Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thirty Seconds Over DeLand

Stone the crows! M and I got strafed this morning by a World War II bomber! It was a North American B-25 "Mitchell" that looked a lot like this one:

I didn't get too close a  peek at it because it was moving at a pretty good clip. Plus I didn't know exactly what I was looking for--or where to look. For all I knew someone was driving an 18-wheeler through the front wall of a nearby house! M says he thinks the main differences between our plane and the one in the picture are (1) that ours had an olive-green belly, not a white one; (2) that its wheels were retracted; and (3) that its rudders were painted with red and white stripes like those in this second photo:

But anyway, there we were, just a-walkin' down the street (singin' do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do...), when we heard this growly, rattly rumbling noise that started out soft but got very loud very fast. M looked up and saw the plane come over the treetops, passing directly above our heads. He says it couldn't have been more than 300 feet up. It had just taken off from our nearby airport, but for some reason leveled off instead of continuing its climb-out. M thinks the pilot probably wanted to stay clear of the clouds, which were low this morning after a big front blew through here during the night. I promise you we both got some primo goosebumps out of the whole deal.

Since M was with me, I also got a mini-education about the B-25. It was nicknamed the "Mitchell" in honor of a U.S. Army general named Billy Mitchell, who was probably the most famous American general ever to get court-martialed for insubordination. Go figure. Here's a picture of Gen. Mitchell:

I love the look on his face. It's like, "Court martial me, you smug Army bastards? Knock yourselves out. In a few years you'll be promoting me posthumously to major general and naming an airplane after me! I spit on your lousy court martial!"

The B-25's biggest claim to fame is that though it was a land-based bomber, it was chosen to be flown off of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in April 1942 by Gen. (then-Lt.Col.) James Doolittle's Tokyo Raiders. Here's a picture taken from newsreel footage of one of the 16 Raider aircraft taking off for Japan in the first home-islands counterstrike to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor:

Doolittle earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for leading the attack, which was soon chronicled in a 1944 movie called Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.

The B-25, according to M, was a famous piece of equipment. And to think that I saw one on Mulberry Street! (Okay, on Saratoga Road.)


Anonymous said...

Wow - what fun! Loved the history lesson, Buddy. Maybe there's a vintage "fly-in" going on in your neck of the woods. Keep an eye on the sky!

Anonymous said...

Hey again, Buddy!

M probably already knows about the "History Flight" tours currently based in DeLand, but please pass along this website to him:

Fred said...

Buddy, I had a similar experience when we lived in Hawaii. I watched a B-24 and 2 "Zeros" fly over Schofield Barracks one day and then on a different day, watched thesame 2 "Zeros" fly across Pearl Harbor and Ford Island. It was very odd...(they were part of the production of the movie "Pearl Harbor." Both instances were very cool.