Mitchell file photo

B-25 Mitchell

CountryUnited States
ManufacturerNorth American Aviation
Primary RoleMedium Bomber
Maiden Flight19 August 1940

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

The original design for the B-25 Mitchell medium bombers was drafted with Britain and France as the intended customers, but they opted for A-20 Havoc bombers from Douglas Aircraft Company instead. In 1939, the United States Army Air Corps evaluated the design and was satisfied with the prototype aircraft's performance. The original prototype, code named NA-40B, crashed on 11 Apr 1939, but the US Army liked the little they had observed thus far, and decided to order the design into production without further testing. Out of the modified design, now named NA-62, the production B-25 Mitchell bombers were born. Some of the changes with NA-62 include a new wing shape and a larger tail fin. The first B-25 bombers entered service with the US Army in 1940.

Among their early missions was the Doolittle Raid in Apr 1942, where United States Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet steamed close to Japan and launched US Army B-25 Mitchell bombers on an attack on Japanese cities; it was meant to be an attack at the Japanese morale and at the same time a morale booster for the Americans. Headed by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle, 16 lightly armed B-25 Mitchell bombers took off at the dawn of 18 Apr 1942 and bombed Tokyo and other cities. Actual damage inflicted was minimal, and 15 out of the 16 were destroyed in crash-landings in China after the mission, but the boost of American morale was significant. The lone B-25 bomber that survived the mission landed in Russia, and the aircraft was confiscated by the Soviets.

In the Pacific War, B-25 Mitchell bombers were frequently used at low altitude, acting as ground attack aircraft instead of as medium bombers. These strafing aircraft were first devised in the field by the likes of Major Paul Irving "Pappy" Gunn, who initially modified A-20 Havoc bombers but later also submitted requests to perform similar modifications to B-25 bombers by adding guns and eliminating any unnecessary weight and space; as his request was approved by George Kenney, Kenney would also claim design credit, noting that he had further contributed to Gunn's designs. The resulting B-25G aircraft each had additional machine guns and a 75mm M4 cannon, the largest caliber weapon ever equipped in an American bomber. A later variant, B-25J, increased the number of machine guns to 18. Finally, B-25 bombers sometimes served as troop transports in the South Pacific.

Although B-25 bombers were noisy and caused hearing problems for the pilots and crew after the war, they were were well loved by their crew for that they could absorb significant amounts of damage and still maintain manageable flight characteristics.

9,984 were built between 1941 and 1945; 6,608 of them were built at North American's Fairfax Airport plant in Kansas City, Kansas, United States.

Sources:
Bruce Gamble, Fortress Rabaul
Ted Lawson, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
Wikipedia

B-25 Mitchell Timeline

29 Jan 1939 The NA-40 prototype aircraft took its first flight; it was judged underpowered and unstable.
11 Apr 1939 The NA-40B prototype aircraft was destroyed in a crash during testing at Wright Field, Ohio, United States. The entire crew survived the crash.
19 Aug 1940 The North American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber took its first flight.
30 Jun 1941 The Netherlands Purchasing Commission placed an order with North American Aviation to purchase 162 B-25C bombers for the Dutch government-in-exile. These aircraft were intended for the Dutch East Indies to counter the growing Japanese threat.
3 Jan 1942 The B-25D variant of the B-25 Mitchell aircraft took its first flight; all B-25D aircraft were built at Kansas City, Kansas, United States.
22 Jan 1943 The RAF conducted its first combat operation using the new Mitchell Mk.II bombers. Six aircraft from No. 98 and No. 180 Squadrons were sent out to attack oil installations at Ghent in Belgium. One aircraft was shot down by flak over the target and two others were lost when attacked by Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters. Following this disaster the RAF's Mitchell squadrons were stood down to concentrate on developing new tactics to fend off enemy fighters.
14 Mar 1944 United States Marine Corps Squadron VMB-413 equipped with PBJ-1 bombers (B-25 Mitchell bombers which had been purchased by the US Navy but subsequently transferred to the Marine Corps) commenced combat operations from Stirling Island, New Hebrides. Ultimately the USMC would form sixteen B-25 Squadrons, nine of which would see action in World War II.
28 Jul 1945 A B-25D bomber crashed into the 79th and 80th floor on the north side of the Empire State Building in New York City, New York, United States at 0940 hours in a weather related accident. The air crew of 3, along with 11 people in the building, were killed; the damage was estimated to be about US$1,000,000.

SPECIFICATIONS

B-25J
MachineryTwo Wright R-2600 radial engines rated at 1,850hp each
Armament12x12.7mm machine guns, 2,700kg of bombs
Crew6
Span20.60 m
Length16.13 m
Height4.80 m
Wing Area57.00 m
Weight, Empty9,580 kg
Weight, Loaded15,200 kg
Weight, Maximum19,000 kg
Speed, Maximum442 km/h
Speed, Cruising370 km/h
Rate of Climb4.00 m/s
Service Ceiling7,600 m
Range, Normal2,170 km

Photographs

B-25A Mitchell bomber of the 17th Bomber Group, US 34th Bomber Squadron at McChord Army Air Force field, Washington, United States, 1941; note Thunderbird insignia of 34th Bomber SquadronUS Army aviator Lieutenant Peddy posing in front of his B-25 Mitchell bomber with his full crew, date unknownA wing brace assembly for a B-25 bomber being prepared for assembly at the North American Aviation plant, California, 1942B-25 bombers under construction at North American Aviation
See all 146 photographs of B-25 Mitchell Medium Bomber



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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Hobilar says:
    19 Aug 2007 03:22:42 AM

    870 North American B25C or B25D Mitchell were also shipped to the Soviet Union under Land Lease



  2. Bill says:
    23 Apr 2011 12:47:39 PM

    OJT, OR ON THE JOB TRAINING:

    DID YOU KNOW:

    Of Doolittles Fifteen pilots on the April 1942 raid against Japan, five won their wings before 1941. And all but one of the Sixteen co-pilots were less then a year out of flight training.
    Sixteen North American B-25 Mitchell Bombers,
    Eighty Crewmen, Bomb Japan Immortality

    UNSUNG HERO:

    The idea of a raid against Japan, was on the mind of US Navy Captain Francis Low, thinking
    under the right conditions Army Bombers could bomb Japan launched from an aircraft carrier. The raid was later carried out by
    Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle

    The 1944 film Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo was
    based on the book by Captain Ted W. Lawson
    one of the Doolittle raiders.
    It was a reasonably accurate depicition of the mission. It is available on VHS and DVD
  3. Ltc. Christie USMC/USAF Retired says:
    20 Apr 2013 10:45:18 AM

    It would be historically significant if the lone B-25 that survived the Doolittle Raid by flying to Russia still exists....?
  4. David Stubblebine says:
    20 Apr 2013 06:45:04 PM

    Re: Doolittle bomber interred at Vladivostok [B-25B #40-2242]-
    The best information available is that this aircraft was scrapped in the USSR in the 1950s.

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More on B-25 Mitchell
Notable Figure(s):
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B-25 Mitchell Medium Bomber Photo Gallery
B-25A Mitchell bomber of the 17th Bomber Group, US 34th Bomber Squadron at McChord Army Air Force field, Washington, United States, 1941; note Thunderbird insignia of 34th Bomber Squadron
See all 146 photographs of B-25 Mitchell Medium Bomber



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