harmon it was OK with him. "Sure, Jimmy, it's all yours," Harmon replied.

Doolittle left the office, heard the phone ring, and overheard Harmon saying something about not wanting to go back on his word. Doolittle returned to Eglin with the expectation of being ordered to stay behind, but it never happened.

* At the end of the month, the aircraft and crews flew to Sacramento, California, where they given further modifications at McClellan Army Air Base, and then on to Alameda Naval Air Station in the San Francisco Bay area. On 1 April 1942, 16 B-25s were loaded onto the carrier HORNET and lashed down to the deck. The next day, the HORNET steamed out to sea under the Golden Gate bridge.

The ship's captain, Marc A. Mitscher, finally revealed their destination: "This force is bound for Tokyo!" The crew cheered. The bombers were kept clean of any evidence that they had been on the HORNET to ensure secrecy if any were to fall into Japanese hands.

The weather was poor and seas was rough. On Monday, 13 April, the HORNET was joined by the carrier ENTERPRISE, as well as four cruisers, eight destroyers, and two oilers. The group was designated Task Force 16 and was under the command of Admiral William F. Halsey, on board the ENTERPRISE.

The B-25s were set up in takeoff positions on 16 April, preparatory to the planned launch on 19 April from a position 725 kilometers (450 miles) east of Tokyo. The first aircraft to take off had the least runway. Doolittle's was first, with only 142 meters (467 feet) for takeoff, but the HORNET would steam into the wind for takeoff, and hopefully that would be enough runway to get the aircraft into the air.

Unfortunately, on the morning of 18 April, Task Force 16 ran into a Japanese fishing boat that was operating as a radio picket. The boat was promptly sunk, but not before it managed to broadcast a report back to its base, and communications intercepts clearly showed that the Japanese were alerted that something going on.

Task Force 16 was still 1,050 kilometers (650 miles) from Tokyo, but Halsey could not risk his carriers. He ordered: LAUNCH PLANES. TO COLONEL DOOLITTLE AND GALLANT COMMAND, GOOD LUCK AND GOD BLESS YOU.

Doolittle loaded up his B-25s with 190 liters (50 US gallons) of extra fuel, and the planes were rocked back and forth to ensure that the tanks were as full as could be. Additional fuel was carried in gas cans, to be used to top off the tanks. However, even with the bigger fuel load, the range of his bombers would be stretched to the limit.

At 0820 on 18 April 1942, the HORNET's flight deck officer, Navy Lieutenant Edgar G. Osborne, flagged Doolittle to take off. The weather was still rough, but a gale wind of 75 KPH (40 knots) actually made takeoff easier. The B-25 made it off the carrier with 30 meters (100 feet) to spare.

If any Mitchell couldn't take off, the crews had been instructed to leave the aircraft immediately so it could be thrown over the side of the carrier to let the others go. Fortunately, all 15 other bombers followed over the next hour, all making it safely into the air though a few skimmed the waves before they managed to make altitude. The only trouble occurred when a seaman was blown by the wind into a propeller that mangled his left arm.

* After a flight of four hours, Doolittle roared in over Tokyo and dumped his bombs on a factory complex. Eight other B-25s following him hit Tokyo, with the remainder hitting industrial targets in Yokohama, Nagoya, and Kobe.

Japanese air defenses were bewildered and none of the aircraft were shot down. One even flew through the landing pattern of an airfield and was not attacked. Only one was hit by flak, and it was not seriously damaged. However, head winds slowed their progress towards China, and the fact that they had been forced to take off in the morning meant flying into China at night.

One of the raiders flew into Soviet territory north of Vladivostok and landed. The Soviets were not at war with Japan, were too busy fighting Hitler to want to provoke the Japanese for the time being, and when they had been asked earlier to allow the B-25s to land in their territory, they had refused. The crew was interned even though the US and the USSR were allies. The fliers were allowed to "escape" into Iran 14 months later. Their B-25B was never returned, and there are hints that it may be still in existence somewhere in the former Soviet Union.

