Published November 04, 2014
The North American B-25 was named after Billy Mitchell, the American General who advocated greater airpower in the armed forces. A production B-25 took its maiden flight Aug. 19, 1940. It was powered by two Wright R-2600-9 Cyclone engines which delivered a total of 3,400 horsepower. The aircraft's top speed was 355 mph. The original plane had difficulties during bombing runs, so the dihedral in the outer wing panels was eliminated on the 10th and all the following B-25s.
The B-25 saw many modifications during its operational service. The series ran from the B-25A to the B-25J, each type seeing variations to increase its firepower. The first 25 were armed with a .30-caliber Browning in the nose and one at each waist position. For protection, the tail of the aircraft sported a .50-caliber Browning. A Plexiglas nose and a turret gunner originated with the B-25B. The B-25G also had a retractable belly turret.
The type of aircraft found in the Hurlburt Air Park is a B-25J reconfigured to resemble the famous H-model. The H-model, used by the 1st Air Commando Group in the China-Burma-India Theater, had some notable differences from earlier types. The Plexiglas nose of the plane was replaced by a shorter solid type, which had four .50-caliber machine guns above a 75mm cannon. It also had four "package" guns mounted to the side of the fuselage below the cockpit. The B-25H had the belly turret removed and the top turret moved forward. Two Plexiglas blisters were located on the fuselage side aft of the wings with .50-caliber machine guns. The H-model also reintroduced the turret in the tail, which had been removed from earlier models. This tail turret had twin .50s.
The B-25H Mitchell was powered by two Wright R-2600-13 or -29 Cyclones with mechanical superchargers. Each engine normally produced 1,700 horsepower, which could be boosted to 1,850 in emergencies. The top speed of this heavily armed plane was 275 mph at a gross weight of 33,500 pounds, with a cruising speed of 230 mph. It could carry 3,000 pounds of bombs and was capable of carrying depth charges and air rockets mounted underwing. The plane's range was 1,350 miles with a maximum of 974 gallons of fuel. Span was 67 feet 7 inches; length was 51 feet, height 15 feet 9 inches. Its service ceiling was 23,800 feet, and the aircraft could climb to 15,000 in 19 minutes. The most famous of the exploits of this airplane was General (a Lieutenant Colonel at the time) Jimmy Doolittle's raid on Tokyo. The planes took off from the heaving deck of the USS Hornet even though they were not designed for such a take-off. This was a tremendous morale booster for allied forces. The plane, however, does have a place in the hearts of all special operators everywhere.
When the Royal Air Force balked at supplying General Orde Wingate with bombers for close air support because of supposed difficulties in VHF air-ground communications and due to RAF commitments elsewhere, Lt. Col. Phil Cochran asked the B-25H's be attached to his unit, the 1st Air Commandos. Colonel Cochran got his airplanes but no seasoned aircrews. He decided to use fighter pilots to man the aircraft. The aircraft was ideal for close air support because it was equipped with six .50-caliber machine guns and the 75mm cannon. The cannon and the repositioning of the dorsal turret had reduced the crew compartment to only five. As configured, the B-25 required only one pilot and could be flown much like a fighter. Maj. Robert T. (Tadpole) Smith was selected to head the bomber section. He brought a "fighter pilot spirit" to this bomber squadron.
In a letter to the Air Commando Association in 1982, Major Smith sang the praises of the B-25H.
"[I] was particularly amused by your statement to the effect that you received several articles saying that B-25s equipped with cannons couldn't hit a barn door. Now I don't know who has been writing [this], but whoever it was obviously doesn't know his [hind quarters] from his elbow. I won't quibble about the "barn door," old friend, but we sure as hell could hit the barn more often than not, and a lot of targets much smaller than that, i.e., steam locomotives, trucks, river boats, etc. So, since you asked for a few words on the subject, and since I was the B-25 squadron commander, I feel obliged to set the record straight as I see it (Jan-Feb 1982 Basher Blabber)."
B-25J-10-NC TAIL #43-28222 HISTORY
This aircraft, manufactured by North American Aviation, at Kansas City, Kansas was delivered to the US Army Air Force on June 7, 1944. According to historical records this aircraft was assigned to various units until being placed in storage at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona on 1 October 1957. On 18 November 1957 the aircraft was dropped from the USAF inventory. The B-25H saw extensive service with the 1st Air Commando Group in the CBI theater.
This B-25 was reconfigured to resemble the famous H-model. As do all the aircraft in the park, it serves as a reminder and a memorial to special operators the world over. There is no job too small, no sacrifice too great.