B-25: The Most Dangerous Game
B-25 written by ALAN NAFZGER
B-25 Pecan Street Press
Lubbock ● Austin ● Fort Worth
B-25 is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2019 Alan Nafzger
All rights reserved.
B-25: The Most dangerous Game
Written by Alan Nafzger
EXT. WHITE HOUSE – WASHINGTON D.C. – DAY
Army Chief of Staff GEORGE MARSHALL and Admiral WILLIAM LEAHY enter the room with a Navy Captain, FRANCIS LOW.
Mr. President, this is Francis S. Low, Assistant Chief of Staff for antisubmarine warfare.
ROOSEVELT looks down at papers on his desk.
My schedule says you’ve devised a plan to bomb Japan.
The Japanese people have been told they are invulnerable … An attack on the Japanese homeland would confuse and sow doubt. And there is a second reason, and equally important, a psychological reason for this … After the disaster at Pearl Harbour, the Americans badly need a win.
Yes, sir. We have a plan.
Roosevelt looks concerned.
Well, it took you long enough.
An air raid on the Japanese capital, Tokyo, and other insulations on Honshu. Army pilots on an aircraft carrier.
Retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor. I like it.
The Navy can take them in as close to the enemy as possible. This is a chance for both branches to give the Japs a dose of their own medicine. It’s an Army-Navy show.
Let’s hear more about it.
Captain Low is here because… well… he’s here to explain.
This was your idea?
A navy man. Wonderful.
Sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers will be launched without fighter escort from the carrier Hornet. Far into the Western Pacific Ocean. The plan calls for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China.
Why don’t you just turn them around and land on the carrier.
Landing a medium bomber on a carrier is impossible.
Suppose by the time they get to China, the Japs have taken over the landing fields?
The Chinese will arrange a signal for the pilots when they get to the field if the Japs have captured it. If that’s the case, they’ll keep right on going until they’ve run out of gas then bail out.
Destroying their planes.
Fifteen modified bombers, the bombers’ armament will be reduced to increase range.
By decreasing weight.
We’ll install a 160-gallon collapsible neoprene auxiliary fuel tank, fixed to the top of the bomb bay, and also there will be room for additional fuel tanks in the crawlway and lower turret area…
To increase fuel capacity.
From 646 to 1,141 U.S. gallons.
How many airmen?
Five-man crews, and Army maintenance personnel, totaling 71 officers and 130 enlisted men, will be loaded onto the Hornet. The aircraft will be clustered closely and tied down on Hornet’s flight deck in the order of launch.
Each B-25 will carry four specially constructed 500-pound bombs. Three of these will be high-explosive munitions and one will be a bundle of incendiaries. The incendiaries are long tubes, wrapped together and carried in the bomb bay, but they are designed to separate and scatter over a wide area after release.
What do you call those medals? Uhm…
Medals awarded by the Japanese government to U.S. servicemen before the war.
The Japanese “friendship” medals?
Collect a few of them and wire them to some of the bombs, will ya?
Shall we take that as tacit permission?
How soon can we do this?
All four men smile confidently.
The Most Dangerous Game
“The Most Dangerous Game”, also published as “The Hounds of Zaroff”, is a short story by Richard Connell, first published in Collier’s on January 19, 1924 with illustrations by Wilmot Emerton Heitland. The story features a big-game hunter from New York City who falls off a yacht and swims to what seems to be an abandoned and isolated island in the Caribbean, where he is hunted by a Russian aristocrat. The story is inspired by the big-game hunting safaris in Africa and South America that were particularly fashionable among wealthy Americans in the 1920s.
The story has been adapted numerous times, most notably as the 1932 RKO Pictures film The Most Dangerous Game, starring Joel McCrea and Leslie Banks, and for a 1943 episode of the CBS Radio series Suspense, starring Orson Welles. It has been called the “most popular short story ever written in English.”[by whom?] Upon its publication, it won the O. Henry Award. “The Most Dangerous Game” is one of many works that entered the public domain in the United States in 2020.
