19 August 1940: At Mines Field (now known as Los Angeles International Airport), the first North American Aviation B-25 twin-engine medium bomber, serial number 40-2165, took off on its first flight with test pilot Vance Breese at the controls and engineer Roy Ferren in the co-pilot’s position.
The airplane, North American model NA-62, serial number 62-2834, was developed from two earlier designs which had been evaluated by the U.S. Air Corps but rejected, and it was ordered into production without a prototype being built.
The first few B-25s built—sources vary, but 8–10 airplanes—were built with a constant dihedral wing. Testing at Wright Field showed that the airplane had a slight tendency to “Dutch roll” so all B-25s after those were built with a “cranked” wing, with the outer wing panels having slight anhedral and giving it the bomber’s characteristic “gull wing” appearance. The two vertical stabilizers were also increased in size.
40-2165 was retained by North American for testing while the next several aircraft were sent to Wright Field.
The B-25 was named Mitchell in honor of early air power advocate Brigadier General Billy Mitchell. A total of 9,984 B-25s, F-10 reconnaissance variants and U.S. Navy and Marine Corps PBJ-1 patrol bombers were built by North American Aviation at Inglewood, California and Kansas City, Kansas. The last one, a TB-25J, remained in service with the U.S. Air Force until 1960.
Twenty-three B-25s were built before the B-25A Mitchell went into production. The B-25 was operated by a crew of five. It was 54 feet, 1 inch (16.485 meters) long with a wingspan of 67 feet, 6.7 inches (20.592 meters) and overall height of 16 feet, 4 inches (4.978 meters). The empty weight was 17,258 pounds (7,828 kilograms) and the maximum gross weight was 28,557 pounds (12,953 kilograms).
The B-25 was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 2,603.737-cubic-inch-displacement (42.688 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 14 GR2600B665 (R-2600-9) two-row 14-cylinder radial engines which were rated at 1,500 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 1,700 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for takeoff. These engines (also commonly called “Twin Cyclone”) drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic variable-pitch propellers through 16:9 gear reduction. The R-2600-9 was 5 feet, 3.1 inches (1.603 meters) long and 4 feet, 6.26 inches (1.378 meters) in diameter. It weighed 1,980 pounds (898 kilograms).
The medium bomber had a maximum speed of 322 miles per hour (518 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and a service ceiling of 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). It could carry a 3,000 pound bomb load 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers).
Defensive armament consisted of three air-cooled Browning M2 .30-caliber aircraft machine guns and one Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine gun.
After testing was completed, B-25 40-2165 was retained by North American and modified as a company transport. On 8 January 1945, flown by Edgar A. Stewart, the airplane suffered an engine failure and made a forced landing at Mines Field—the location of its first flight. The prototype B-25 was damaged beyond repair.
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army Air Corps.
Place and date: L’Isle Adam railroad bridge over the Seine in occupied France, 9 August 1944.
Entered service at: Storm Lake, lowa. Birth: Jefferson, lowa.
G.O. No: 43, 30 May 1945.