The landing areas in China were socked in by bad weather, and so eleven of the crews baled out, mostly near the Chinese city of Chuchow. Of these 55 men, one was killed by a bad parachute landing, while one crew was captured by the Japanese. Of these five, the Japanese executed two, while the other three remained prisoners for the rest of the war.

Four planes crash-landed. Two did so without injury to their crews. One came down near the China coast, with four of its crew seriously injured, though they were helped by the Chinese to safety. The other lost two men killed in the crash landing, with the three others captured by the Japanese. The pilot was executed, the copilot died in captivity of malnutrition, and only one of this crew survived the war.

Considering the risky nature of the raid and the hasty launch of the aircraft from extended range, the losses in personnel were surprisingly light. When the Sun came up on 19 April, Doolittle tried to round up his men. He told one of his men that he feared he would be court-martialed for losing his aircraft. The flier said they would give him a medal instead, and in fact he was awarded the Medal of Honor instead and was promoted to brigadier general. He would go on to be a senior USAAF bomber commander in Europe.

* The Doolittle raid was the first real success enjoyed by the Americans in the war against the Japanese. President Roosevelt announced the raid to the public, reporting the planes had flown from a secret base in the land of "Shangri-La". The operation was worth every aircraft lost in the boost to civilian and military morale.

The Japanese high command was humiliated. While the "Do-Little" raid had caused no real damage, the Japanese military had been taken completely by surprise, and worse yet, American bombers had overflown the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Failure to prevent a threat to the Emperor was a serious disgrace.

Precious military resources needed to maintain the momentum of the offensive against the Americans were diverted to home defense, and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the brilliant Japanese strategist who had devised the attack on Pearl Harbor, put into motion a plan to lure the American carriers into battle, destroy them, and eliminate the American threat once and for all.

The result was the Battle of Midway in June 1942, where the Japanese Imperial Navy suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of an inferior US Navy force that put a stop to Japanese expansion in the Pacific and badly injured Japanese naval air power.

* By the time Jimmy Doolittle's B-25Bs were raising hell over Japan, the next variant of the Mitchell, the "B-25C", was already being produced and delivered in quantity. The first B-25C had flown in November 1941, and the variant was in production by the end of that year.

While the B-25C was difficult to distinguish externally from a B-25B, one of the few visible characteristics being a bumper knob under the rear fuselage, it represented a considerable tidying up of the Mitchell design, with many detail changes.

Top of the list were improved Wright Twin Cyclone R-2600-13 engines, each providing 1,700 horsepower and compensating for the "weight creep" that had afflicted the Mitchell. Other changes include an autopilot, increased fuel capacity, provision for underwing racks for external fuel tanks or bombs, stronger wings, a de-icer system, and a cabin heater.

The B-25C was about 25 centimeters (10 inches) shorter than the B-25B. A navigator's astrodome was added behind the cockpit from the 383rd B-25C on. Armament was initially the same as the B-25B's, but the nose position was upgraded to one fixed and one flexible 12.7 millimeter machine gun in later production.

The B-25C was built at NAA's Inglewood, California, factory. The USAAF was so pleased with the B-25 and was so desperate for aircraft that NAA began to produce the B-25C, under the designation "B-25D", at their new Kansas City, Missouri, factory.

* A total of 1,620 B-25Cs and 2,290 B-25Ds were built, and saw service all over the world. The first to go into combat were 48 B-25Cs sent to Australia in March 1942. They were followed by more of the same to fight the Japanese in the South Pacific. They would be put to very ingenious use by a pair of clever aggressive USAAF officers.

Major General George C. Kenney was a tough little guy who had been a fighter pilot in World War I, and was put in charge of the 5th Air Force under General Douglas MacArthur in August 1942. MacArthur was an imperious and domineering SOB who demanded subordination from his officers, but although Kenney had little fear of speaking his mind, his skills were such that MacArthur grudgingly tolerated the back-talk.

