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April 24, 2012

Doolittle Reunion: Massive Gathering of B-25 Bombers Takes Off in Ohio

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Written by: Bryan Heim
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Over a dozen North American B-25 Mitchell bombers gathered in Ohio this month. (Photo by Bryan Heim/NYCAviation)

Editor’s note: This month marked the 70th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, a daring mission in which 16 US Army Air Force B-25 Mitchell bombers completed the first bombing raid on the Japanese mainland of World War II. To commemorate the occasion and celebrate the few surviving airmen who flew the mission and 20 North American B-25 Mitchell bombers were gathered in Ohio. This is NYCAviation contributor Bryan Heim’s second installment in a multipart series following the reunion of the “Doolittle Tokyo Raiders.”

Day one at the Grimes Field gathering of B-25 Mitchell Bombers in Urbana, Ohio, was not was enthusiasts or crews were looking for. Record breaking thunder storms and rain fall that created rivers, diverted at least six B-25 bombers of the expected 20 to delay arrival until Sunday. Those bombers that had arrived Saturday left flight crews and support staff sitting on the sidelines watching the group of B-25 bombers on the ramp collect rain and another day of aging. The feelings in the surrounding area of the field were those of excitement reduced to frustration and distain. Was the weather going to improve? Would the B-25 bombers fly? Only the turning hands of time would tell.

“We were all hoping for better weather, maybe less rain, a little less wind, and any conditions that would allow us to photograph these magnificent bombers,” said photographer Lyle Jansma of Bellingham, Wash. “On the upside we are here at Grimes Field and in the coming days we will see many of these bombers on the ground, in the air and launching as if waiting to be captured in print.

The B-25 named My Buck waits for the skies to clear at rainy Grimes Field in Urbana, Ohio. (Photo by Bryan Heim/NYCAviation)

The B-25 named My Buck waits for the skies to clear at rainy Grimes Field in Urbana, Ohio. (Photo by Bryan Heim/NYCAviation)

Fast forward, now early Sunday morning and a bright sunny crisp sky with barley a cloud to see appeared, almost as if Grimes Field had been transported back to sometime around 1942 and the beautiful sight of fourteen B-25 Mitchell bombers filled the ramp as far as the eye could see. An army of volunteers, media and crew chiefs all jumping to get everything needed to participate in the day’s events. Wiping down bombers, filling fuel tanks, topping of oil levels, removing night covers and crews scurrying to prepare for a full days long list of bomber flights took over.

On Sunday, the skies cleared and the B-25s took to the air. (Photo by Bryan Heim/NYCAviation)

On Sunday, the skies cleared and the B-25s took to the air. (Photo by Bryan Heim/NYCAviation)

Anticipation in the record breaking crowd of 10,000 enthusiasts filled the air, only giving way to air crews who had settled into the routine of flying and a rhythm appeared of departing and returning B-25 bombers. Tondelayo, Barbie III, Mis Hap, Axis Nightmare, Executive Suite, Champaign Gal, Old Glory, Miss Mitchell, Devil Dog, Betty’s Dream, Yellow Rose, Yankee Warrior, Show Me, Panchito, Made in the Shade and Pacific Princess all gave way to the active bite of rubber gripping the runway as each B-25 Mitchell landed, giving the next B-25 bomber the clearance to depart.

Mark Nickelson, a crew member and sponsor of the B-25 named Tondelayo was thrilled. “These events are always incredible to be part of, the planes are great, the crews are great and the people that show up always have an appreciation for these B-25’s like no other,” Nickelson said. “I love to wear my period bomber gear and pilot gear, it gives everyone a taste of what it was like for these young men to crew on a B-25 bomber. I am looking forward to the week and all of the great events that are scheduled.”

Looking at the time one can only feel disbelief as its only 11:00am, half the day has past I can only imagine what the second half of the day will bring, but I am confident the word amazing will not describe the afternoon well enough. By the end of the day, the continuous drone of large radial engines, fly over’s and the pools of dripping oil are surly to leave everyone in attendance with a childlike grin, one that will last for the week to come.

Next up, part II of day two. Let the amazing adventure continue.

About the Author

Bryan Heim



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