Posts Tagged With: #Warbirds

The Mitchells of Oshkosh

DSC01362Last 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.

DSC01247

The first two Mitchells warm up before launch.

DSC01304

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.

DSC01297

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.

DSC00614

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.

DSC01318

Put it in black and white, and that could be Dobodura, New Guinea, in the summer of ’43.

DSC01369

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.

DSC01380

Mitchell in the Golden Hour.

 

DSC01355

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?

 

DSC01485

Champaign Gal touches back down in the rain after the demonstration flight. It is part of the Champaign Aviation Museum in Urbana, Ohio.

 

DSC01499

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.

 

DSC01454

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.

 

DSC01453

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:

indestructible_card_pappys_folly

Categories: World War II Europe, World War II in Europe, World War II in the Pacific, Writing Notes | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

The Sky Above Southern California

AO5Y0026

The Planes of Fame Republic P-47D Thunderbolt with a replica Fw-190 on its wing. Chino Air Show, 2016. If you are a lover of warbirds and have not made the trip to Chino, do so. The museum’s collection is simply incredible.

Categories: Uncategorized, World War II Europe, World War II in Europe | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chino Air Show, Day 2

AO5Y2042AO5Y2148AO5Y2517AO5Y1440AO5Y1329AO5Y1277AO5Y2234

Categories: Korean War, Uncategorized, World War II, World War II Europe, World War II in Europe, World War II in the Pacific | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Skip Bombing in Forts

43rd bg briefing 1942 australia450

Men of the 64th Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group prepare for a mission against the Japanese on November 17, 1942. The photo was taken at Mareeba, Australia. L-R: Captain David Hassemer, 2nd Lt. Jacob Franz, Lt. John Crockett, Lt, Raymond Holsey, Captain Eugene Halliwill, Lt. Jack Ryan and Sgt. John Rosenberger.

Though the B-17’s role in Europe has been studied for decades, the Flying Fort started its USAAF combat career in the Pacific. The 19th Bomb Group, stationed in the Philippines in 1941, carried out the first American B-17 raids of WWII. Later, the 19th moved to Australia, supporting the Dutch East Indies campaign along with the 7th Bomb Group before joining the fight over New Guinea and Rabaul. The 7th later went on to serve in the China-Burma-India Theater.

A B-17 in Northern Australia, May 1942.As the 19th held the line, the first squadrons of the 43rd Bomb Group began to arrive in Australia. By late summer, as General George Kenney took command of the 5th Air Force, the entire 43rd had reached the SWPA, giving him two groups of heavy bombers with which to strike the Japanese. Being an unconventional thinker, Kenney and one of his aides, Major Bill Benn, talked through how to better employ their Forts. Pre-war doctrine called for mass formations of B-17’s to hit both land and naval targets, but Kenney knew he’d never get very many heavies. Bombing ships from 20,000 feet with a half dozen or less B-17’s on any given mission had resulted in almost no hits. Had a hundred or two hundred Boeings been used to saturate an enemy naval force with bombs, perhaps they would have had more success. As it was, Kenney had to make do with somewhere between twenty and forty B-17’s available for operations on any given day. With a percentage always performing long range reconnaissance missions, the 5th Air Force rarely had more than a dozen B-17’s free for bombing missions.

 

b17 loading bombs into bay mareeba australia nov 17 1942416 8x10

Bombing up a Fort at Mareeba, November 17, 1942.

