Ordnance Mitchell B-25, the Ultimate Strafer

Running a gantlet of flak and enemy fighters on September 2, 1943, North American B-25Ds of the 405th Bomb Squadron employ tactics devised by Major Paul “Pappy” Gunn in an attack on Japanese transports in New Guinea’s Wewak Harbor. “Tokyo Sleeper” by: Jack Fellows

Pappy Gunn didn’t develop the skip-bombing technique. It was first used in battle by B-17s on October 23, 1942 (tail end of Chapter 4 in Ken’s Men, Vol. I). The B-25 was certainly better suited for the job and Pappy Gunn and Jack Fox were the ones to modify the B-25 to make it work. Major Edward Larner deserves a lot of credit for convincing his squadron’s crews that they could pull off the technique in battle after they watched his crew successfully use it on a ship during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

Searching on the internet, one can locate more stories containing the B-25 Mitchell bomber than most any other.  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 L. 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.

B-25 Mitchell schematic.

Production of this twin-engine medium bomber commenced in late 1939 by North American Aviation, following a requirement from the U. S. 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

North American’s plant in Kansas City, Kan., October 1942. As the first anniversary of Pearl Harbor approached, American industry was growing and flexing its muscles. Photo from the Office of War Information, Library of Congress.

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.

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.

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.

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.

In a military sense, the Doolittle Raid was a failure. The small task force of which he and his crews were the centerpiece was detected while Hornet was still 150 miles short of the intended takeoff point. The B-25s were launched on a contingency plan to save the carrier– to clear the flight deck so its fighters could be positioned for launch to defend against attack.

Doolittle and the Navy had agreed to sacrifice the bombers in the event the task force was detected by the Japanese. With the task force having been spotted, the mission had been compromised and the airplanes were sent out with the crews knowing it was unlikely that they would reach China.  They did reach their targets and east wind helped to bring most of the men home.

The power of the B-25 strafers was demonstrated to the world in early March 1943, when the 3rd Attack Group delivered the knockout blow to a 14-ship Japanese convoy that was sitting just outside Lae Harbor during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. A low-level strafing and skip-bombing attack by 12 modified B-25s and a dozen A-20s left every single transport and most of their escorts either sinking or badly damaged. Naval historian Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison referred to the attack as “the most devastating attack of the war by airplanes against ships.”

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.

Beginning with the sale of B-25s to the Dutch, North American produced thousands of Mitchell’s for other nations. Considering that the Fifth Air Force was originally headquartered in Australia, it was only natural that the Royal Australian Air Force would operate B-25s of its own. A little-known fact of World War II in the Pacific is that when the 90th Bombardment Squadron was first equipped with B-25s, there were not enough American pilots and gunners to man them. To fill the gap, several RAAF airmen volunteered to fly with American pilots. Most of the co-pilots and many of the gunners in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea were Australian.

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.

This post was suggested by Dan Antion @ No Facilities.

Resources used: National Interest; Air History on line; Boeing; History.com and pacific War Encyclopedia and the IHRA.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Current News –  7 December 2020, Pearl Harbor Day

For Pacific Paratrooper’s past posts for this date: Videos with a different view

Kimmel and Short

Pearl Harbor Remembered

WWII After WWII’s series

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Military Humor –

“I’ll get onto it in a minute. Everything is so darn steady.”
From November 14, 1942

“One thing I can’t understand about this sentry business. Can you imagine anybody answering ‘Foe’?”
From December 6, 1941

WWII humor from the Saturday Evening Post magazine.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Adams – Fairfield, CT; US Army, WWII, ETO

Orville Cox – Des Moines, IA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

Alfred Dawson (103) – Bailieboro, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, ETO, radar

Stephen Gudek Sr. – Dracut, MA; US Navy, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, Chief Petty Officer (Ret. 20 y.)

Keith Hobson – Chico, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO

John Lappin – Washington D.C.; US Army, WWII /  FBI

Betty Murray – Salisbury, MD; Civilian, WWII, military uniform seamstress

Harold F. Trapp – LaPorte, IN; US Navy, WWII, Fire Controlman 2nd Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

William H. Trapp – LaPorte, IN; US Navy, WWII, Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class, USS Oklahoma, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Carl Zumbano – Venice, FL; US Navy, WWII, SeaBees

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About GP

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on December 7, 2020, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 89 Comments.

