It's been 75 years since the iconic B-25 Mitchell Warbird made its debut

B 25J D. Miller via Wikimedia CommonsB-25J ‘Briefing Time’, Thunder Over Michigan 2006.

On August 19th, 1940, the North American B-25 “Mitchell” performed its first flight. It would become the most versatile, widely used, and overall best medium-range bomber of World War II.

The B-25 took 8,500 design drawings and 195,000 man-hours to develop from its design to engineering phase. The effort paid off: around 10,000 of the planes would be produced and sent to allied powers all around the world. 

Eventually the B-25 would become the most heavily armed plane in the world. Its eight forward-facing 50-calibre machine guns took part in legendary strafing runs which would pave the way for modern close air support.

Here are some of the highlights of the impressive B-25 “Mitchell”‘s  storied career.

 

The B-25 came into service as a lower altitude, shorter-range alternative to the B-17.

The B-25 (front) flies in formation with a B-17 (back) at an airshow.

The B-25's 'Mitchell' nickname came from US General Billy Mitchell, who was an outspoken advocate of military airpower since as early as 1906, just three years after the Wright Brother's historic first flight.

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When aeroplanes were little more than wooden death traps, Billy Mitchell already foresaw their capability to destroy enemy military infrastructure, and lessen the demand on ground troops.

The smaller B-25 was adopted by all branches of the US armed forces. Its short takeoff distance made it ideal for taking off from aircraft carriers.

US Air Force via Wikimedia Commons
Taken from the deck of the USS Hornet, a B-25 bomber makes its way to be part of the first U.S. air raid on Japan.

On April 18, 1942, the B-25 was the first United States aircraft to bomb the Japanese mainland as part of the Doolittle raids, which were led by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle.

Sixteen Mitchells took off from the USS Hornet and flew 800 miles to Japan. After bombing Japan, most of the sixteen had to make forced landings in China.

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The Mitchell's 'greenhouse' style cockpit provided excellent visibility for bombers and gunners alike.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley poses for a photo with the crew of B-25A 'Miss Hap.'

An Australian engineer, Maj. Paul I. 'Pappy' Gunn, was the first to remove the bombardier-navigator from the greenhouse compartment of a B-25 and equip the plane with eight 50-calibre machine guns.

Some models of the B-25 had 14 forward-facing guns, making it a powerhouse when it came to strafing runs.

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Where the B-17 was successful flying high and dropping bombs, the B-25 carved out its niche flying low and strafing with its guns blazing.

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Shown here is the beastly forward firing power of the B-25. This model has four 50-calibre Browning machine guns above a 75-millimetre cannon.

B-25'Barbie III' with nose canopy open at Stuart airshow 2011.

The 75-millimetre cannon fitted to some B-25s was so effective that a single plane once sunk a Japanese destroyer with just seven shells.

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The 75 millimetre cannon was the same size used on tanks at the time.

In addition to its firepower up front, the B-25 also dropped bombs from a very low altitude -- so low, in fact, that they had to fix parachutes to the bombs so they could fly away before being rocked by their own explosives.

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Whether strafing, bombing, or simply transporting personnel, the B-25 has an important impact throughout World War II.

Curtiss P-40N Warhawk 'Little Jeanne' and 3 B-25 Mitchells at the 2009 edition of the Duxford Flying legends show.

The last B-25 was retired from the USAF on May 21, 1960. At that point it was being used to transport VIPs for the military.

Only around 25 B-25 Mitchells remain airworthy today, they are maintained by aviation enthusiasts around the world.

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See Also: The B-17 Flying Fortress debuted exactly 80 years ago -- here's its legacy

You've seen the B-25 ...

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