Big-game hunter Sanger Rainsford and his friend, Whitney, are traveling to the Amazon rainforest for a jaguar hunt. After a discussion about how they are “the hunters” instead of “the hunted,” Whitney goes to bed and Rainsford hears gunshots. He climbs onto the yacht’s rail and accidentally falls overboard, swimming to Ship-Trap Island, which is notorious for shipwrecks. On the island, he finds a palatial chateau inhabited by two Cossacks: the owner, General Zaroff, and his gigantic deaf-mute servant, Ivan.
Zaroff, another big-game hunter, knows of Rainsford from his published account of hunting snow leopards in Tibet. Over dinner, the middle-aged Zaroff explains that although he has been hunting animals since he was a boy, he has decided that killing big-game has become boring for him, so after escaping the Russian Revolution he moved to Ship-Trap Island and set it up to trick ships into wrecking themselves on the jagged rocks that surround it. He takes the survivors captive and hunts them for sport, giving them food, clothing, a knife, and a three-hour head start, and using only a small-caliber pistol for himself. Any captives who can elude Zaroff, Ivan, and a pack of hunting dogs for three days are set free. He reveals that he has won every hunt to date. Captives are offered a choice between being hunted or turned over to Ivan, who once served as official knouter for The Great White Czar. Rainsford denounces the hunt as barbarism, but Zaroff replies by claiming that “life is for the strong.” Zaroff is enthused to have another world-class hunter as a companion and, at breakfast, offers to take Rainsford along with him on his next hunt. Rainsford staunchly refuses, disappointing Zaroff who then has another epiphany: he will hunt Rainsford. Zaroff becomes impersonal and lays out the parameters of the game as he would to any captive sailor. He leaves the dining room as Ivan enters with Rainsford’s meager gear for this time he’ll spend as prey. Realizing he has no way out, Rainsford reluctantly agrees to be hunted. During his head start, Rainsford lays an intricate trail in the forest and then climbs a tree. Zaroff finds him easily, but decides to play with him as a cat would with a mouse, standing underneath the tree Rainsford is hiding in, smoking a cigarette, and then abruptly departing. After the failed attempt at eluding Zaroff, Rainsford builds a Malay man-catcher, a weighted log attached to a trigger. This contraption injures Zaroff’s shoulder, causing him to return home for the night, but he shouts his respect for the trap before departing. The next day Rainsford creates a Burmese tiger pit, which kills one of Zaroff’s hounds. He sacrifices his knife and ties it to a sapling to make another trap, which kills Ivan when he stumbles into it. To escape Zaroff and his approaching hounds, Rainsford dives off a cliff into the sea; Zaroff, disappointed at Rainsford’s apparent suicide, returns home. Zaroff smokes a pipe by his fireplace, but two issues keep him from attaining peace of mind: the difficulty of replacing Ivan and the uncertainty of whether Rainsford perished in his dive.
Zaroff locks himself in his bedroom and turns on the lights, only to find Rainsford waiting for him; he had swum around the island in order to sneak into the chateau without the dogs finding him. Zaroff congratulates him on winning the “game,” but Rainsford decides to fight him, saying he is still a beast-at-bay and that the original hunt is not over. Accepting the challenge, a delighted Zaroff says that the loser will be fed to the dogs, while the winner will sleep in the bed and then challenges Rainsford to a duel to the death. Then the story abruptly concludes later that night by stating that Rainsford enjoyed the comfort of Zaroff’s bed, implying that he won the duel.
North American B-25 Mitchell
The North American B-25 Mitchell is an American medium bomber that was introduced in 1941 and named in honor of Major General William “Billy” Mitchell, a pioneer of U.S. military aviation. Used by many Allied air forces, the B-25 served in every theater of World War II, and after the war ended, many remained in service, operating across four decades. Produced in numerous variants, nearly 10,000 B-25s were built. These included several limited models such as the F-10 reconnaissance aircraft, the AT-24 crew trainers, and the United States Marine Corps’ PBJ-1 patrol bomber.
