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Built by North American Aviation (NAA) in Inglewood as the ninth B-25C manufactured. Constructors Number 82-5077. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-25C Mitchell serial number 41-12442.
Purchased by the Netherlands for the Militaire Luchtvaart (ML-KNIL) Army Aviation Corps of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army for use in the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) as B-25C Mitchell serial number N5-123. On March 11, 1942 arrived Hamilton Field. On March 21, 1942 flown by a ferry crew of commercial pilots via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
On March 25, 1942 one of twelve B-25Cs transfered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF). In early April 1942 assigned to the 3rd Bombardment Group (3rd BG), 13th Bombardment Squadron (13th BS) at Melbourne and flown northward to Batchelor Field near Darwin.
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 for the Royce Mission on a flight 1,500 miles northward to Mindanao in the Philippines. The B-25s were dispersed at both Valencia Airfield and Maramag Airfield.
On April 12, 1942 (Strike No. 1) the nine B-25s including this bomber attack Japanese shipping in Cebu Harbor.
On April 13, 1942 (Strike No. 2) in the morning, the nine B-25s bomb Japanese shipping in Cebu Harbor and installations at Davao on Mindanao. Later in the day, (Strike No. 3) the 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, took off from 7-Mile Drome piloted by Major Herman F. Lowery as one of eight B-25s 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 (Tainan Air Group) intercepted, including six A6M2 Zeros already airborne on a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) joined by seven more A6M2 Zeros that took off to join the interception. 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" 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 months of repairs. While away from the squadron, another plane was nicknamed B-25D "Feather Merchant 2" 41-30246.
On November 30, 1943 assigned 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.
By February 1944 became a "fat cat" supply and transport plane with all armament removed. By July 1944, the olive drab paint on the upper surfaces and gray paint on the lower surfaces was removed to a bare aluminum finish. The nose retained the "Bat Outta Hell" nose art motif of the 499th Bombardment Squadron. The engine cowlings retained a red ring around the edge. The U.S. star insignia was updated with the bar added. The tail rudders had red and white stripes with the serial number "112442" [41-12442].
By October 1944, declared war weary, and transferred to a service squadron. During late 1944 or early 1945, abandoned in an American bone yard area with the tail removed at Tadji Airfield.
This B-25 was stripped with the tail section removed and abandoned in the American aircraft bone yard area at Tadji Airfield. The bomber remained in situ until 1974.
During 1974, the bomber was recovered by Charles Darby as part of the Yesterday's Air Force export agreement, it was set up as a memorial at Aitape High School. 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 [sic] 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."
B-25 Mitchell in Dutch Service
"Early NAA B-25C Mitchells of the ML/KNIL, February 1942-June 1942" by Dr. P.C. Boer 2009, revised December 2012, June 2014 and August 2016 pages 15 (March 25, 1942 transfer to USAAF), 26 (41-12442 / N5-123)
Merriam-Webster - Definition of feather merchant (noun)
WW2 Nominal Roll - Lewis
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 Gus Breymann, Scott Wonderly, Edward Rogers and Larry Hickey for additional research and analysis
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