Kenney acquired a useful subordinate of his own, in the form of Colonel Paul I. "Pappy" Gunn. Gunn had enlisted in the Navy in World War I. He had wanted to fly, but the Navy turned him down, and he left the service to learn how to fly on his own initiative. He managed to get Navy wings when he reenlisted in 1925. He had retired from the Navy as a chief petty officer in 1937.

Gunn was working for the Philippine Air Lines in Manila as their maintenance chief when war broke out. When the Japanese attacked the Philippines, he was sworn into the US Army as a captain, and did what he could to support the futile American defense of the islands. When the Philippines were overrun, he escaped to Australia in a Beechcraft and presently found himself working for Kenney.

Kenney had a tooth-and-claw instinct in air warfare. To Kenney, as he said in a report to Hap Arnold, air superiority meant "air control so supreme that the birds have to wear Air Force insignia." Kenney was particularly fond of low-level strike tactics for attacks on both land and sea targets.

He devised methods for attacking Japanese airfields in New Guinea and other South Pacific islands with Douglas A-20 Boston medium bombers. A first wave of A-20s, modified by Gunn to carry four additional fixed 12.7 millimeter machine guns in the nose, would sweep in over the target to disrupt defenses. It would then be followed by a second wave, dropping ten kilogram (23 pound) parachute-retarded "parafrag" bombs to shred the airfield, as well as white-phosphorus incendiary bombs to burn whatever was left.

Japanese propaganda blasted Kenney's "new and fiendish methods of warfare" and called the Americans "gangsters". Undoubtedly, this was received as a compliment. Kenney applied a similar approach to antishipping strikes using the B-25. Gunn, working with NAA field representative Jack Fox at the Townsville Air Depot in Queensland, Australia, modified B-25Cs and B-25Ds to accommodate a typical fit of four 12.7 millimeter machine guns in the nose and two or four such weapons in blister packages below the cockpit.

While prewar US air combat doctrine emphasized medium or high altitude bombing attacks on shipping, experience had shown this approach to be ineffective. Kenney's aircrews instead developed a new scheme known as "skip bombing", in which a B-25 came in low over the water, spraying the target with its nose guns to wipe out enemy gunners, and then released a bomb with a time-delay fuze to skip over the water and slam into the target, exploding after the bomber had made its getaway.

Skip-bombing was dangerous, since the attacker had to fly into the teeth of a ship's flak at such low level that there were cases of bombers striking the ship's mast. The bomb could even skip back up and hit the bomber. However, skip bombing was also murderously effective.

* This was proven in early March 1943, when the Japanese attempted to ship 7,000 troops in a convoy from their major base at Rabaul in New Britain to Lae in New Guinea. The Japanese did not have air superiority, but they hoped bad weather would protect the convoy, which consisted of about eight transports and eight destroyers.

The convoy was spotted on 1 March, and was attacked by B-17s the next day. The Fortresses claimed several hits. On 3 March, the convoy was attacked by everything the Allies had: Fortresses, Bristol Beaufighters, and skip-bombing A-20s and B-25s. The result was a massacre, with ships blasted and sunk while the attackers mercilessly strafed the survivors in the water.

All eight transports and four destroyers were sunk, and only about 800 Japanese soldiers made it to Lae. More than 3,600 were killed, at a loss to the Allies of 13 dead and 12 wounded. The survivors were ferried back to Rabaul on surviving destroyers. The "Battle of the Bismarck Sea", as it would be known, was a dramatic demonstration of air power.

Such actions were repeated. On 2 November 1943, the USAAF hit the heavily defended Rabaul harbor with four squadrons of B-25s, escorted by Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters. Of the 38 warships and 20 merchantmen in the harbor, 30 were hit. Japanese fighters came up in force and Kenney lost 20 aircraft, but 60 of the defenders were shot down in a wild mass dogfight with the P-38s.

* While the B-25C/D was making its mark in the South Pacific, it was also seeing action elsewhere. USAAF Mitchells were shuttled to the CBI (China-Burma-India) theater, and then to China itself. The USAAF 12th Air Force, established to support the Allied landings in North Africa in November 1942, made good use of the Mitchell, and would continue to use variants of the type over the Mediterranean and Italy to the end of the war.

