History of the B-25
The B-25 “Mitchell” Medium Bomber (Navy/Marine PBJ) was designed and built by North American Aviation (NAA) in Inglewood CA and Kansas City, KS. NAA also built the T-6 Texan advanced trainer (15,495 built), P-51 Mustang fighter (15,586 built), T-28 Trojan trainer (2,232 built), F-86 Sabre fighter jet (9,500 built; Korean War), F-100 Super Sabre fighter jet (9,000 built), and X-15 rocket-powered research aircraft. In 1955, NAA started their Rocketdyne Division, building rocket engines for the Mercury-Redstone (Mercury Program) launch vehicle and Saturn V launch vehicle (Apollo Program). They also built the Apollo command and service modules, and Space Shuttle.
The B-25 was designed in response to the U.S. Army Air Corps specification for a medium bomber in 1939. The B-25 first flew in 1940. The first B-25s became operational in 1941. B-25 production ended on August 17, 1945 with Japan’s imminent surrender.
9,816 B-25s were built for World War II (WWII) and classified as a twin-engine, medium bombers. Stats:
- Crew: 6 (typically) or 5 (B-25G & B-25H). Pilot, Co-pilot, navigator/bombardier, turret gunner/engineer, radio operator/waist gunner, tail gunner
- Length, Wingspan, & Height: 53’5.75”, 67’6.7”, 16’4.2”
- Powerplant: Two Wright R-2600 “Twin Cyclone” 14-cylinder radial engines generating 1,700 hp.
- Performance: 230 mph cruise, 275 mph max. Range: 1,350 miles. Ceiling: 25,000 ft
- Armament: Max bomb load of 4,000 lb. 7 to 18 Browning M2 (Ma Duce) .50 caliber machine guns.
Compare to other WWII land-based U.S. bombers.
- 2-engine medium bombers:
- Martin B-26 Marauder – 5,288 built; crew of 7; max bomb load of 4,000 lb
- Douglas A-26 Invader – 2,503 built; crew of 3; max bomb load of 6,000 lb
- Douglas A-20 Havoc – 7,478 built; crew of 3; max bomb load of 4,000 lb
- Douglas B-18 Bolo – 350 built; crew of 6; max bomb load of 4,400 lb
- 4-engine heavy bombers:
- Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress – 12,731 built; crew of 10; max bomb load of 8,000 lb
- Consolidated B-24 Liberator – 18,500 built; crew of 11; max bomb load of 8,000 lb
- Boeing B-29 Superfortress – 3,970 built; crew of 11; max bomb load of 20,000 lbs. Dropped the 2 atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end WWII in August 1945.
Early B-25s were built in Inglewood, CA. All the B25Js (our model) were built in the Kansas City “Fairfax” plant. Served in all areas of WWII: Pacific, Mediterranean, and Europe Theaters of Operation.
- All B-25 models could carry a bomb load of at least 3,000 lb or one 2,000 lb Mark 13 torpedo.
- The B-25B model was used in the Doolittle Raid (April 18, 1942), first aerial attack of Japan, 4.5 months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor (Dec 7, 1941). Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle planned the attack, trained 80 crew, and led the attack off the USS Hornet aircraft carrier. The mission greatly boosted American morale.
- The B-25G & B-25H anti-shipping model carried a lightweight version of the 75mm (approx. 3”) M4 tank cannon, used in Sherman tanks. Only about 4 rounds could be fired at a target per “run.” The guns substantial recoil was also undesirable.
- The B-25J was a strafer gunship & skip bomber model; some were used as staff/VIP transports. One “J” version included 18 .50 caliber machine guns, 14 of which could be fired at once by the pilot. Could also carry eight 5” rockets.