Citation: On 9 August 1944, Capt. Lindsey led a formation of 30 B-26 medium bombers in a hazardous mission to destroy the strategic enemy held L’lsle Adam railroad bridge over the Seine in occupied France. With most of the bridges over the Seine destroyed, the heavily fortified L’Isle Adam bridge was of inestimable value to the enemy in moving troops, supplies, and equipment to Paris. Capt. Lindsey was fully aware of the fierce resistance that would be encountered. Shortly after reaching enemy territory the formation was buffeted with heavy and accurate antiaircraft fire. By skillful evasive action, Capt. Lindsey was able to elude much of the enemy flak, but just before entering the bombing run his B-26 was peppered with holes. During the bombing run the enemy fire was even more intense, and Capt. Lindsey’s right engine received a direct hit and burst into flames. Despite the fact that his ship was hurled out of formation by the violence of the concussion, Capt. Lindsey brilliantly maneuvered back into the lead position without disrupting the flight. Fully aware that the gasoline tanks might explode at any moment, Capt. Lindsey gallantly elected to continue the perilous bombing run. With fire streaming from his right engine and his right wing half enveloped in flames, he led his formation over the target upon which the bombs were dropped with telling effect. Immediately after the objective was attacked, Capt. Lindsey gave the order for the crew to parachute from the doomed aircraft. With magnificent coolness and superb pilotage, and without regard for his own life, he held the swiftly descending airplane in a steady glide until the members of the crew could jump to safety. With the right wing completely enveloped in flames and an explosion of the gasoline tank imminent, Capt. Lindsey still remained unperturbed. The last man to leave the stricken plane was the bombardier, who offered to lower the wheels so that Capt. Lindsey might escape from the nose. Realizing that this might throw the aircraft into an uncontrollable spin and jeopardize the bombardier’s chances to escape, Capt. Lindsey refused the offer. Immediately after the bombardier had bailed out, and before Capt. Lindsey was able to follow, the right gasoline tank exploded. The aircraft sheathed in fire, went into a steep dive and was seen to explode as it crashed. All who are living today from this plane owe their lives to the fact that Capt. Lindsey remained cool and showed supreme courage in this emergency.
Darrell Robbins Lindsey was born 30 December 1919 at Jefferson, Iowa. He was the second of two sons of Jesse Lyle Lindsey, a civil engineer, and Grace Alice Puffer Lindsey. Darrell Lindsey grew up in Iowa, where he attended Fort Dodge High School, graduating in 1938. He then studied at Buena Vista College at Storm Lake, before transferring to Drake University in Des Moines.
Immediately following the United States’ entry into World War II, 16 January 1942, Lindsey enlisted as an aviation cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He trained as a pilot and on graduating from flight school, was commissioned as a second lieutenant, 27 August 1942.
Following his commissioning, Lieutenant Lindsey married Miss Evelyn Scott of Storm Lake, Iowa.
Lieutenant Lindsey next trained as a bombardier at Kirtland Field, New Mexico. He was promoted to first lieutenant and was assigned to a Martin B-26 Marauder operational training unit, the 314th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), at MacDill Army Airfield, near Tampa, Florida. He was promoted to captain in December 1943.
Captain Lindsey was assigned to the 585th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 394th Bombardment Group (Medium), as a B-26 aircraft commander and flight leader. The unit deployed to Europe in February 1944. The 585th was initially stationed at RAF Boreham (AAF-161) in Essex, but in July 1944, moved to RAF Holmsley South (AAF-455), Hampshire, England.
The bombing mission against the L’Isle-Adam Railroad Bridge on 9 August 1944 was Captain Lindsey’s 46th combat mission. Army Air Corps records indicate that at the time of his death, he had flown a total of 1,497:00 hours. 143 hours were in combat.
Captain Lindsey’s remains were buried at an unknown location. In 1959, a cenotaph memorializing Captain Lindsey was placed at Jefferson Cemetery, Jefferson, Iowa.
The Medal of Honor was presented to Captain Lindsey’s widow, Mrs. Evelyn Scott Lindsey, 9 August 1945, by Major General Robert B. Williams, commanding Second Air Force. In November 1946, Lindsey Air Station at Wiesbaden, Germany, was named in his honor.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Captain Lindsey was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters (nine awards), and the Purple Heart.
Captain Lindsey’s B-26 was a Glenn L. Martin Company B-26B-55-MA Marauder, serial number 42-96101, built at Baltimore, Maryland. It carried the squadron identification markings 4T N on its fuselage.
The Martin B-26 first flew 25 November 1940. The B-26 was a twin-engine medium bomber designed with high speed as a primary objective. Production of the new airplane was considered so urgent that there were no prototypes. All aircraft were production models.
The B-26B was 58 feet, 3 inches (17.755 meters) long with a wingspan of 71 feet, 0 inches (21.641 meters) and overall height of 21 feet, 6 inches (6.533 meters). It had an empty weight of 24,000 pounds (10,886 kilograms) and gross weight of 37,000 pounds (16,783 kilograms).