The RAF received 367 B-25Cs and 212 B-25Ds, which they designated "Mitchell Mark II". The Mitchell Mark IIs were the first B-25s to see combat with the RAF. They conducted their first raid against the Nazis on 22 January 1943, and continued with attacks on airfields and communications centers in preparation for D-Day.

Ironically, although the USAAF found good use for the B-25 in almost all other theaters of war, the only B-25 unit the USAAF employed from England performed coastal patrols.

The Soviets were shipped 182 B-25Cs, with eight of these lost in shipment, and 688 B-25Ds, though records of their service in Soviet hands are sketchy. A small number of B-25C/Ds were supplied to the Canadians and used for training.

* The US Marine Corps (USMC) were major operators of the B-25C and B-25D. They obtained 50 B-25Cs as "PBJ-1Cs" and 152 B-25Ds as "PBJ-1Ds". These aircraft often featured a number of significant (and highly variable) differences from their USAAF counterparts.

Most visible of these changes was the occasional fit of an APS-3 search radar through the aircraft's front glazing, resulting in a nickname of "hose nose". AN/APS-2 or AN/APS-3 search radar was sometimes fitted as an alternate, with the radome replacing the belly turret. LORAN navigation gear was also fitted.

Additional armament was also provided. Four 12.7 millimeter machine guns were provided in blister packs below the cockpit, and up to three machine guns were fitted in the nose, though these nose guns were often removed. A single tail gun was fitted, with the gunner firing in a prone position. Later production had a raised position for the tail gunner. Waist gun positions were also added to later production, though the top turret was often deleted.

The bomb bay was modified to handle mines and depth charges, and an underbelly rack permitted external carriage of a torpedo. When the 12.7 centimeter (5 inch) HVAR (high velocity air rocket) became available, ten stub attachments for these rockets were provided under the wings, giving the PBJ-1 tremendous salvo firepower.

* The B-25C/D led to a pair of one-shot experiment variants, the "XB-25E" and the "XB-25F", both of which were modified B-25Cs used to test prototype de-icing systems. Pictures that survive of the sole XB-25E show it to have a distinctive engine cowling scheme. Few details survive concerning the XB-25F.

* Even while Pappy Gunn was hacking up B-25s in the field to increase their forward firepower, NAA engineers were considering their own firepower enhancements by designing a B-25 variant fitted with an M-4 75 millimeter cannon, firing out the (shortened) nose on the left side of the aircraft.

This massive weapon was almost three meters (9 feet 6 inches) long and weighed over 400 kilograms (900 pounds). It was manually loaded through a breech block that opened vertically. The aircraft carried a store of 21 rounds of ammunition, with each round weighing 6.8 kilograms (15 pounds). The big gun was mounted in a moving cradle to absorb recoil.

The initial "XB-25G", modified from a production B-25C, first flew on 22 October 1942. As might be expected, the big gun installation encountered a few difficulties, and it took a little time to work the bugs out. The first production B-25G was delivered to the USAAF in May 1943, and featured twin 12.7 millimeter machine guns in the nose along with the big cannon.

There was a push to provide even more firepower, with an experiment conducted with a B-25C to fit it with a belly tray with twin 37 millimeter cannon and a small bombbay for parafrags. The shock of firing was too much for the airframe and this scheme was abandoned.

Armament fit of the B-25G was otherwise generally similar to that of the B-25C/D, with top and bottom turrets and no tail guns. The remote-control bottom turret was deleted midway through production, and never came back. The same scheme had been used in early combat versions of the B-17 and B-24 and had been found wanting there as well.

The worst problem was that sighting through a periscope tended to make the gunners airsick, and was a tricky task to begin with. Doolittle had found the whole idea ridiculous: "A man could learn to play the fiddle good enough for Carnegie Hall before he could learn to fire that thing." It also tended to get stuck in the down position, leading to unwanted drag, and the periscopic sight often got muddy or cracked during landings.

