Last week was a very special one for me. After finishing up doing research at the Richard Ira Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior, I drove south to Oshkosh, pitched a tent and spent five days photographing the aircraft.
This was a bucket list event for me, and I’ve wanted to see this amazing event for most of my life. Being a West Coast native, getting to Oshkosh in the middle of busy summers just wasn’t in the cards. This year, it coincided with my transcontinental research trip, so I camped out, got filthy, grew an almost-beard, and shot photos fifteen hours a day.
Talk about bliss.
The highlight for me this year was the B-25 squadron that showed up. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many B-25’s. They had so many that two seemingly went into overflow parking in Warbirds Alley!
In the rain at dusk one night last week, the B-25’s lined up exactly like Doolittle’s planes had been arrayed on the U.S.S. Hornet before the April 18, 1942 raid on Tokyo. I was down right on the flight line to see this amazing tribute as, one after another, the Mitchells roared down the runway and into the air.
Breathtaking. Here are some of the photos I took of that spectacular display, an homage to an era where our nation produced some of the greatest aircraft and aviators in history.
The first two Mitchells warm up before launch.
This CAF B-25 was restored to memorialize a USMC B-25 from VMB-612 that was lost on its 23rd mission in the Pacific.
This rare bird is the oldest surviving B-25 Mitchell. It was fourth off the North American production line, served as General Hap Arnold’s personal transport, was used later by Howard Hughes and ended up in Mexico and Indonesia before returning home to be a featured aircraft of the Long Island, NY American Airpower Museum.
Barbie III, a 1st Air Commando B-25H Mitchell, rolled off the assembly line in 1943. Owned now by the Cavanaugh Flight Museum, it was the second H model produced during the war. Barbie III is also the only B-25H flying with an actual 75mm cannon in the nose.
Put it in black and white, and that could be Dobodura, New Guinea, in the summer of ’43.
This is the Yellow Rose, a B-25J also built in 1943. It served with the 334th Bomb Group stateside and was used in aircrew training as late as the mid-1950s. It belongs to the Central Texas Wing of the CAF.
Mitchell in the Golden Hour.
Oshkosh is just about the coolest place I’ve ever been. How many times do you get to look up at sunset and see this?
Champaign Gal touches back down in the rain after the demonstration flight. It is part of the Champaign Aviation Museum in Urbana, Ohio.
Briefing Time, owned by the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, is painted in the markings of a B-25 that flew with the 340th Bomb Group during the Italian campaign.
The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum owns this beautiful eight-gunned B-25, “Hot Gen” and carries the markings of 98 Squadron, RAF in honor of the Canadian crews who flew the Mitchell in that unit.
When the last B-25 touched down, it felt like I’d just seen a once-in-a-lifetime event. What an homage to an aircraft and its crews who played such a key role in winning the air war over the SWPA and in the MTO.
For those of you out there who want to learn more about the B-25 and some of the characters who modified and flew them in the Pacific: