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Published August 19, 2009, 11:18 AM

A personal journey on the B-25

Today I was given the rare privilege of taking a ride in the North American B-25J “Mitchell.”

By: Christopher Gabriel, INFORUM

Today I was given the rare privilege of taking a ride in the North American B-25J “Mitchell.”

It was on April 18, 1942 that 16 of the medium range bombers known as B-25B’s joined World War II when they launched from the deck of the USS Hornet in the Pacific Ocean and bombed mainland Japan. This was the famed Doolittle Raid, named in honor of Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle, and was the first air raid of the Japanese home island striking five major cities including Tokyo. Besides raising the morale of American soldiers, it was retaliation for Pearl Harbor while pointing up how Japan was inded vulnerable.

The following four videos are just brief peeks into my flight. I’ll show you the outside and inside of the B-25 including views from the right, left and rear gunner positions along with our landing. You’ll also notice a p-51 Mustang flying just off to the side of us. When you see how close he is to us, you’ll get a very clear idea of what flying in formation is all about.

A few quick facts: The B-25’s top speed is 272 mph with a range of 1,350 miles. It can hit a ceiling of 24,200 feet and carries a crew of five. When it was flying on missions, it held a bomb load of 4,000 pounds. The “Miss Mitchell” served in the 310th Bomb Group, 57th Bomb Wing of the 12th Air Force in North Africa and Italy. It completed over 130 missions and held the remarkable legacy of no crew fatalities.

More than anything, I was struck by the stark difference between what the five of us on board were doing today and what five other men, much younger than us, were doing in this plane 67 years earlier. Those passengers weren’t on joyrides and they weren’t shooting pictures. They were shooting and bombing the Germans over Europe while being shot at themselves. Same plane, different decade. Vastly different mission.

When I got back on the ground my wife asked if I felt wobbly at all. I didn’t. It wasn’t that kind of ride. But I did feel something quite remarkable. When I climbed down the ladder and walked back to the hangar, I felt as though I had been touched by something I could neither see nor hear. But I felt it. I felt it from the moment I climbed inside and it got even stronger after I left. It was as if the young men who flew this plane so many years ago were speaking to me the entire time I was in there just to make sure I had a sincere appreciation for what they, and their Miss Mitchell, accomplished. I did.

Take a look at the short videos I shot while aboard the B-25

Christopher Gabriel is the host of The Christopher Gabriel Program on AM 970 WDAY in Fargo, North Dakota. You can hear him weekdays from 9 to Noon. As a writer and humorist, Christopher's weekly column appears every Sunday in The Forum.