North American B-25J Mitchell

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.

IMG_8786 IMG_8787

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.




This photo of the real thing was contributed by reader JT Broecker. He found this post and recognized “Talisman” as the B-25 his Uncle flew! The Uncle is John “Jack” Morrissey who flew it while based in New Guinea, he is at the center of this photo.

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)

IMG_8789 IMG_8790

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…

Kind of a scary view!

Kind of a scary view!

B-26 and B-25.  American Mediums.

B-26 and B-25. American Mediums.

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About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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21 Responses to North American B-25J Mitchell

  1. Theresa says:

    The bombing strafing runs were highly successful for the B25 and this plane was the precursor of the A10 Thunderbolt “Warthog” of the modern era,

  2. Ernie Davis says:

    Based on the version of the model you were building, I think I can forgive it, but I still see failing to mention this plane as a having a pivotal role in the pacific war, really Dave.

    The B25 was the plane, or planes, as 16 modified b25’s took off from the Hornet in April of 1942, and raided Tokyo, convincing the Japanese to launch a disastrous attack on Midway Island.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Jeeze, I should never post from my iPhone.

      Based on the version of the model you were building, I think I can forgive it, but I still see failing to mention this plane as a having a pivotal role in the pacific war as a definite oversight, really Dave.

      The B25 was the plane, or planes, as 16 modified b25’s took off from the Hornet in April of 1942, and raided Tokyo, convinced the Japanese to launch a disastrous attack on Midway Island.

    • atcDave says:

      Well you know I still think I’ll build one of those planes some day, and I thought I’d discuss the Doolittle raid then!
      It is definitely an issue I’m running in to, with a lot of these I have multiple subjects, and deciding how/when to discuss what is not easy. Like I’ve got five more Mustangs built, and a significant number not built, so which stories do I get to, when?

      Anyway, not a big deal. I am happy to discuss anything, anytime. On this subject, since it was a 5th Air Force strafer, I thought that was what I would look at.

      But there certainly is a lot to cover on the Doolittle Raid. From the origins of the plan, to the modified planes themselves, to the details of the operation, to its strategic consequences.
      I like that the B-25 on display at the Air Force Museum is done up as Jimmy Doolittle’s plane (actually its a “C” backdated to a “B”, but close enough). Although it brings up a burning question I’ll need to answer before building one myself. I know the bombs themselves were drawn from Navy inventory. But in the display, they were all painted yellow. According to my sources, Yellow meant inert training ordnance. Light Sea Grey is what the Navy used for live bombs. So is the display wrong? Had the rules changed for bomb colors at some point I don’t know about? Or maybe I just really need to build a plane with its bomb bay closed. Geez…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        It is funny how muddled some of these things become. I doubt they were too interested in total authenticity and merely drew inert ordinance, not seeing any need to go further. It’s just us nerds and geeks who get the details, and sweat them.

      • atcDave says:

        I asked a docent about it once and he looked at me like I was from another planet. But it seems possible their sources are wrong, or my sources are wrong (or incomplete or out of date), or there was some aberration in play that their restorer knew about that I don’t. Which of course means I can’t narrow it down at all.

        I was also at the Air Zoo recently where they are restoring an FM-2 that was recently pulled out of Lake Michigan. The Air Zoo has a well respected restoration program. Well I asked some questions to the guys working on it when I was visiting; they responded by pulling out an old book that I own, and for a variety of reasons, no longer consider credible. They weren’t real pleased when I pointed out the picture was of an earlier Grumman built product, and they were working on a General Motors built plane.
        But it really drove home to me that restorers really are researching and making educated guesses the same way I am. I guess I tend to assume the “professionals” know more, and have better sources than I do. But I know that isn’t always true.

      • atcDave says:

        I guess I should add to that something I’m sure you’re completely familiar with too Ernie. Government documents/orders do not always accurately reflect reality. Gasp.

        I just sure would like to know if those bombs were really yellow or if they screwed up…

      • Ernie Davis says:

        Perish the thought Dave.

        Though I will offer a thought. Introduce planes and builds in a more linear timeline. Which you’ve mostly done.

        Much as I crave those late model Mustang, Spitfire and Thunderbolts, I know it took some time to get there.

      • atcDave says:

        Well I don’t even build linear, I actually try to mix it up.

        Also in terms of traffic here, its those higher profile, later types that get more hits, and are googled more often. Even if the earlier and more obscure stuff is often more interesting to me; and often trigger more interesting discussion.
        I try to provide relevant background and context. At some point, I may work on some “timeline” sort of posts. That’s sounding like an interesting idea…
        I think I’ll have most of my current complete models posted around the end of the year, and I build, at best, two a month; so other ideas are certainly needed. I will definitely have to do something with proper chronology.

  3. Terry Brodin says:

    I seem to recall in Ted Lawson’s book “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” that he refered to the bombs being yellow. It’s been a long time, so I may be mistaken.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah I’m thinking that may well be the case. Or maybe he mostly remembered the bombs they’d used in training, and that was the Air Force Museums source!
      The written orders I’ve seen say grey. I sure wish I could find “yellow” in some other primary source.

  4. Pingback: Post Update | Plane Dave

  5. Pierre Lagacé says:

    How I miss that post I will never know!

  6. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Most interesting comments.

  7. Pierre Lagacé says:

    I have two unbuilt Monogram B-25J. Glass nose and solid nose.

  8. Doug Jones says:

    Hi – re the above…..a possible answer and a question:
    Re the yellow bombs on the Doolittle raid – they were using US Navy bombs. Pre-war US Navy bombs were often painted yellow and it took a while to use stocks up. In early ’42 Hornet probably still had plenty of old stock.
    Re the tail serial 329908 on your Talisman model. The decal instructions suggest the serial was unknown, hence they provided several sets of complete yellow digits. Was JT Broecker able to confirm this as the correct number? I’d like to know as this is a potential subject for a 1/48 kit I’m currently building.

    • atcDave says:

      That is very helpful answer about the yellow bombs! So sounds like that may be the best way to go. I have some color pictures from Midway that seem to be Gull Grey, but obviously that is a bit later.

      And no, the tail number was just a guess. He only had the one picture he provided and didn’t know much more. I had built the model several years before I heard from him anyway.
      Also, I’m sure you noticed, the Third Group instruction sheet indicated the plane did not have complete unit colors (the blue cowls and tail); its been a while, I don’t remember which was incomplete. But I decided to show the markings in more complete form with the thought it may have been finished after their source photos were taken.

      Hope that helps!

      • Doug Jones says:

        Thanks Dave. A pity there is not more complete information on this a/c as it is a striking color scheme. Your model is a great rendition of what it probably looked like as well.

      • atcDave says:

        Thank you Doug.

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