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The B-25 Mitchell was a twin-engined medium bomber used in World War II, and manufactured by North American Aviation. The B-25 was named in honor military aviation pioneer General Billy Mitchell.

Design and Development of the B-25

Early production model of the B-25 Mitchell Early production model of the B-25
Photo courtesy of the Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Experience gained in developing the XB-21 was used by North American in designing the B-25 (called the NA-40 by the company). Only one NA-40 was built, with several modifications later being done to test a number of potential improvements.

In 1939, a modified and improved NA-40B was submitted to the United States Army Air Corps for evaluation. The next evolution of the aircraft was named the NA-62, which became the basis for the first actual B-25.

The B-25 first flew on August 19, 1940, and the U.S. Army Air Corps accepted the first five B-25s in February of 1941.

The first 24 aircraft built had no version letter, but are sometimes referred to as the B-25 NA.

The next 40 aircraft were designated B-25A. There were two main changes in this version: the pilot, co-pilot and bombardier were provided with armor behind their seats, and self-sealing fuel tanks were installed. The last of the 120 B-25B aircraft were delivered in January 1942.

Following a number of additional modifications, including the addition of Plexiglas windows for the navigator and radio operator, heavier nose armament, and deicing and anti-icing equipment, the B-25C was delivered to the Army Air Corp. The B-25C and B-25D differed only in location of manufacture; the B25-C was built at Inglewood, California, while the B-25-D was built in Kansas City, Kansas.

Because of the urgent need for hard-hitting strafer aircraft, the B-25G was developed, in which the standard-length transparent nose and the bombardier were replaced by a shorter solid nose containing guns and cannon. The B-25G's successor, the B-25H, had even more firepower. The final, and the most built, version of the Mitchell, the B-25J, looked much like the earlier B, C and D, having reverted to the longer, glazed bombardier's nose, but with the -H version's relocated-forward dorsal manned turret.

The B-25 in Action

B-25s on the deck of the USS HornetB-25s on the deck of the USS Hornet
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

The B-25 saw duty in every combat area being flown by the Dutch, British, Chinese, Russians and Australians in addition to U.S. forces.

Although the B-25 was originally intended for level bombing from medium altitudes, it was used extensively in the Pacific area for bombing Japanese airfields from treetop level and for strafing and skip bombing of enemy shipping.

The Doolittle Raid

The plane is well remembered for its role in the Doolittle Raid, on April 18, 1942, the first air raid by the United States to strike the Japanese homeland during World War II.

Sixteen B-25B aircraft were launched from the U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier USS Hornet. The strike made the Japanese realize that they were vulnerable to attack, and served as a morale booster for the United States.

Air Apaches ... 345th Bombardment Group sign in World War IIAir Apaches ... 345th Bombardment Group sign in World War II
(Photo courtesy of the Louisiana History Museum)

Air Apaches

The 345th Bombardment Group, the Air Apaches, operated primarily in the Southwest Pacific Theater as a B-25 Mitchell bomber unit assigned to Fifth Air Force.

The Group was selected to escort the Japenese surrender party from Japan to Ie Shima. (see Air Apache photos below)

Post-WWII Usage of the B-25

After WWII, most B-25s were sent to long-term storage. Some continued in service through the late 1940s and 1950s in a variety of training, reconnaissance and support roles. Its principal use during this period was for undergraduate training of multi-engine aircraft pilots slated for reciprocating engine or turboprop cargo, aerial refueling or reconnaissance aircraft.

B-25 Mitchell TOPPS Card #86B-25 Mitchell TOPPS Card #86
(from the author's TOPPS Wings Friend or Foe Trading Card collection)

B-25 Technical Specifications

Armament: Six .50-cal. machine guns; 3,000 lbs. of bombs
Engine: Two Wright R-2600s of 1,700 hp each
Maximum speed: 328 mph
Cruising speed: 233 mph
Range: 2,500 miles (with auxiliary tanks)
Ceiling: 21,200 ft.
Span: 67 ft. 6 in.
Length: 53 ft.
Height: 16 ft. 9 in.
Weight: 29,300 lbs. maximum
Cost: $109,670 (1943)


B-25 Production Numbers

Of the 9,890 B-25s built during WWII, there are more than one hundred surviving aircraft around the world, most of which are located in the United States.

The table shown below represents a recap of B-25 Mitchell production by model, and by manufacturing plant:

B-25 Model
North American
Inglewood, CA
North American
Kansas City, KS
Production
Numbers
NA-40
1
11
B-25
24
24
B-25A
40
40
B-25B
120
120
B-25C
1,620
1,690
B-25D
2,290
2,290
B-25G
405
405
B-25H
1,000
1,000
B-25J
4,390
4,390
Total
3,210
6,680
9,890

B-25 Surviving Aircraft

About 27 B-25 aircraft are on static display in museums in the United States, including the B-25J S/N 44-86891 "Lazy Daisy Mae" at the Castle Air Museum (see photo below).

An additional 54 B-25 aircraft are still in flying status in the U.S., including "Yellow Rose" and "Devil Dog" (see photos below).

Our Tribute to the B-25

This section of Planes Of The Past is meant to be a tribute to those who designed & built the B-25, the crews who flew her, and those who have worked tirelessly to preserve this groundbreaking airplane and its history.

We also give credit to the many volunteers such as those in the Commemorative Air Force who have spent thousands of hours restoring B-25s, and maintaining them in flying order.

