The B-25 “Mitchell” bomber was probably the most known and merited medium class bomber of the World War II.
It was exceptionally effective in assaults at low altitude strikes, firing at ground targets, but it proved useful in bombing raids in higher ceilings, done often carried out war in Europe and Pacific theatre. Thanks to their durability and reliability the “Mitchells” flew in any climate and in almost any theatre of operations of the World War Two.
B-25J was the last version of this bomber – and it was the most numerous production variant. The designers gave up the almost impractical 75 mm gun, mounted in the nose of the previous versions and re-introduced the standard glazed nose, in which it was mounted and one movable machine gun were installed. The rest of the airframe was identical to the previous type. Later on, if necessary, the glazed nose was replaced with solid nose with eight machine guns mounted permanently, what made this version of “Mitchell” the best armed bomber of the Second World War with its 18 Browning cal. 12,7 mm machine guns on board.
Such a strong armament proved well in units fighting in the Pacific. That is where the potential of this aircraft was discovered and the name “Gunship” acquired the full meaning of this word. The jungle environment reduced the effectiveness of the medium level bombing and the low altitude attack turned out to be the best tactic. Successively increased amount of the forward-firing machine guns on B-25J was the way of increasing effectiveness of such operations.
In low altitude assaults the B-25Js achieved better results than heavy bombers. They appeared all of a sudden in few seconds over the enemy-held, firing all the machine guns, shelling the entrenched anti-aircraft guns positions, runways, parked aircrafts and wreaking havoc with shower of “parademo” bombs, leaving the enemy air bases destroyed and wiped out, after which they disappeared quickly like true “jungle ghosts”.
The “Gunships”, flying at high speed over the tops of the trees, were very hard to spot and hit, although if the machine was hit directly by the ground-based anti-aircraft weapons, there was little chance for it to come out of it alive. Many crews did not returned to their bases because of this very reason... and this book is dedicated mainly to them, as well as to all the pilots fallen in the Pacific war.
At the end of the war, the B-25Js turned out to be very efficient in fighting shipping in the waters of French Indochina and Japanese home islands by having attacked convoys and sunk many merchant vessels and escorts. The example of which might be a total annihilation of the Hi88J convoy, consisting of nine merchant vessels and eight warships, escorting the convoy, including the “Amatsukaze” destroyer. The convoy sailed out of Singapore on 19th March 1945 and over the next few days it was continuously harassed by the 345th Bomber Group (345. BG), deployed in San Marcelino on Luzon Island. In the next 17 days the unit sunk ten merchant vessels and escorts, paying the price of four B-25Js and 22 crew members. The rest of the convoy fell prey to submarines.
The first B-25s of the J version were delivered to the 5 AAF units in the end of September 1944 but the 341th BG, fighting in China (CBI) had been using this version since April 1944.
In the Pacific theatre the B-25J “Mitchells” were used by the 5, 13, 7 and 11 AAF.
The 5 AAF included, among others, the 38th BG “The Sun Setters” and the 345th BG “The Air Apaches”. Both Bomber Groups after heavy fighting over New Guinea were rearmed with new B-25Js and were moved to the Philippines at the end of 1944. In February they supported the army in the battle of Luzon. The whole South China Sea, including shore of French Indochina, China and Formosa Island were within the reach of the bombers. Soon the “Strafers” roamed the Japanese most vital sea lanes, attacking shipping. In July 1945 the 38th BG moved to Okinawa and the 345th BG to Ie Shima, from where they carried out bombing raids on targets located in southern Japan until the end of war.
In the ranks of 13AFF was the 42th BG (“The Crusaders”), armed with B-25. After campaign on Salomon Islands the group was rearmed with new B-25Js and deployed at Mar (Sansapor) base in New Guinea at the end of September 1944. From there the group carried out raids against Japanese airfields and facilities on Ceram, Boeroe, Halmahera and Celebes islands. Reduction of any potential enemy forces in the Netherlands East Indies was necessary to cover the left flank of the “return to the Philippines”. Many parked aircrafts, fuel and ammunition depots were destroyed, leaving the enemy air bases ravaged and devastated. Later on, the 42th BG took part in attacks on the Philippines, especially on Luzon and Leyte. In February 1945 the unit was moved to the Morotai airport and then, on 6th to Puerta Princesa on the Palawan Island, from where, until the war was over, it supported Australian forces landing on Borneo Island. For its contribution in taking Balikpapan between 23-30th June, the unit was honoured with Distinguished Unit Citation. In addition – in July and August 1945 the group fought the last resistance points on Luzon.
On the other hand, the 41th GB “Strafers” of the 7AAF joined action relatively late. On the 14th September 1944 the unit returned to Hawaii, where it was rearmed with new version of B-25J, including rocket missile weapons. The training of the crews lasted very long and it was not until the 7th July 1945 when the unit was deployed on Okinawa, from which until the end of war it carried out raids and attacks on Japanese airfields, railways and harbour works on the Kiusiu Island.
The 11AAF “Mitchells” participation in fighting in the area of Aleutian and Kuril Islands is relatively the least known. 28th Composite Group, armed with B-25 and rearmed with the new J version, in the last months or war fought shipping between Shumushu and Paramushiro Islands.
In the southern Pacific the 18th Squadron (NEI) and 2nd Squadron RAAF were involved too, also armed with “Mitchells”.
The 18th Squadron (Netherlands East Indies) – this unit was manned by both Australian and Dutch crews, acting under the command of Royal Australian Air Force.
At the end of the war, the squadron based in Batchelor underwent rearming with new B-25 J version and after having deployed in Balikpapan (Borneo) in July 1945 put down the last glimpses of enemy resistance along with 2nd RAAF Squadron, also armed with new version of B-25.
At the CBI front B-25Js were used in 10 and 14 AAF.
The 341th Bomber Group operated from India and China as a part of 10 AAF. It was particularly efficient against communication routes in central Burma (Myanmar), especially when it came to destroying bridges. The 490th Squardon (341th BG) specialized in such operations so much, that they were nicknamed „Burma Bridge Busters”. The 341th BG has been awarded DUC for its service.
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