  1. Interesting how many of the crew served dual functions. Great piece on the B-25.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just catching up here. I enjoyed anther history lesson, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fabulous post, GP. I am thrilled that a museum in Massachusetts just got the only surviving fighter plane from Pearl Harbor. The fact that only one survived is staggering.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing this piece of history

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I like the Saturday Evening Post cartoon. Sentry’s got a point!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Another great machine. Just right for these fights. I am always dreaming to put one of them into our garden. Lol In the past there one time was a chance getting a old MIG for this. I had wondered about the size. Not much bigger as a VW Beetle.;-) Thank you for the great information, GP Best wishes, and please stay save. Michael

    P.S.:Your political thing in the USA seems to end in a real movie, like the “Rocky Horror Pictur Show”. Lol Dont worry, here in Germany we are just at the beginning of this. In 2021 here are the elections to our parliament. I am sure – in a very sad way – there will be enormous changes.

    Like

    • You sound in a great mood today – that’s great to see!! I think it would terrific to have one of the WWII planes in our garden – maybe right on the front lawn (like I would do if I had a tank!! LOL) I’m loving that mention of the Rocky Horror Picture Show!!
      Politics are haywire – all mixed up. People voted against Trump, they didn’t even look at the issues. I think they will end up very sorry in the long run. I sure hope your elections go smoother and with more rational thought.
      Take care, Michael!!

      Like

  7. I agree with DC – great timing of the B-25 and Pearl Harbor anniversary (and thanks dan too – haha)
    and hope your week is going well G

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My Dad was talking to the sergeant once and a sentry rushed up and said “Sergeant, sergeant, he said ‘Foe’ What shall I do?” And the sergeant said “Well, shoot him you stupid xxxxxxxxxxx !”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Was surprised at the number of B-25s that were active during WWII. I didn’t realize planes were such a major part of the world back in the 1940s.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Prachtige informatie over de b-25 bommenwerper. Goed gekozen dit nu te bloggen op de herdenking van Pearl Harbor wat toch heel belangrijk was voor veel landen.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Nice post, gocox.

    A side note on your inclusion of the Japanese soldier pictured in the wait gunner’s window. “Minoru Wada” was befriended by an G-2 interpreter. “Wada” did indeed help target his own army. He survived in captivity until released at war’s end. The G-2 officer wondered what happened to “Wada” and looked for him post-war.

    It turns out like many Japanese who surrendered, they did NOT give their true names. You will have to forgive me because my memory is long gone but he was eventually located living in Japan under his true name many decades after the war.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I actually knew about the RAAF airmen volunteering to fly with American pilots. Sometimes I surprise myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Excellent post, GP. The fact that a B25 could even do such a short take off from a carrier was amazing. This was one great plane.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The B-25 certainly was a remarkable aircraft for a medium bomber. It performed well in all theatres, very few aircraft can boast that achievement.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I don’t understand much about planes, unfortunately i’m not an expert, but i read your posts with affection and lot of respect. This is an excellent blog. My dad was a military aeronautical engineer and in your posts I found and feel his same passion, his books, his stories. I found a part of his soul. If he were with us he would have followed you for sure! Thank you! Many greetings from Italy. Xristina

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I’m enjoying all the extra information provided on these posts, GP. An excellent series!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I inherited my dad’s interest in antique cars. Now I seem to be growing that to include these planes, GP. Another great post. That first photo is amazing. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Quick note about your first caption: Pappy Gunn didn’t develop the skip-bombing technique. It was first used in battle by B-17s on October 23, 1942 (tail end of Chapter 4 in Ken’s Men, Vol. I). The B-25 was certainly better suited for the job and Pappy Gunn and Jack Fox were the ones to modify the B-25 to make it work. Major Edward Larner deserves a lot of credit for convincing his squadron’s crews that they could pull off the technique in battle after they watched his crew successfully use it on a ship during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

