The United States produced a couple of excellent medium Bombers in World War II. The B-25 Mitchell is perhaps the best known of those.
After the jump, a look at a late war example.
The B-25 was just entering service as the US entered WWII, and it served to the last day. It was a very capable aircraft for the era, its standard 3000 lb bomb load putting it at the top end for a medium bomber. It was rugged, easy to fly, had a good range and heavy defensive firepower. Along with the B-26 Marauder, American mediums would compare well with “heavies” in many air forces.
In Europe and the Mediterranean Mitchells were mostly used in a traditional role at medium altitude. But things were done a little differently in the Pacific. Especially after General George Kenny took over the 5th Air Force (“MacArthur’s Air Force”). General Kenny advocated extreme low altitude attack. This generally improved accuracy, and made it easier to identify targets. It also removed heavy anti-aircraft artillery from the equation. But the trade off is far greater risk from small arms fire.
So 5th Air Force up-gunned their tactical aircraft. This would allow the bombers to “clear a path” for their own bomb runs. In the case of the B-25 this was taken to almost comical extremes. To the point North American was very concerned about so much blast and recoil damaging the aircraft. Apparently company field reps were told to discourage some of this (do you think they were told warranties might be void?!). After 5th Air Force made a solid case for the tactics (and some spectacular results I’ll get to with later models), North American relented and designed strafer packages for the Mitchell. The B-25J model even had a changeable nose that could switch from a traditional bomber type to a solid gun nose (although I know of no example where that was actually done, I believe planes always flew with the nose they were delivered with)
This is the Monogram kit with Third Group decals. The subject was based on Okinawa in the last summer of the war; with the 38th Bomb Group of the 5th Air Force. This Mitchell is a strafer “J” with 8 .50s in the solid nose. Some planes had another four .50s in “cheek” mounts right below the cockpit. That plus another six guns in defensive mounts make some B-25s the most heavily armed planes to fly for any nation. You wouldn’t want to be standing in front of that. You wouldn’t even want to be on a ship in front of that. And they still carried bombs…
Up Next: T-34/76