As the 19th held the line, the first squadrons of the 43rd Bomb Group began to arrive in Australia. By late summer, when General George Kenney took command of the 5th Air Force, the entire 43rd had reached the SWPA, giving him two groups of heavy bombers with which to strike the Japanese. Being an unconventional thinker, Kenney and one of his aides, Major Bill Benn, talked through how to better employ their Forts. Pre-war doctrine called for mass formations of B-17’s to hit both land and naval targets, but Kenney knew he’d never get very many heavies. Bombing ships from 20,000 feet with a half dozen or less B-17’s on any given mission had resulted in almost no hits. Had a hundred or two hundred Boeings been used to saturate an enemy naval force with bombs, perhaps they would have had more success. As it was, Kenney had to make do with somewhere between twenty and forty B-17’s available for operations on any given day. With a percentage always performing long range reconnaissance missions, the 5th Air Force rarely had more than a dozen B-17’s free for bombing missions.

kenney on nashville watching os2u launch 1944

General George Kenney (left), aboard the USS Nashville in 1944. His willingness to try anything and everything led the 5th Air Force to be one of the most innovative and flexible USAAF units of WWII.

Kenney and Benn decided to see if the B-17 could be used in low altitude anti-ship attacks. They’d read reports of the British using such techniques to bounce bombs across the surface of the water and into the sides of Italian ships in the Mediterranean Sea and thought that might be workable. Others in the 5th Air Force, including the legendary Paul “Pappy” Gunn, had concluded through experience that wavetop attacks were the only way to take out Japanese ships.

Kenney sent Benn to command the 63rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group, which was used as an incubator for such tactics. Simultaneously, the 3rd Attack Group also began working on the technique. Soon other units began training on the new tactics as well.

That fall, the B-17’s of both the 43rd Bomb Group and the 19th began launching night skip bombing attacks against Japanese vessel. Operating in small numbers, or sometimes as lone wolves, the B-17’s prowled the night skies over the northern coast of New Guinea and New Britain in search of targets. They repeatedly struck heavily defended Simpson Harbor, Rabaul, which was the main Japanese base in the area.

43rd bg b17 nov 17 42 mareeba australia428

A 64th Bomb Squadron crew at Mareeba, November 17, 1942.

Flying from bases in Northern Australia, the B-17 crews would stage out of Seven Mile Drome at Port Moresby, New Guinea, before heading out against their assigned targets or patrol areas. The attacks proved to be far more successful than all previous B-17 anti-shipping raids done from altitude. The 5th Air Force later estimated the hit rates against shipping increased from 1% to over 70%. Nevertheless, using Forts like this was a stopgap measure at best. Low and large, they were vulnerable to Japanese anti-aircraft fire, and they lacked the firepower needed to suppress those defenses during bomb runs. To counter that, the crews learned to make fast approaches from two thousand feet. They would dive down, level off below five hundred, pickle their bombs and run for home on the deck.

5th af swpa b17 1942 Australia 951 8x10

“The Old Man,” one of the 19th Bomb Group B-17’s. During a photo recon mission over Gasmata, New Britain in March of 1943, this Fort was intercepted by thirteen Japanese Zero fighters. The A6M’s made repeated runs on the bomber, wounding both pilots, the top turret gunner, the navigator and bombardier. The top turret gunner, who had washed out of flight school back in the states, ended up landing the B-17 with the help of one of the pilots back at Dobodura. When the forward hatch was opened, blood poured out onto the ground. Miraculously, everyone lived. The Old Man was repaired and later became General Whitehead’s personal aircraft.

Eventually, the A-20 and B-25 gunships became the 5th Air Force’s primary anti-ship aircraft, along with Australian Beaufighters and Beauforts. The B-17’s were replaced by longer-ranged B-24’s which were mainly used for conventional bombing from altitude. Still, for a brief period in late 1942-43, Kenney’s Fort crews carried out some of the most unusual B-17 attacks of the war.

 

 

b25 skip bombing tanker842 5x7

 

During the war, the USAAF, Marines and Navy tried to share their combat experiences and developments as much as possible. Part of this process included interviews with officers freshly returned to the States from combat. This document is an interview with one of the key leaders in the 19th Bomb Group conducted by a Marine Air Group Thirteen officer in late 1942. In it, Felix Hardison describes the tactics employed by the 19th Bomb Group, as well as the limitations of the B-17 in that role.

Gunn Documents 0923114p076

Categories: World War II in the Pacific | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.