This morning I got up obscenely early for a 7:30 am fight in a B-25 at Vectren Dayton Air Show! Unfortunately there was a rain delay which had me internally whining like a petulant child.
The Mitchell is my second favorite WW2 bomber (I'm a B-17 girl) and the mere thought of a rain out was painful.
The B-25 is a twin engine medium bomber that was used in all theaters of the war. It gained notoriety in early 1942 when the United States bi*ch- slapped Japan in retribution for Pearl Harbor.
The Doolittle Raid is an amazing part of our military history, and I encourage you to learn more about it. We needed a fast, powerful bomber to retaliate quickly against the Empire of Japan, and North American Aviation got us there.
But how it got us there is the real story that I'll let you look up, for the sake of time here.
The B-25 “Panchito” is named after the Disney cartoon The Three Caballeros. Originally belonging to the 396th Bomb Squadron, 41st Bomb Group stationed in the Central Pacific. She made several bombing runs against Japanese strongholds and was actually scheduled for another mission on the day the Japanese surrendered.
Owned now by Larry Kelly and Lorie Thomsen, the Panchito now serves in a different way. As a living history museum, she is a physical reminder of WW2, and works in cooperation with the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) as an outreach tool.
I mentioned how expensive a B-25 must be to own and maintain, and how much work must be involved to take them to air shows. A DAV member said, “Oh, but it's worth it to just touch one veteran who might need help, but doesn't know where to go.” She told us that veterans take their own lives at alarming rates, because of PTSD and if they only knew… help is out there. It really is.
This morning was cold, dreary, rainy. We weren't sure if the B-25 would go up, since rain can have a sand blasting effect on the paint job. But of course this was a walk in the park compared to what the real crews went through.
I was fortunate enough to be tucked in up front, underneath the top turret gun. At start up, the Mitchell bounced and swayed, as if it were eager to leap forward. There was a slight smell of burning oil, but rather than being disconcerting, it was neat.
We wore headphones because as promised, the engines were deafeningly loud. Keep in mind that the men who flew within the confines of our Army Air Corp were young and nimble. Me, not so much. Did I let that stop me from a trip to the nose? Pfft, of course not!
To get there though- you had to crawl through a small tunnel; head first, on your back, using thin rails to pull yourself forward and your feet to push you to the front.
But oh, what a view.
Nestled within the nose was a .50 cal Brownig machine gun (and yowza did I want to grip it, but thought that was bad form for a guest) and -get this- a replica of a Mark Twain bomb sight made by the actual Doolittle Raider who designed it. Again, check out the Doolittle Raid for a fascinating, inspiring story.
We circled Dayton, in essence a joy ride because WW2 was a lifetime ago- thanks to our veteran airmen most of us can leave a relatively carefree life. But yet, here's the kicker; as long as there is life in man, there will be strife.
War will always be part of the world but we can only hope never part of OUR world. Selfish? Yes. But as with most veterans, there will always be someone willing and able to take up the mantle of responsibility to keep the rest of us safe. But yet, when our warriors and protectors come home, how do we take care of them and protect them? The DAV is here to help.
Founded in 1920 by disabled veterans returning from WW1, it's still going strong, and is still a necessity as a resource to help improve the moral and care of our wounded vets. And it's worth noting that not all wounds are obvious to the casual observer. If you know someone who's left the battlefield and needs help, or would like to volunteer, please contact your local DAV chapter