The B-17 and B-24 quickly converted to the manned Sperry ball turret for belly protection. As the B-25 generally operated at low altitude, belly protection was judged to be low priority, and the turret was simply deleted. This helped reduce weight, which was important as the big M-4 cannon cut into the B-25G's performance.

400 B-25Gs were built by NAA Englewood, plus five more that may have been modified B-25Cs. The Kansas City plant modified 63 B-25Cs to the B-25G specification. Two B-25Gs were provided to the RAF, which assigned them the same Mitchell Mark II designation as their B-25C/D predecessor, and one was provided to the USMC as the "PBJ-1G".

* The B-25G design really did not match up with the "strafer" field modifications, and was not exactly what the combat crews were after. The next variant, the "B-25H", was more in line with reality.

The B-25H retained the 75 millimeter cannon, though it was a different model, the T13E1 gun. However, the B-25H's forward firing machine gun armament was much more impressive, with four 12.7 millimeter machine guns in the nose and two 12.7 millimeter guns on each side of the cockpit in blister packs, for a total of eight forward-firing machine guns. (The first 300 B-25Hs only had the blister machine guns on the right side of the aircraft.)

The B-25H incorporated the Mitchell's first really functional tail turret, fitted with twin 12.7 millimeter machine guns. The rear fuselage was made deeper to accommodate the turret. There was also a single single flexible 12.7 millimeter machine gun on each side of the fuselage, in staggered positions behind the wing.

The top turret was moved forward to behind the cockpit, where it could contribute to the forward firepower in strafing attacks, and was changed to a new NAA "low drag" design. A pair of small bumps were added on the top of the fuselage behind the front turret to keep the top turret from firing into the tail turret. Crew enthusiasm for such "ricochet generators" was not great, and the bumps were often removed in practice.

The B-25H could carry 1,450 kilograms (3,200 pounds) of bombs, or could be fitted with stub pylons for eight HVARs and an belly rack for a single torpedo. There was no provision for a copilot, and as the B-25 had become thoroughly established as a low-level attacker, there was no bombardier, with the bombs targeted by the pilot through an eyeball sight.

The first B-25H was modified from a B-25C and flew in May 1943. B-25H production began to arrive at combat units in early 1944. A total of 1,000 B-25Hs were built, all at the NAA Kansas City plant. It does not appear any B-25Hs were supplied to the RAF or the Red Air Force.

248 B-25Hs ended up in USMC hands as "PBJ-1Hs". As with earlier PBJ-1 versions, the Marine aircraft were sometimes fitted with search radar. Production aircraft were delivered with AN/APS-2 or AN/APS-3 radar in a pod on the right wingtip, but in the field the radar was often transplanted to the nose.

In field operations, the big 75 millimeter cannon did not prove as impressive as it looked. With manual loading, it had a low rate of fire, and the trajectory of its shell was much different from that of the bullets from the forward-firing machine guns, preventing the machine guns from being used to target the cannon. Salvo-fired HVARs proved a much more effective approach to heavy forward firepower, and while there some B-25 pilots who liked the big gun, it was often removed in the field.

* One B-25H was fitted with twin Pratt & Whitney 18-cylinder R-2800-51 Double Wasp engines, each offering 2,000 horsepower. The result was designated the "NA-98X Super Strafer". It looked much like a standard B-25H, except that it lacked the blister guns, had big prop spinners unique in the Mitchell line, featured squared-off wingtips, and was given many detail changes.

The Super Strafer first flew at the end of March 1944. The more powerful engines gave it an impressive top speed of 560 KPH (350 MPH), but on 24 April the NA-98X suffered a structural failure during a fast low-level pass and smashed into the ground, killing the two crewmen on board. The USAAF did not proceed further with the variant.

* NAA also proposed a "strafer-bomber" with 18 machine guns, R-2800 engines, and a single tail gun. The USAAF didn't buy the idea, but it did lead to the final Mitchell production variant, the "B-25J". Incidentally, there was no "B-25I", since the USAAF didn't use the "I" code as it was too easily confused with a "1".

