Archive for Thursday, May 3, 2007

B-25s over Lansing

May 3, 2007

In the early 1940s the sky over Lansing and the greater Kansas City Area almost always had a B-25 flying around for testing. The aircraft were built at the North American Bomber Plant in the Fairfax District in Kansas City, Kan.

The last B-25 was delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force in August of 1945. The day after the war in the Pacific ended, the Kansas City plant was closed. Later it was converted to the General Motors automobile plant.

The B-25 was a medium-size bomber that served mainly in the Pacific, as well as other areas and also used by our allies, during World War II.

The B-25 Mitchell was the only U.S. aircraft named after an individual. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell was court-martialed in 1925 for his vehement, public advocacy of air power. At that time the powers that be could not envision his idea of a plane used for heavy bombing for defense. It was not until the 1940s that his idea came to pass and was accepted.

The B-25 gained recognition in April of 1942 when Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle led 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers on the famous raid over Japan, and the offensive momentum began to shift in favor of America. The B-25 was the only bomber able to take off from an aircraft carrier with a useful bomb load and fly the required distance. It could fly 275 miles per hour at 15,000 feet.

The Doolittle-led attack inflicted minimal damage, but it was a stunning psychological blow to the Japanese. At home America went wild and morale soared for the first time since Pearl Harbor.

The plane was modified many times during the war from the B-25A to the B-25J.

I was in the eighth grade when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. As a sophomore in high school, I went to work in the Fairfax District just a block away from this bomber plant. I rode to Kansas City on the bus, then I took the Fairfax bus to Milk Producers, where I worked.

Many times I worked later than the city buses ran and I would catch a ride with the Ferrying Command pilots that tested and flew these planes to their wartime destinations. They had nice cars and drove fast but never passed me up.

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