B-25 Photos Courtesy of the Author

B-25J-5-NC "Yellow Rose", S/N 43-27868, built in 1943
Operated by the Yellow Rose Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), San Marcos, TX
B-25J-5-NC "Yellow Rose", S/N 43-27868, built in 1943
Cockpit of North American B-25J-5-NC "Yellow Rose"
Cockpit of North American B-25J-5-NC "Yellow Rose"
Nose art on the B-25J-5-NC "Yellow Rose"
Nose art on the B-25J-5-NC "Yellow Rose"
Front gun armament on the B-25J-5-NC "Yellow Rose"
Front gun armament on the B-25J-5-NC "Yellow Rose"
Tail section on the B-25J-5-NC "Yellow Rose"
Tail section on the B-25J-5-NC "Yellow Rose"
Tail gun armament on the B-25J-5-NC "Yellow Rose"
Tail gun armament on the B-25J-5-NC "Yellow Rose"
B-25J S/N 43-27712 on display at the Pima Air Museum in Tuscon, Arizona
B-25J S/N 43-27712 on display at the Pima Air Museum in Tuscon, Arizona
B-25J "The Spirit of Al Penn" on display at the Pima Air Museum in Tuscon, Arizona
B-25J "The Spirit of Al Penn" on display at the Pima Air Museum in Tuscon, Arizona
North American PBJ-1J "Devil Dog" patrol bomber, a B-25 variant for the Marine Corps
Part of the Devil Dog Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), located in Georgetown, TX
North American PBJ-1J "Devil Dog" patrol bomber, a B-25 variant for the Marine Corps
North American PBJ-1J "Devil Dog" before a performance at the Thunder Over Cedar Creek Lake Air Show
North American PBJ-1J "Devil Dog" before a performance at the Thunder Over Cedar Creek Lake Air Show
North American PBJ-1J "Devil Dog" patrol bomber, showing Commemorative Air Force logo
North American PBJ-1J "Devil Dog" patrol bomber, showing Commemorative Air Force logo
U.S. Marine Corps. PBJ-1J "Devil Dog" patrol bomber - front gun armament
U.S. Marine Corps. PBJ-1J "Devil Dog" patrol bomber - front gun armament
U.S. Marine Corps. PBJ-1J "Devil Dog" patrol bomber - rear gun turret
U.S. Marine Corps. PBJ-1J "Devil Dog" patrol bomber - rear gun turret
B-25J Mitchell, S/N 44-86872, "The Little King",
on display at the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB, in Warner-Robins, Georgia
B-25J Mitchell, S/N 44-86872, "The Little King", on display at the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB, in Warner-Robins, Georgia
B-25J Mitchell "Lazy Daisy Mae" S/N 44-86891 on display at Castle Air Museum
B-25J Mitchell "Lazy Daisy Mae" S/N 44-86891 on display at Castle Air Museum
B-25 Mitchell at the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin AFB, Florida
B-25 Mitchell at the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin AFB, Florida
B-25J Mitchell, S/N 44-86772, at the Hill Aerospace Museum in Ogden, Utah
B-25J Mitchell, S/N 44-86772, at the Hill Aerospace Museum in Ogden, Utah
Gun armament on the B-25J Mitchell, S/N 44-86772, at the Hill Aerospace Museum
Gun armament on the B-25J Mitchell, S/N 44-86772, at the Hill Aerospace Museum
Side fuselage guns on the B-25J Mitchell, S/N 44-86772, at the Hill Aerospace Museum
Side fuselage guns on the B-25J Mitchell, S/N 44-86772, at the Hill Aerospace Museum
Tail section of the B-25J Mitchell, S/N 44-86772, at the Hill Aerospace Museum
Tail section of the B-25J Mitchell, S/N 44-86772, at the Hill Aerospace Museum

B-25 Photos Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

B-25A Mitchell on the tarmac (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)
B-25A Mitchell on the tarmac
Early production model of the B-25 Mitchell (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)
Early production model of the B-25 Mitchell
B-25 Mitchell S/N 429028 Buzz Number BD-028 (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)
B-25 Mitchell S/N 429028 Buzz Number BD-028
B-25 Mitchell S/N 58832 (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)
B-25 Mitchell S/N 58832
Nose art on B-25 Mitchell "Pacific Princess" (Air Force Photo)
Nose art on B-25 Mitchell "Pacific Princess"
Nose art on B-25 Mitchell "Take-Off Time" (Air Force Photo)
Nose art on B-25 Mitchell "Take-Off Time"
Nose art on B-25 Mitchell "Russian to Get Ya" (Air Force Photo)
Nose art on B-25 Mitchell "Russian to Get Ya"
Nose art on B-25 Mitchell "Show Me!" (Air Force Photo)
Nose art on B-25 Mitchell "Show Me!"

B-25 Photos Courtesy of the Louisiana History Museum

B-25 Mitchell with escort ... historic picture postcard
B-25 Mitchell with escort ... historic picture postcard
B-25 Mitchell parked at Seymour Johnson Field in WWII, with P-47 in background
B-25 Mitchell on tarmac at Seymour Johnson Field in WWII

The 345th Bombardment Group, the Air Apaches, operated primarily in the Southwest Pacific Theater as a B-25 Mitchell medium bomber unit assigned to Fifth Air Force. The Group was selected to escort the Japenese surrender party from Japan to Ie Shima.

B-25 Mitchell of the Air Apaches in World War II (Photo courtesy of the Louisiana History Museum)

B-25 Mitchell of the Air Apaches in World War II
Air Apaches ... 345th Bombardment Group sign in World War II (Photo courtesy of the Louisiana History Museum)
Air Apaches ... 345th Bombardment Group sign in World War II

Special thanks to the Louisiana History Museum for granting permission
to use these historic photos from its archives

B-25 Mitchell TOPPS Card #86 ... from the Author's Collection

B-25 Mitchell TOPPS Card #86

B-25 Mitchell TOPPS Card #86

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