The B-25J was effectively the same as a B-25H, but with no 75 millimeter cannon and a different nose, or rather a pair of alternate noses. The first was a glass nose with one flexible and two fixed 12.7 millimeter machine guns, and the second was a "strafer" nose with eight 12.7 millimeter machine guns.

The longer noses resulted in the B-25J returning to the length of the B-25C/D. In principle, the strafer nose could be fitted to earlier B-25 variants in the field. Other changes included reinstatement of the copilot position, giving the B-15J a six-man crew, and uprated P&W R-2600-29 engines.

The first B-25J flew in December 1943. A total of 4,390 were built at a new NAA plant in Kansas City, making the B-25J the most heavily produced of the Mitchells. 255 of these aircraft ended up in USMC hands as "PBJ-1Js", with the traditional confusing radar fits. Ten of these PBJ-1Js were modified with underbelly racks to carry a pair of huge 29 centimeter (11.5 inch) "Tiny Tim" unguided air to ground rockets. The RAF acquired 375 B-25Js and gave them the designation of "Mitchell Mark III", though some records indicate 20 of them were passed back to the USAAF in the field. An unknown number of B-25Js were passed on to the Soviets as well, with a total of 870 Mitchells of all types supplied to the USSR.

A number of B-25Js were modified as test platforms for the "AN/APQ-7 Eagle Eye" radar, which was fitted as a "wing" under the waist gun positions. The Eagle Eye was a great improvement over earlier airborne radars, and it would prove very useful when fitted to the Boeing B-29 for raids on Japan.

In 1945, a few B-25Js were fitted to carry "glide torpedoes", which were standard torpedoes fitted with glider wings to give a longer stand-off delivery range. The wings were blown off with explosive bolts before the torpedo hit the water. A few were experimentally dropped against vessels in Japanese waters very shortly before the end of the war.

* Total Mitchell production was as follows: At its peak in July 1944, there were 2,656 B-25s in first-line use by the USAAF. Although the RAF and the Soviets were the primary foreign users, the type was provided to other Allied air arms during the war:

The exact fate of B-25s intended for the Dutch is extremely complicated and not all that interesting to trace, since under emergency conditions many were diverted to the USAAF. When all the dust had settled, the Dutch had reconstituted flight squadrons under the control of the Royal Australian Air Force.

The Dutch would operate at least 150 Mitchells from Australia through the war. After the war, the Mitchells would see service in the Dutch East Indies in the insurgency that followed, and when the free Republic of Indonesia was established in 1949, they inherited a few of the Dutch Mitchells.

A squadron of Mitchells was also flown by the Dutch from the UK during the war, operating under RAF control and flying both bombing and maritime patrol missions.

After the war, surplus Mitchells were supplied to many Latin American air arms, and the type remained in service there into the 1970s.

* Combat B-25s were often refitted or rebuilt for other purposes, such as reconnaissance, transport, or training, and they would continue to operate in such roles long after the war.

Standard B-25s were often field modified for reconnaissance, but in 1943 45 B-25Ds were converted to a more specialized reconnaissance configuration and designated "F-10". These were stripped of all armament, and fitted with auxiliary fuel tanks in the bombbay and three-direction "trimetrogon" cameras under the nose, giving them odd-looking "cheeks". These aircraft were mostly used for non-combat photographic mapping surveys. Four of them were provided to the RAF late in the war.

A large number of B-25s were formally and informally converted to transports during the war and after. As mentioned, the first B-25 ended up as an NAA company transport, the WHISKEY EXPRESS. Several were converted to posh personal transports, including one for General Dwight Eisenhower and two for General Hap Arnold. NAA converted another B-25 as a company transport after the loss of the WHISKEY EXPRESS, but this aircraft was lost with three crew off the California coast not long after the war.

