B-25 starred at Chickasha air show
CHICKASHA – The airplane that lifted the spirits of a demoralized America after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor was the star attraction of the “Wings and Wheels Fly-in and Car Show” at Chickasha last Saturday.
It was a bright blue B-25 of the Commemorative Air Force, emblazoned on its nose with the name “Devil Dog” and a painting of a snarling bulldog wearing a U.S. Marine Corps cap. The aircraft was manufactured in 1944 as a limited PBJ model of the B-25 for use by the Marine Corps as a patrol bomber.
On April 18, 1942 – four months and 11 days after the Japanese navy inflicted heavy damage on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941 – 16 B-25Bs led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle lifted off from an American aircraft carrier on a bombing raid against Tokyo and four other Japanese cities, demonstrating conclusively that Japan was not invulnerable.
‘DEVIL DOG’ IS A LINK WITH PAST
Today the “Devil Dog” serves as a link with the past, a reminder of how war was fought from the air 75 years ago. The plane’s skin is mere aluminum, which didn’t provide much protection from enemy flak and bullets nor from the cold temperatures in the upper atmosphere when on a bombing mission, flying at 250 mph at an altitude of 22,000 feet. With a window open in the fuselage, cruising at 200 knots (230 mph) at an altitude of 1,800 feet over the Grady County countryside on a warm, sunny day proved to be rather windy and a bit chilly.
In its day the “Devil Dog” bristled with sixteen .50-caliber machine guns, but almost all of those have since been removed. She’s not toting any bombs, either, although that was the B-25’s job in World War II.
Painted on the nose of the Devil Dog are images of four sinking Japanese ships and 22 bombs. Pilot Beth Ann Jenkins said those denote three Japanese merchant ships and an Imperial Japanese warship that were sunk by one of the Devil Dog’s predecessors during 22 missions in World War II.
B-25 WAS DESIGNED FOR FUNCTION, NOT COMFORT
The B-25 was designed by North American Aviation to be functional, not comfortable. Directly behind the pilot and co-pilot are unpadded seats for two; there’s a footrest for the person sitting behind the pilot, but not for the person behind the co-pilot.
To get from the front section of the aircraft to the midsection requires calling on one’s hands and knees; ditto for moving from the midsection to the tail section. All of the original gauges in the Devil Dog’s instrument panel have been replaced, and in the center of the ‘dashboard’ is a modern-day
Garmin 430 GPS/navigation/ communication unit. The plane is powered by a pair of deep-throated 1,700 horsepower Wright Cyclone radial, supercharged
14-cylinder engines, each of which drives a 12-foot, 7-inch propeller. Earplugs are mandatory, for good reason. A common complaint about the B-25 was its “extremely high noise level.” Sort of like the racket at the start of a NASCAR race.
Even when idling the B-25 shakes from the power of those engines, which burn 100 low-lead “avgas” at the rate of about 150 gallons per hour, Ms. Jenkins said. On takeoff the plane roars down the runway and rises aloft with ease.
Pressure release valves can be heard opening and closing throughout the flight.
The ride at the front and the center of the plane was fairly smooth, but traveling in the tail section was turbulent. Anyone who experiences motion sickness wouldn’t survive as a tail gunner on a B-25.
During flight the tail section is in constant motion, up and down, side to side, and some of those movements are radical. If the tail gunner shot down an enemy aircraft, almost certainly his opponent was within spitting distance. Even on landing at 105 mph the B-25’s tail section weaved slightly from side to side. Aside from that, the landing was uneventful.
EXPENSIVE TO OPERATE
The restored Devil Dog costs about $2,000 an hour to operate, Ms. Jenkins said. The engines need to be overhauled after approximately 1,000 hours of operation, she said. The place received a new paint job during 2016 winter maintenance, records show.
The nose wheel on the B-25 costs $1,500 to replace, and the wheels on the two retractable landing gear cost approximately $5,000 apiece, Ms. Jenkins said. “We try to get a couple of years out of them,” she said.
The Devil Dog was one of 4,390 Model B-25J-NC aircraft manufactured in Kansas City, Kan. The plane was completed in June 1945, but World War II ended in August 1945 before the airplane could be pressed into military service, records show.
When the Devil Dog Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force found the aircraft, it was in Rockdale, Texas, and was being used to fly nitroglycerin to South American mining companies, Ms. Jenkins related.
The plane was sold to two Texans in 1976 and was restored. By 2009 the aircraft was grounded and in need of restoration again. She received a new coat of paint in 2016 during winter maintenance.
The Commemorative Air Force is a Texas-based organization committed to restoring fighters, bombers and other planes from the war. The plane is hangared at the Georgetown, Texas, Municipal Airport; Georgetown is 25 miles north of Austin.
Ms. Jenkins, of Georgetown, pilots the Devil Dog at air shows throughout the country. The aircraft is flown to 18 to 24 events each year, she said; Chickasha was event No. 5 this year, she said