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  B-25C "Feather Merchant/Irene/Miss Priority" Serial Number 41-12442  
5th AF
345th BG
499th BS

Former Assignments
3rd BG
13th BS
90th BS
Mines April 7, 1973

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Charles Darby 1974

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Robert Parer 2002

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Justin Taylan 2003

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Google Earth 2004

Aircraft History
Built by North American Aviation (NAA) in Inglewood. Constructors Number 82-5077. This aircraft was the ninth B-25C manufactured. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25C Mitchell serial number 41-12442. Ferried overseas by a ferry crew via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.

Wartime History
In March 1942 assigned to Netherlands East Indies Air Force (NEIAF) as B-25 Mitchell serial number N5-124. During early April 1942 reassigned to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF), 5th Air Force (5th AF), 3rd Bombardment Group (3rd BG), 13th Bombardment Squadron (13th BG) at Melbourne.

Royce Mission
On April 11, 1942 took off from Batchelor Field near Darwin piloted by 2nd Lt. Gustave M. Heiss with co-pilot Ed Townsend as one of nine B-25s with three B-17s on the Royce Mission on a flight 1,500 miles northward to Del Monte Airfield on Mindanao in the Philippines. On April 12, 1942 the nine B-25s plus three B-17s that Japanese shipping in Cebu Harbor.

On April 13, 1942 in the morning, the nine B-25s bomb Japanese shipping in Cebu Harbor and installations at Davao on Mindanao. Later in the day, B-25s again bomb the dock area at Davao. After dark, the bombers took off from Mindanao for the flight back to Australia with the nine B-25s landing safely on April 14, 1942 at 3:00am at Batchelor Field near Darwin.

Gus Breymann adds:
"My uncle, Lt. Gustave M. Heiss, and his co-pilot, Lt. Ed Townsend, flew B-25 41-12442 on the Royce Mission to the Philippines in April, 1942. He was awarded the Silver Star for this mission."

On May 25, 1942 at 5:00am took off from Cooktown Airfield piloted by Peter Talley on a flight bound for 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby. By midday, one of eight B-25s that took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by Major Herman F. Lowery on a bombing mission against Lae Airfield. Aboard was Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) S/L Lewis who was selected by the air office to be the air liaison officer in conjunction with the Australian Army commando raid at Salamaua. Over the target, the formation experienced heavy anti-aircraft fire and was intercepted by thirteen A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai intercepted, including six A6M2 Zeros that had taken off on a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) then joined by seven more A6M2 Zeros. This B-25 was damaged but returned safely to 7-Mile Drome.

Due to the shortage in bombers, emergency repairs were made at Port Moresby then flown to Charters Towers Airfield and later Brisbane for more extensive repairs. At this time, converted into a strafer version with nose guns.

By January 1943 returned to combat duty and nicknamed "Feather Merchant" period slang meaning a person in a position that involves little effort or responsibility or that calculatedly evades effort or responsibility.

Transferred to the 90th Bombardment Squadron (90th BS) and was renamed "Irene". During early March 1943 this B-25 participated in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

On May 25, 1943 took off from Port Moresby a combat mission against Lae. Over the target, sustained damage to the hydraulic system and heavy damaged. Returning, this B-25 landed on only two wheels. Afterwards, it took a week before repaired enough to be flown to to Charters Towers Airfield for further repairs.

On November 30, 1943 transferred to the 345th Bombardment Group (345th BG), 499th Bombardment Squadron (499th BS). The crew chief was Ridgeway. Nicknamed "Miss Priority" painted on the right side below the cockpit. This B-25 continued to fly combat missions until the end of 1943 or early 1944.

After being removed from combat, this B-25 had the armament removed. By February 1944 became a "fat cat" supply and transport plane. By July 1944, the olive drab paint on the upper surfaces and gray paint on the lower surfaces was removed to strip this B-25 to bare aluminum finish. The tail included red and white stripes and retained the "Bat Outta Hell" nose motif.

By October 1944, declared war weary, and transferred to a service squadron. During late 1944 or early 1945, this B-25 was abandoned in an American bone yard area with the tail removed at Tadji Airfield.

This B-25 remained in a American aircraft bone yard with the tail removed at Tadji Airfield. Recovered by Charles Darby from Tadji in 1974, and as part of the Yesterday's Air Force export agreement, it was set up as a memorial at Aitape High School in 1974. Charles Darby moved the aircraft, with assistance from Robert Parer who provided the trailer to move the plane to its new location.

As the tail section was missing from this B-25, the tail from B-25D "Tin Liz" 41-30074, shot down off Dagua, was recovered and attached to the aircraft for display purposes.

Charles Darby adds:
"Strange that I went to all the trouble of getting fin and rudder assemblies from a shot-down B-25D "Tin Liz" 41-30074 at Dagua, then found the original assemblies buried in sand on the last day of the work, long after we had taken the bomber down to the school."

USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-25C Mitchell 41-12442
"12442 (MSN 82-5077) to Netherlands Indies AF as N5-123 Feb 6, 1942 but ferried to Australia and impressed Mar 27, 1942 by USAAF and assigned to 3rd BG. Recovered from aircraft dump in New Guinea in 1974. Original user was 34th BG, 13th BS. Now on static display Aitape, Papua New Guinea at Tajdi [sic] District High School. Tail of 41-30074 used in restoration."
Merriam-Webster - Definition of feather merchant (noun)
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-25C Mitchell 41-12442
Pacific Aircraft Wrecks (1979) cover, page 41, 57 (upper), 59 (upper right) 76
Warpath Across The Pacific (1996) pages 203, 387, 404 (photo)
Pacific Ghost CD-ROM (2001) covers this history of this aircraft and photos
Thanks to Edward Rogers, Gus Breymann and Larry Hickey for additional information

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Last Updated
April 14, 2021


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