Asia-Pacific – B-25
The majority of B-25s in American service were used in the war against Japan in Asia and the Pacific. The Mitchell fought from the Northern Pacific to the South Pacific and the Far East. These areas included the campaigns in the Aleutian Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, New Britain, China, Burma and the island hopping campaign in the Central Pacific. The aircraft’s potential as a ground-attack aircraft emerged during the Pacific war. The jungle environment reduced the usefulness of medium-level bombing, and made low-level attack the best tactic. Using similar mast height level tactics and skip bombing, the B-25 proved itself to be a capable anti-shipping weapon and sank many enemy sea vessels of various types. An ever-increasing number of forward firing guns made the B-25 a formidable strafing aircraft for island warfare. The strafer versions were the B-25C1/D1, the B-25J1 and with the NAA strafer nose, the J2 subseries.
In Burma, the B-25 was often used to attack Japanese communication links, especially bridges in central Burma. It also helped supply the besieged troops at Imphal in 1944. The China Air Task Force, the Chinese American Composite Wing, the First Air Commando Group, the 341st Bomb Group, and eventually, the relocated 12th Bomb Group, all operated the B-25 in the China Burma India Theater. Many of these missions involved battle-field isolation, interdiction, and close air support.
Later in the war, as the USAAF acquired bases in other parts of the Pacific, the Mitchell could strike targets in Indochina, Formosa, and Kyushu, increasing the usefulness of the B-25. It was also used in some of the shortest raids of the Pacific War, striking from Saipan against Guam and Tinian. The 41st Bomb Group used it against Japanese-occupied islands that had been bypassed by the main campaign, such as happened in the Marshall Islands.
Middle East and Italy – B-25
The first B-25s arrived in Egypt and were carrying out independent operations by October 1942. Operations there against Axis airfields and motorized vehicle columns supported the ground actions of the Second Battle of El Alamein. Thereafter, the aircraft took part in the rest of the campaign in North Africa, the invasion of Sicily, and the advance up Italy. In the Strait of Messina to the Aegean Sea, the B-25 conducted sea sweeps as part of the coastal air forces. In Italy, the B-25 was used in the ground attack role, concentrating on attacks against road and rail links in Italy, Austria, and the Balkans. The B-25 had a longer range than the Douglas A-20 Havoc and Douglas A-26 Invader, allowing it to reach further into occupied Europe. The five bombardment groups – 20 squadrons – of the Ninth and Twelfth Air Forces that used the B-25 in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations were the only U.S. units to employ the B-25 in Europe.
The RAF received nearly 900 Mitchells, using them to replace Douglas Bostons, Lockheed Venturas, and Vickers Wellington bombers. The Mitchell entered active RAF service on 22 January 1943. At first, it was used to bomb targets in occupied Europe. After the Normandy invasion, the RAF and France used Mitchells in support of the Allies in Europe. Several squadrons moved to forward airbases on the continent. The USAAF did not use the B-25 in combat in the European theater of operations.
The B-25B first gained fame as the bomber used in the 18 April 1942 Doolittle Raid, in which 16 B-25Bs led by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle attacked mainland Japan, four months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The mission gave a much-needed lift in spirits to the Americans and alarmed the Japanese, who had believed their home islands to be inviolable by enemy forces. Although the amount of actual damage done was relatively minor, it forced the Japanese to divert troops for home defense for the remainder of the war.
The raiders took off from the carrier USS Hornet and successfully bombed Tokyo and four other Japanese cities without loss. Fifteen of the bombers subsequently crash-landed en route to recovery fields in eastern China. These losses were the result of the task force being spotted by a Japanese vessel, forcing the bombers to take off 170 mi (270 km) early, fuel exhaustion, stormy nighttime conditions with zero visibility, and lack of activated electronic homing aids at the recovery bases. Only one B-25 bomber landed intact, in Siberia, where its five-man crew was interned and the aircraft confiscated. Of the 80 aircrew members, 69 survived their historic mission and eventually made it back to American lines.
Following a number of additional modifications, including the addition of Plexiglas dome for navigational sightings to replace the overhead window for the navigator and heavier nose armament, de-icing and anti-icing equipment, the B-25C entered USAAF operations. Through block 20, the B-25C and B-25D differed only in the location of manufacture: C series at Inglewood, California, and D series at Kansas City, Kansas. After block 20, some NA-96s began the transition to the G series, while some NA-87s acquired interim modifications eventually produced as the B-25D2 and ordered as the NA-100. NAA built a total of 3,915 B-25Cs and Ds during World War II.
