The B-25 Mitchell in 21 Photos

Jesse
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.

During World War Two there were thousands of different types of aircraft flown, but not all of these would go down in history as legendary warbirds. One such legendary aircraft however was the North American B-25 Mitchell. The twin engine medium bomber served extensively in a wide variety of missions, including both high and low altitude bombing, tree-top level strafing, anti-shipping, supply, photo reconnaissance, and other support.

It first flew in 1940, and entered service in 1941, named after Major General William “Billy” Mitchell, a man who is considered to be the father of the US Air Force. It spawned from a 1939 specification issued by the Air Corps for a medium bomber. The B-25 was given mass production approval while it was still on the drawing board, and by the wars end, 9,816 aircraft were built. 

The Mitchell was famous for its incredible firepower, with some variants carrying up to 18 .50 caliber machine guns, 14 of which were pointing forward for strafing ground targets. Empty, it weighed over 19,000 pounds but had a maximum take off weight of 35,000 pounds.

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.
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.

Depending on the model, there were six crew on board, comprising of 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 1,700 hp Wright R-2600 Cyclone 14 radial engines that gave it a top speed of 272 mph at 13,000 feet, a range of 1,350 miles and a service ceiling of 24,200 feet.

The aircraft was noted for its great durability, being able to withstand large amounts of punishment and remain in the air. The B-25 was well like by pilots, who regarded it as very forgiving, even able to fly on one engine, and offered good visibility while taxing thanks to its tricycle landing gear.

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

As mentioned, the B-25 Mitchell was highly adaptable, being built in a wide range of variants all geared for specific roles. The F-10 model was a photo reconnaissance modification of B-25D, with its guns and armor removed and replaced with cameras. The B-25H carried four .50 caliber machine guns in the nose, along with a single T13E1 75 mm cannon. The T13E1 was lightened version of the gun used in the M4 Sherman, and similar to the one used in the M24 Chaffee.

The B-25 was also fly as a VIP transport aircraft; the VB-25J, an aircraft used as the personal transport for Dwight D. Eisenhower.

As a bomber it could carry up to 3,000 pounds of bombs internally. Externally 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.

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

The Mitchell saw combat in all theaters of WWII, flying with the US, the British and the Soviets. They participated in campaigns in the Solomon Islands, Aleutian Islands, Papua New Guinea, and New Britain, among others. The dense tropical environments encountered in the Pacific made mid-level bombing difficult, so B-25s usually to served as low-altitude attack bombers.

In 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-25 Mitchells were widely used for interdiction, close air support, and battlefield isolation. In North Africa they provided air support for Allied forces in the Second Battle of El Alamein, and assisted in the invasion of Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, then following the Allies as they moved up through Italy.

Perhaps the most significant of all B-25 Mitchell achievements was the 1942 Doolittle Raid. 16 modified B-25Bs took off from the deck of the USS Hornet, flew to the Japanese mainland and attacked Tokyo, before making their way to China to land. The raid gave US citizens a significant morale boost, and proved to the Japanese they were in reach of US forces.

After WWII, the US relegated the B-25 to minor roles like training, transport and reconnaissance.  Two were used by the Biafran side in the Nigerian Civil War, before being retired in 1979.

 

A B-25 takes off for the Doolittle Raid.
A B-25 takes off for the Doolittle Raid.

 

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.
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.

 

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

 

North American Aviation plant, Inglewood, CA
North American Aviation plant, Inglewood, CA

 

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

 

Doolittle Raid B-25Bs aboard USS Hornet
Doolittle Raid B-25Bs aboard USS Hornet

 

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

 

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

 

B-25 Mitchell of the USAAF 12th Bombardment Group
B-25 Mitchell of the USAAF 12th Bombardment Group

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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.
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.

 

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.
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.

 

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.
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.

 

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

Another Article From Us: The “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” – Heinkel HE 111 Bomber In 17 Pictures

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.
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.