tribute to the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders during their 68th reunion, the National
Museum of the United States Air Force and Urbana's Grimes Field hosted one of
the largest gatherings of B-25 Mitchell bombers since World War II.
Approximately 20 aircraft from around the nation landed at Grimes Field on April 15. The twin-engine bombers plus two P 51 "Mustangs" staged of out of Grimes Field on April 15-16.
At 8:20 AM on Saturday, April 18, 1942 the US Navy’s new carrier Hornet was approximately 650 miles (1,046 km) east of Tokyo, Japan, heading; 270°, speed; 20 knots (37 km/h). The original destination of the carrier was a launch point approximately 450 miles (724 km) east of Tokyo. But plans went awry earlier that morning when a Japanese picket boat (the "Nitto Maru" ) spotted them and sent a radio message to Tokyo. Though the message either was not received, or was ignored in Tokyo, the Americans had no way of knowing this. The aircraft were ordered launched immediately despite the fact they were 200 miles (322 km) further from the target than planned. Admiral William "Bull" Halsey aboard his flagship Enterprise had been informed of the message sent by the Nitto Maru. He couldn’t risk exposing the thin skinned carriers to a possible assault by a Japanese battlewagon, so he immediately flashed a message to the Hornet: "Launch Planes. To Colonel Doolittle and his gallant command Good Luck and God bless you". Intermittent rain squalls swept the flight deck and the sound of the Wright Cyclone engines warming up reverberated amongst the ships of Task Force 16. To an outside observer this would have appeared to be a standard naval combat mission except for two items: (1) This occurred a mere 4½ months after the Pearl Harbor disaster, and no one in their wildest dreams could have expected the US Navy to be able to attack Japan so soon. And: (2) These were definitely not naval aircraft thundering down the deck of the Hornet. They were US Army twin engine bombers!
The Doolittle raid was carried out by sixteen B-25B aircraft. The "B" was built with the advantage of a degree of combat experience. Dorsal and ventral gun turrets, each housing twin .50 cal. (12.7 mm) Browning M2 machine guns were installed just behind the bomb bay. The .30 cal. (7.62 mm) was retained in the nose position. The tail gunners position was eliminated and an observers station installed. Although the turrets adversely affected the top speed of the B, firepower was greatly improved.
©Spectrum Photography 2010
Lt. Col. Edward Saylor Lt. Col. Robert Hite Staff Sgt. David Thatcher Col. Richard Cole
|North American B-25J "Mitchell" Medium Bomber|
|Wing span:||Wing Span: 67 ft 7 in (20.59 m)|
|Length:||Length: 51 ft (15.55 m)|
|Height:||Height: 16 ft 4 in (4.98 m)|
|Wing Area:||610 sq ft (56.67 m²)|
|Empty:||19,530 lb (8,858 kg)|
|Gross:||26,122 lb (11,848 kg)|
|Maximum T/O:||35,000 lb. (15,876 kg)|
|Maximum Speed:||285 mph (458 kph) at 15,000 ft (4,572 m)|
|Cruising Speed:||230 mph (370 kph)|
|Service Ceiling:||24,200 ft (7,376 m)|
|Normal Range:||1,350 miles
(2,172 km) with
3,000 lbs (1,360 kg) of bombs
|Maximum Range:||2,200 miles (3,540 km) with ferry tanks|
R-2600-29 Wright "Cyclone" 14 cylinder, air cooled radial
engines developing 1,700 hp (1,268 kW) each for T/O
Eighteen .50 cal (12.7 mm) M-2 Colt-Browning machine guns.
Up to 3,200 lbs (1,451 kg) of bombs
©Spectrum Photography 2010
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