The B-26B-55-MA was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 2,804.461-cubic-inch-displacement (45.956 liter), Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp 2SB-G (R-2800-43) two-row, 18-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.65:1. The R-2800-43 had a Normal Power rating of 1,600 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. to 5,700 feet (1,737 meters), 1,450 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. at 13,000 feet (3,962 meters). Its Takeoff Power rating was 2,000 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. The Military Power rating was the same as Takeoff Power up to 2,700 feet (823 meters), and 1,600 horsepower at 2,700 r.p.m. to 13,500 feet (4,115 meters). They turned 13 foot, 6 inch (4.115 meter) diameter four-bladed Curtiss Electric propellers through a 2:1 gear reduction. The R-2800-43 was 6 feet, 3.72 inches (1.923 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.50 inches (1.334 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms). All R-2800-43 engines were built by the Ford Motor Company.
The B-26B had a maximum speed of 270 miles per hour (435 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and 282 miles per hour (454 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). The airplane’s service ceiling was 21,700 feet (6,614 meters). It’s maximum ferry range was 2,850 miles (4,587 kilometers).
The B-26B was armed with 11 air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns. One was at the nose on a flexible mount, two fixed guns were on each side of the fuselage in “blister packs,” there were two flexible guns in the waist. A power-operated dorsal gun turret had two, as did the tail turret.
A maximum of four 2,000 pound (907 kilograms) bombs could be carried in the bomb bay.
When the B-26 entered service, it quickly gained a reputation as a dangerous airplane and was called “the widowmaker.” The airplane had relatively short wings with a small area for its size. This required that landing approaches be flown at much higher speeds than was normal practice. With one engine out, airspeed was even more critical. Some changes were made, such as a slight increase on wingspan and the size of the vertical fin and rudder, and an emphasis was made on airspeed control during training. The Marauder had the lowest rate of combat losses of any American bomber.
The Glenn L. Martin Co. produced 5,288 Marauders between 1941–1945. It served in the Pacific, Mediterranean and European combat areas. When it was removed from service at the end of World War II, the “B-26” designation was reassigned to the Douglas A-26 Invader, a light twin-engine bomber.
18 April 1942: Task Force 16, under the command of Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., U.S. Navy, approached the Japanese islands on a daring top secret joint Army-Navy attack.
Planning for the attack began in January 1942 under orders from Admiral Earnest J. King, Commander-in-Chief United States Fleet. Captain Donald B. Duncan, U.S. Navy, was responsible for the plan.
The operation was carried out by Task Force 16 under the command of Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., United States Navy. Task Force 16 consisted of two aircraft carriers, USS Enterprise (CV-6) and USS Hornet (CV-8), four cruisers, eight destroyers and two oilers. There were two air groups, consisting of eight squadrons of 54 fighters, 72 dive bombers, 36 torpedo bombers, and one squadron of of 16 medium bombers. Lieutenant Colonel James Harold (“Jimmy”) Doolittle, U.S. Army Air Corps, commanded the Strike Group of North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell bombers aboard Hornet.
With the land-based Army bombers secured to Hornet‘s flight deck, her own fighters had been struck below. The air group from Enterprise provided Combat Air Patrol for the task force. The plan was to bring the B-25s within 400 miles (645 kilometers) of Japan, have them take off and carry out the attack, then fly on to airfields in Chinese territory.
At 0500 hours, the task force was sighted by a Japanese picket boat while still over 700 miles (1,127 kilometers) away from Tokyo. At 0644 another vessel was spotted by the task force. Fearing that surprise had been lost, Admiral Halsey ordered the bombers launched while still 623 miles (1,003 kilometers) from land.
The sixteen B-25s were successfully launched from Hornet and headed for their assigned targets. The lead airplane, B-25B serial number 40-2344, was flown by Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle.
Single B-25s attacked targets in the cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe.The first bombs were dropped on Tokyo at 1215 local time. This was the first offensive operation carried out by the United States of American against the Empire of Japan during World War II.
