Text and collage: Richard Plos
Illustration: Antonis Karydis
The Japanese machine gun nests are
throwing fire and the Marines would like to
dig into the ground they are lying on. Any
advance is out of the question, he who raises his head will lose it. The Japanese, in
turn, cannot cease fire or the mass of resolute men will rise from the mud and make
a run for it. The deadlock is broken by a stream of bullets which the men spot even before a pair of Mitchells emerge from behind
the perimeter. Each of them is firing from
eight machine guns in the nose, and also the
gunner in the dorsal turret is doing his part.
Thousands of bullets tear through the Japanese positions with the Mitchells leaving
a phosphorus bomb salute as they pass. The
machine guns calm down, the rumble of the
engines fades into the distance and the Marines rise. Now it´s their run!
The planes that destroyed everything on the
enemy side of ground in this way did not
come about as a result of any thoughtful
high-level planning by the General Staff, nor
in the design offices of the then still young
and dynamic North American Aviation company, but in the mind of an aging “Mr. Pilot”
George Irvin Gunn a man who had gotten into
flying through his job as a mechanic in the
naval air force during World War I. Because
at 43 he was almost a generation older than
many of his colleagues, and because he
returned from the jungle one day after being shot down with grey hair instead of his
original dark hair, he earned the nickname
In the 1930s, Gunn was considered one of
the best pilots in the ranks of the US Navy.
Before the outbreak of the war, he retired and settled in Philippines, helping to
establish an airline there, for which he also
flew. After the war broke out, he helped evacuate American citizens and was eventually called back into service. Even then, he
had the idea of an attack plane with lots of
machine guns to eliminate enemy ground
forces. Gunn pushed his idea only a little
later with the 3rd Attack Group, which received the new Douglas A-20s. Gunn advocated for their conversion to “strafers” as
part of an exploration of the possibilities of
a “Skip Bombing”. This was promoted by the
commander of the 5th AF, General Kenney.
Gunn received General’s full support, which
enabled him to begin converting B-25s to
“strafers” as well. The Mitchells were more
suitable to this task because of their performance and ruggedness, and soon instructions for modifying the aircraft were going
out to all units with Mitchells in the Pacific.
“Pappy” Gunn’s idea was then worked on directly by the factory, and the B-25J version
had already received a standardized solid
machine gun nose instead of the various
modifications to the glass nose. A total of
eight nose .50 guns could be supplemented
by four housed in the blisters on both sides
of the fuselage, but these were often removed due to the stress on the aircraft’s skin by
the recoil of the firing guns. If they were left
in place, an attacking B-25J could fire a total
of 14 machine guns at a target (if the dorsal
gunner was also engaged).
The box of the Gunn's Bunny kit sports a drawing of Bugs Bunny B-25 by Antonis Karydis, while the background is a collage containing two important motifs. Firstly “Pappy”
Gunn himself, who smiles at a passing B-25,
secondly a Pacific infantryman, the one who
has often seen nothing as welcome as a Mitchell joining the fight. The motif of the “shot
through” iron plate then illustrates the firepower these mighty aircraft possessed.
For “Pappy” Gunn, the war ended when
he was seriously injured by fragments of
a phosphorus bomb during the bombing of
the airfield at Tacloban. He was taken to
a hospital in Australia where he remained
until the end of the hostilities. There he
also reunited with his family, which survived the war in Japanese captivity. General
MacArthur personally sent his wife and
children to Australia to see him after the liberation in an airplane. Such was Paul Irvin
“Pappy” Gunn’s reputation...
After the war, he returned to work as a commercial pilot for Philippine Air Lines and
kept flying regular flights to USA. He often
gave a ride to various officials from the
military or government representatives.
He flew for last time on October 11, 1957. On
that occasion, he tried to avoid a tropical
storm during the flight but crashed fatally.
His remains were flown to the USA and buried in the US Navy Cemetery at Pensacola
Air Force Base.