Although the B-25 was originally designed to bomb from medium altitudes in level flight, it was used frequently in the Southwest Pacific theatre in treetop-level strafing and missions with parachute-retarded fragmentation bombs against Japanese airfields in New Guinea and the Philippines. These heavily armed Mitchells were field-modified at Townsville, Australia, under the direction of Major Paul I. “Pappy” Gunn and North American technical representative Jack Fox. These “commerce destroyers” were also used on strafing and skip bombing missions against Japanese shipping trying to resupply their armies.
Under the leadership of Lieutenant General George C. Kenney, Mitchells of the Far East Air Forces and its existing components, the Fifth and Thirteenth Air Forces, devastated Japanese targets in the Southwest Pacific Theater during 1944 to 1945. The USAAF played a significant role in pushing the Japanese back to their home islands. The type operated with great effect in the Central Pacific, Alaska, North Africa, Mediterranean, and China-Burma-India theaters.
The USAAF Antisubmarine Command made great use of the B-25 in 1942 and 1943. Some of the earliest B-25 bomb groups also flew the Mitchell on coastal patrols after the Pearl Harbor attack, prior to the AAFAC organization. Many of the two dozen or so antisubmarine squadrons flew the B-25C, D, and G series in the American Theater antisubmarine campaign, often in the distinctive, white sea-search camouflage.
Use as a gunship
A view of a B-25G shows the midship location of dorsal turret.
In anti-shipping operations, the USAAF had an urgent need for hard-hitting aircraft, and North American responded with the B-25G. In this series, the transparent nose and bombardier/navigator position was changed for a shorter, hatched nose with two fixed .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns and a manually loaded 75 mm (2.95 in) M4 cannon, one of the largest weapons fitted to an aircraft, similar to the British 57 mm gun-armed Mosquito Mk. XVIII and the autoloading German 75 mm long-barrel Bordkanone BK 7,5 heavy-calibre ordnance fitted to both the Henschel Hs 129B-3 and Junkers Ju 88P-1. The B-25G’s shorter nose placed the cannon breech behind the pilot, where it could be manually loaded and serviced by the navigator; his crew station was moved to a position just behind the pilot. The navigator signaled the pilot when the gun was ready and the pilot fired the weapon using a button on his control wheel.
The Royal Air Force, U.S. Navy, and Soviet VVS each conducted trials with this series, but none adopted it. The G series comprised one prototype, five preproduction C conversions, 58 C series modifications, and 400 production aircraft for a total of 464 B-25Gs. In its final version, the G-12, an interim armament modification, eliminated the lower Bendix turret and added a starboard dual gun pack, waist guns, and a canopy for the tail gunner to improve the view when firing the single tail gun. In April 1945, the air depots in Hawaii refurbished about two dozen of these and included the eight-gun nose and rocket launchers in the upgrade.
The B-25H series continued the development of the gunship concept. NAA Inglewood produced 1000. The H had even more firepower. Most replaced the M4 gun with the lighter T13E1, designed specifically for the aircraft, but 20-odd H-1 block aircraft completed by the Republic Aviation modification center at Evansville had the M4 and two-machine-gun nose armament. The 75 mm (2.95 in) gun fired at a muzzle velocity of 2,362 ft/s (720 m/s). Due to its low rate of fire (about four rounds could be fired in a single strafing run), relative ineffectiveness against ground targets, and the substantial recoil, the 75 mm gun was sometimes removed from both G and H models and replaced with two additional .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns as a field modification. In the new FEAF, these were redesignated the G1 and H1 series, respectively.
The H series normally came from the factory mounting four fixed, forward-firing .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns in the nose; four in a pair of under-cockpit conformal flank-mount gun pod packages (two guns per side); two more in the manned dorsal turret, relocated forward to a position just behind the cockpit (which became standard for the J-model); one each in a pair of new waist positions, introduced simultaneously with the forward-relocated dorsal turret; and lastly, a pair of guns in a new tail-gunner’s position. Company promotional material bragged that the B-25H could “bring to bear 10 machine guns coming and four going, in addition to the 75 mm cannon, eight rockets, and 3,000 lb (1,360 kg) of bombs.”