In 1949, NAA converted a PBJ-1J to an executive transport with a new and distinctive nose in hopes of drumming up business for such conversions. Unfortunately, this aircraft was lost in a crash in 1950, killing seven NAA employees, and nothing more came of the effort.

These conversions were designated "RB-25", where the "R" meant "Restricted" (from combat operations), not "Reconnaissance". A number of late-model B-25s were converted to military VIP transports after 1948 under the designation of VB-25, and some of these remained in military service into the early 1960s.

* The wide availability, good handling characteristics, and flexibility of the Mitchell made it an excellent training platform that gave trainee aircrews the feel of operating a "real" combat aircraft. During after World War II, stripped-down B-25s were assigned to the training role under the somewhat baffling designation of "AT-24".

To confuse matters further, B-25Ds became "AT-24As", B-25Gs became "AT-24Bs", B-25Cs became "AT-24Cs", and B-25Js became "AT-24Ds". In 1948, such Mitchell trainers as survived were given the more rational designations of "TB-25C", "TB-25D", "TB-25G", and "TB-25J", correctly reflecting their original bomber designations.

Many of the TB-25Js were fitted with additional seats and a few other changes in the postwar period, as well as converted into pilot trainers with the designations "TB-25L" and "TB-25N". Most of these modifications were performed by Hayes Aircraft Corporation of Birmingham, Alabama.

Some B-25Js were also modified with special radar installations and operated generally as trainers under the designations "TB-25K" and "TB-25M". These conversions were performed by Hughes. A few B-25Js were used in the Korean war as squadron hacks and electronic warfare platforms.

In civilian hands, Mitchells were used in a variety of roles, including fire-bomber, air freighter, executive transport, test platforms for airborne electronic systems, and even Hollywood flying movie camera platforms.

A large number of B-25s were assembled for a famous hair-raising mass-takeoff scene in Mike Nichol's 1970 movie CATCH-22. A number of Mitchells now survive as collector's warbirds, and a good number of them are still flying, such as BARBIE III, MISS MITCHELL, HEAVENLY BODY, YELLOW ROSE, PANCHITO, and KILLER B. Many of the Mitchells still in the air today were given their refit by Aero Traders of Chino, California.

* The B-25 evolved from the XB-21, and in turn led to a more advanced twin-engine bomber, the "XB-28 Dragon". This aircraft was designed in response to a USAAF requirement for a high-altitude medium bomber, and featured a pressurized fuselage supercharged R-2800 engines and remote-control tail, ventral, and dorsal turrets, each with two 12.7 millimeter guns. The turrets were aimed via periscopes. The XB-28 also had three fixed forward-firing 12.7 millimeter guns and a maximum bombload of 1,800 kilograms (4,000 pounds).

While design concepts for the XB-28 started out as modifications of the B-25, they evolved into a form with more resemblance to a Douglas A-26 Invader, featuring a single tail and a more streamlined fuselage. Three prototypes were ordered in 1940, the first flying in April 1942. The second prototype was cancelled, and the third was completed as the "XB-28A", an unarmed reconnaissance variant. The prototypes demonstrated excellent performance. However, the XB-28A was lost off the California coast, with both crewmen rescued, and the USAAF finally decided that the XB-28 did not offer such an improvement in capability that it would be worthwhile to disrupt B-25 production. The USAAF obtained the A-26 instead. A third XB-28 prototype was cancelled, and the XB-28 became a footnote in aviation history.

* I remember being vastly impressed when I was a kid with the massive firepower illustrated by a cutaway of the B-25H that I saw in a book. That big 75 millimeter cannon seemed pretty macho.

Much later, I was disappointed to find out that it wasn't particularly effective. I once read an article written by a B-25 pilot who flew his aircraft in the Agean, nailing German resupply boats. They would sometimes pop off a 75 millimeter round just for fun. One day they actually scored a hit. The pilot and copilot sat there for a moment in amazement, and then one said to the other: "Don't tell anyone we did this, they might think it was a good idea."

A few items were also taken from a web writeup by aviation enthusiast Joe Baugher.

Watch the video: In Flight B25 Bomber Tour