The actual destructive effect of the attack was minimal. It had been hoped that there would be psychological effects on the citizenry, however the arrival of the American bombers coincided with an ongoing air raid drill, and many thought it was all part of the drill.
Militarily, however, the attack was a stunning success. Four Japanese fighter groups, needed elsewhere, were pinned down at home, waiting for the next attack.
Not a single B-25 was lost over Japan. One landed in Vladivostok where the crew and airplane were interred by the “neutral” Soviets, but they eventually were able to get home. The rest continued on toward China, though without enough fuel to reach their planned destinations. Four B-25s made crash landings, but the crews of the others bailed out into darkness as their planes ran out of gas.
Five of the airmen were killed. Eight were captured by the Japanese, two of whom were executed by a military court, and another died in prison.
For his leadership in the air raid, James Harold Doolittle was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. General Doolittle’s Medal is in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum.
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Brigadier General [then Lieutenant Colonel] James Harold Doolittle (ASN: 0-271855), United States Army Air Forces, for conspicuous leadership above the call of duty, involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life while Commanding the First Special Aviation Project in a bombing raid of Tokyo, Japan, on 18 April 1942. With the apparent certainty of being forced to land in enemy territory or to perish at sea, General Doolittle personally led a squadron of Army bombers, manned by volunteer crews, in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland.
War Department, General Orders No. 29 (June 9, 1942), Amended by Department of the Army G.O. No. 22 (1959) & No. 4 (1960)
27 March 1942: After three weeks of intensive training at Eglin Field, Florida, twenty-two North American Aviation B-25B Mitchell twin-engine medium bombers of the 34th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 17th Bombardment Group (Medium), U.S. Army Air Force, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Harold Doolittle, completed a two-day, low-level, transcontinental flight, and arrived at the Sacramento Air Depot, McClellan Field, California, for final modifications, repairs and maintenance before an upcoming secret mission: The Halsey-Doolittle Raid.
The B-25 had made its first flight 19 October 1940 with test pilot Vance Breese and engineer Roy Ferren in the cockpit. It was a mid-wing airplane with twin vertical tails and retractable tricycle landing gear. The first 8–10 production airplanes were built with a constant dihedral wing. Testing at Wright Field showed that the airplane had a slight tendency to “Dutch roll” so all B-25s after those were built with a “cranked” wing, using dihedral for the inner wing and anhedral in the wing outboard of the engines. This gave it the bomber’s characteristic “gull wing” appearance. The two vertical stabilizers were also increased in size.
The B-25B Mitchell was operated by a crew of five: two pilots, a navigator, bombardier and radio operator/gunner. It was 53 feet, 0 inch (16.154 meters) long with a wingspan of 67 feet, 7.7 inches (20.617 meters) and overall height of 15 feet, 9 inches (4.801 meters). The The B-25B had an empty weight of 20,000 pounds (9,072 kilograms) and the maximum gross weight was 28,460 pounds (12,909 kilograms).
The B-25B was powered by two air-cooled, supercharged, 2,603.737-cubic-inch-displacement (42.668 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Cyclone 14 GR2600B665 (R-2600-9) two-row 14-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 6.9:1. The engines had a Normal Power rating of 1,500 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m., and 1,700 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for takeoff, burning 100-octane gasoline. These engines (also commonly called “Twin Cyclone”) drove three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic variable-pitch propellers through 16:9 gear reduction. The R-2600-9 was 5 feet, 3.1 inches (1.603 meters) long and 4 feet, 6.26 inches (1.378 meters) in diameter. It weighed 1,980 pounds (898 kilograms).
The medium bomber had a maximum speed of 322 miles per hour (518 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and a service ceiling of 30,000 feet (9,144 meters).
It could carry a 3,000 pound (1,361 kilograms) bomb load 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers). Defensive armament consisted of a single Browning M2 .30-caliber machine gun mounted in the nose, two Browning M2 .50-caliber machine guns in a power dorsal turret, and two more .50s in a retractable ventral turret. (The lower turrets were removed from all of the Doolittle B-25s.)
