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'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.
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.
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.
The Mitchell's 'greenhouse' style cockpit provided excellent visibility for bombers and gunners alike.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Whether strafing, bombing, or simply transporting personnel, the B-25 has an important impact throughout World War II.
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.
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