    Don’t forget that the 38th and 43rd Bomb Groups also flew during the Battle of the Bismark Sea. It wasn’t solely the 3rd. You might be interested in a comment we got last month about the number of RAAF crews that flew with the US crews: https://airwarworldwar2.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/aussies-join-the-43rd/#comment-257

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I had no idea about the RAAFies manning the US bombers on that kind of scale. The B-25 seems like a very flexible aircraft.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And so were your pilots. When I first started this blog, I was forever coming against a brick wall labeled “Commonwealth” in the records that it was difficult to locate info for just you, NZ or Canada or even South Africa. Little by little, the details come to light. Such as this remark from another blog.
      “A total of 103 RAAF crews would receive training with the 43rd and 380th BGs. In regards to the replacements which served with the 3rd, 19th, 22nd, 43rd BGs between May 1942 and April and May 1943, this total was about 150. In addition, approximately 30 Radar Counter Measure specialists flew with the 19th, 43rd, 90th and 380th BGs until May 1945, including a detachment that went with the latter to the Philippines. Lastly, a handful of experienced RAAF flying boat captains were assigned temporarily as co-pilots to the 22nd BG and the 435th BS when between Feb and May 1942 to assist with their initial bombing operations in the theatre.”

      Liked by 2 people

  20. That was interesting. These sorts of game-changing tactics always seem to come down to one clever person–Fluckey and submarines attacking land-based targets, the Chief (forgot his name) who figured out why WWII torpedoes weren’t exploding, and now Major Paul “Pappy” Gunn for strafing tactics. Thanks for this bit of history.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Great post about the B-25, a bomber that excelled in non-traditional roles. I wonder if it’s success with strafing and low-level bombing played a role in developing the C-47 and AC-130 gunships used in Vietnam.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Fascinating post. I loved both cartoons- the one from 6 Dec 41 was eery.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. The only bomber I’ve experienced in the air. Very sturdy, very loud!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. My current chapter of The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. What a difference it would have made were they to have been successful in ending the inventive minds’ focus on better and better weaponry. That would have been disregarding human nature

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I enjoyed this interesting and comprehensive look at the B-25 Mitchell Bombers, GP, on the anniversary of an important military day.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Thanks so much for highlighting my favorite plane. I’ve reads stories about how their crews adapted them with even more weapons. These things were like flying tanks. Low, slow and mean, I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the ground or on a ship with these coming in.

    Have a great day, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. An incredible blog about a B-25 tail gunner…

    https://waynes-journal.com/

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I remember Allen’s site. He still pops in here with “Like” now and then.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Some models of the B-25 carried a 75 mm cannon in their noses in addition to the .50 cal. machine guns. When the cannon was fired, it could be a frightening experience for the tail gunner who was flying backwards in his position. The recoil from the cannon was such that it caused the plane to momentarily pause in its flight. The pause was very slight, but for a crew member who could only see where the plane had been, it could be frightening since it might mean that the plane had been hit by anti-aircraft fire. .

        Speaking of where the plane had been. . . . A B-25 coming off of a strafing run was still a dangerous adversary since the tail gunner also strafed the target as the plane left the area. The B-25 could attack both on the run in and the run out. Few other aircraft strafing a target could do that.

        Wayne’s Journal (https://waynes-journal.com/) continues to attract readers. The last time I checked there had been over 64,400 pages views. That is not a large number in comparison to other blogs, but it continues to attract the attention of those seeking information about family members who flew on B-25s in the Southwest Pacific. Wayne served with the 42nd Bombardment Group, but his experiences help others to understand what their family members experienced as members of other bombardment groups..

        Liked by 1 person

        • I know your site quite well, as I followed it. I am very happy to hear you still get people viewing Wayne’s journal. With the development of DNA searches, a person’s ancestor came more to life for them and ZI believe caused the new rush for information on WWII. I appreciate you contributing B-25 info to the post.

          Like

  28. Another great post! The B-25 was quite a workhorse with such a amazing service history. Great timing too, on the day we remember Pearl Harbor.

    Liked by 4 people

  29. Thank you, Ned.

    Like

  1. Pingback: Ordnance Mitchell B-25, the Ultimate Strafer | Pacific Paratrooper – WWII | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

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