North American Aviation, Inc., built 9,816 B-25s at Inglewood, California, and Kansas City, Kansas. 120 of these were B-25Bs.
17 March 1947: The prototype of the United States’ first jet-powered bomber, the North American Aviation XB-45 Tornado, 45-59479, made a one-hour first flight at Muroc Army Airfield (later, Edwards Air Force Base) with company test pilot George William Krebs at the controls.
The photograph above shows the XB-45 parked on Muroc Dry Lake. Notice that the windows over the bombardier’s compartment in the nose are painted on.
The North American Aviation XB-45 Tornado was a four-engine prototype medium bomber. It had a high-mounted straight wing and tricycle landing gear.
The XB-45 was 74 feet (22.555 meters) long with a wingspan of 89 feet, 6 inches (27.279 meters) and overall height of 25 feet, 2 inches (7.671 meters). It had an empty weight of 41,876 pounds (18,994.6 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 82,600 pounds (37,467 kilograms).
The three prototypes were powered by four Allison-built General Electric J35-A-4 turbojet engines, installed in nacelles which were flush with the bottom of the wings. The J35 was a single-shaft engine with an 11-stage axial-flow compressor section and a single-stage turbine. The J35-A-4 was rated at 4,000 pounds of thrust (14.79 kilonewtons). The engine’s maximum speed was 8,000 r.p.m. The J35 was 14 feet, 0 inches (4.267 meters) long, 3 feet, 4.0 inches (1.016 meters) in diameter, and weighed 2,400 pounds (1,089 kilograms).
The maximum speed of the XB-45 was 494 miles per hour (795 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 516 miles per hour (830 kilometers per hour) at 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). The service ceiling was 37,600 feet (11,461 meters).
The production B-45A Tornado was heavier and had better performance. It was operated by two pilots and carried a bombardier/navigator and a tail gunner. It was 75 feet, 4 inches (22.962 meters) long with a wingspan of 89 feet (27.127 meters) and overall height of 25 feet, 2 inches (7.671 meters). The bomber’s empty weight was 45,694 pounds (20,727 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 110,000 pounds (49,895 kilograms).
The B-45A was powered by four General Electric J47-GE-13 turbojet engines, rated at 5,200 pounds of thrust (23.13 kilonewtons) at Sea Level. The J47 was an axial-flow turbojet with a 12-stage compressor and single stage turbine. The engine was 12 feet, 0.0 inches (3.658 meters) long, 3 feet, 3.0 inches (0.991 meters) in diameter and weighed 2,525 pounds (1,145 kilograms).
The B-45A Tornado had a maximum speed of 571 miles per hour (917 kilometers per hour) at 3,500 feet ( meters). Its service ceiling was 46,400 feet (14,142.7 meters) and it had a range of 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers).
The bomb load was 22,000 pounds (9,979 kilograms). Two Browning .50-caliber AN-M3 machine guns were mounted in the tail for defense.
The B-45 served with both the United States Air Force and the Royal Air Force. 143 were built, including the three XB-45 prototypes.
On 20 September 1948, the first production B-45A-1-NA Tornado, 47-001, was put into a dive to test the airplane’s design load factor. During the dive, an engine exploded, which tore off several cowling panels. These hit the horizontal stabilizer, damaging it. The B-45 pitched up, and both wings failed due to the g load. The prototype had no ejection seats and test pilots George Krebs and Nicholas Gibbs Pickard were both killed.
George William Krebs was born in Missouri, 5 March 1918. He was the first of three children of William J. Krebs, an advertising executive, and Betty Schmitz Krebs. He married Miss Alice Bodman Neal at Kansas City, Missouri, 26 December 1942. They had one son, William John Krebs II, born 1944.
Nicholas Gibbs Pickard was born in New York, 5 November 1916. He was the first of three children of Ward Wilson Pickard, a lawyer, and Alice Rossington Pickard. His remains were buried at the Pacific Crest Cemetery, Redondo Beach, California.