History soars over Perry

Take a ride on a World War II bomber

A B-25 Mitchell bomber to perform in the Robins Air Force Base air show this weekend made a stop in Perry on Friday and gave a ride to media.
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A B-25 Mitchell bomber to perform in the Robins Air Force Base air show this weekend made a stop in Perry on Friday and gave a ride to media.

A rumble heard in the sky over Perry on Friday morning would have struck fear into the hearts of Japanese soldiers more than 70 years ago.

A B-25 Mitchell bomber called “Show Me” landed at the Perry-Houston County Airport. The plane is performing in the air show at Robins Air Force Base on Saturday and Sunday. It is flown by the Commemorative Air Force under sponsorship of the Disabled American Veterans.

On Friday, the crew gave a ride to media members to show the plane famous for its use in the Doolittle Raid. Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle led a group of 16 B-25s that launched off an aircraft carrier and bombed Japan after the Pearl Harbor attack.

It was the first attack against Japan following Pearl Harbor, and while it did minimal damage, it was considered a significant morale boost for the U.S. while showing the Japanese that its mainland was not invulnerable.

There were 10,000 B-25s built during World War II and it was widely used, although the majority were in the Pacific theater. It was well regarded for its versatility, and in addition to dropping bombs could strafe ground targets.

Pilot David Thompsen said “Show Me” rolled off the assembly line in early 1945 and was designated to go to the South Pacific. However, at about that time the war was beginning to wrap up and the decision was made not to send it over. It never flew in combat and became a trainer, which Thompsen said is why it was able to be preserved. It is one of about 20 B-25s that are still flying.

Thompsen said flying the plane is a unique experience for a modern pilot.

“It’s a very sensory airplane to fly,” he said. “You can feel the noise and the vibrations and sights and sounds and the smells. In an airliner today, it’s kind of a sterile environment.”

He said it was an effective plane during World War II.

“It would do almost anything you asked of it,” he said.

Keeping the plane flying is not an easy or cheap task, said crew member Shane Roden. He said the plane recently had both engines rebuilt at a cost of $75,000 each.

“There’s a lot of maintenance that goes with it,” Roden said. “There’s a lot of volunteers involved.”

The Commemorative Air Force is a nonprofit organization that works to keep historic aircraft in flying condition. The group will also have a P-51 Mustang, a Corsair F-4U and a Nakajima B5-N in the air show.

The group flies the B-25 on behalf of the Disabled American Veterans, a nonprofit volunteer group that works to help veterans get benefits they have earned. For more information go to www.DAVflightteam.com or www.DAV.org.

Wayne Crenshaw: 478-256-9725, @WayneCrenshaw1