Named in honor of US airpower advocate Brig. Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell, the North American B-25 was a true workhorse of World War II. Designed as a medium bomber, it went on to serve as a low altitude strike aircraft, was used for reconnaissance, and anti-submarine duties. B-25s served with the 15th Air Force in Italy and were extensively used in the Pacific, India and China during WWII.
The B-25 is best remembered in aviation history for its use by Jimmie Doolittle in the raid over Japan in the dark early days of American involvement in World War II. In April 1942, Lt. Col. Doolittle flew the first of 16 specially modified B-25Bs off the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet. He and his men flew bombing raids over several Japanese cities, including Tokyo.
The raid did relatively little material damage to the Japanese, but the effects on American morale were great. American morale was boosted, while that of the Japanese sank. More important was the reassignment of several Japanese fighter units to the defense of the home islands, rather than to combat in the Southwest Pacific.
For his leadership of the raid, Doolittle was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and was awarded the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military award. He went on to command the 12th Air Force in North Africa and, later, the Eighth Air Force in England.