The H had a modified cockpit with single flight controls operated by the pilot. The co-pilot’s station and controls were deleted, and instead had a smaller seat used by the navigator/cannoneer, The radio operator crew position was aft the bomb bay with access to the waist guns. Factory production totals were 405 B-25Gs and 1,000 B-25Hs, with 248 of the latter being used by the Navy as PBJ-1Hs. Elimination of the co-pilot saved weight, moving the dorsal turret forward counterbalanced in part the waist guns and the manned rear turret.
Return to medium bomber
Following the two gunship series, NAA again produced the medium bomber configuration with the B-25J series. It optimized the mix of the interim NA-100 and the H series, having both the bombardier’s station and fixed guns of the D and the forward turret and refined armament of the H series. NAA also produced a strafer nose-first shipped to air depots as kits, then introduced on the production line in alternating blocks with the bombardier nose. The solid-metal “strafer” nose housed eight centerline Browning M2 .50 caliber machine guns. The remainder of the armament was as in the H-5. NAA also supplied kits to mount eight underwing 5 inches “high velocity airborne rockets” (HVAR) just outside the propeller arcs. These were mounted on zero-length launch rails, four to a wing.
The final, and the most built, series of the Mitchell, the B-25J, looked less like earlier series apart from the well-glazed bombardier’s nose of nearly identical appearance to the earliest B-25 subtypes. Instead, the J followed the overall configuration of the H series from the cockpit aft. It had the forward dorsal turret and other armament and airframe advancements. All J models included four .50 in (12.7 mm) light-barrel Browning AN/M2 guns in a pair of “fuselage packages”, conformal gun pods each flanking the lower cockpit, each pod containing two Browning M2s. By 1945, however, combat squadrons removed these. The J series restored the co-pilot’s seat and dual flight controls. The factory made available kits to the Air Depot system to create the strafer-nose B-25J-2. This configuration carried a total of 18 .50 in (12.7 mm) light-barrel AN/M2 Browning M2 machine guns: eight in the nose, four in the flank-mount conformal gun pod packages, two in the dorsal turret, one each in the pair of waist positions, and a pair in the tail – with 14 of the guns either aimed directly forward or aimed to fire directly forward for strafing missions. Some aircraft had eight 5-inch (130 mm) high-velocity aircraft rockets. NAA introduced the J-2 into production in alternating blocks at the J-22. Total J series production was 4,318.
B-25 Flight characteristics
The B-25 was a safe and forgiving aircraft to fly. With one engine out, 60° banking turns into the dead engine were possible, and control could be easily maintained down to 145 mph (230 km/h). The pilot had to remember to maintain engine-out directional control at low speeds after takeoff with rudder; if this maneuver were attempted with ailerons, the aircraft could snap out of control. The tricycle landing gear made for excellent visibility while taxiing. The only significant complaint about the B-25 was the extremely high noise level produced by its engines; as a result, many pilots eventually suffered from varying degrees of hearing loss.
The high noise level was due to design and space restrictions in the engine cowlings, which resulted in the exhaust “stacks” protruding directly from the cowling ring and partly covered by a small triangular fairing. This arrangement directed exhaust and noise directly at the pilot and crew compartments.
B-25 Engine Assembly
The B-25 engine cowling assembly
The Mitchell was an exceptionally sturdy aircraft that could withstand tremendous punishment. One B-25C of the 321st Bomb Group was nicknamed “Patches” because its crew chief painted all the aircraft’s flak hole patches with the bright yellow zinc chromate primer. By the end of the war, this aircraft had completed over 300 missions, had been belly-landed six times, and had over 400 patched holes. The airframe of “Patches” was so distorted from battle damage that straight-and-level flight required 8° of left aileron trim and 6° of right rudder, causing the aircraft to “crab” sideways across the sky.
Originally posted 2021-02-04 11:01:50.