B-25J-10-NC, 43-28152, 501st BS, 345th BG, 5th AF, Luzon, Philippines, February 1944
The 345th Bomb Group was first activated at Columbia Army AB in November 1942 and was christened the “Air Apaches” in July 1944. It was
the first Air Force Combat Group to be sent to the Pacific in WWII. The group consisted of four squadrons, as usual with the medium bomber
groups, one of them, the 501st squadron, had the nickname “Black Panthers”. The 43-28152 was assigned to the unit on October 22, 1944, and
shortly afterwards nicknamed “Apache Princess” and assigned to pilot Roman Ohnemus. The ship was lost on May 27, 1945, when piloted by
2/Lt Ted. U. Hart on the mission against Ensui airfield and rail yard on Formosa. Due to a navigational error and bad weather the squadron
missed the target and attacked sugar refinery and a brick plant at Mizukami and Meiji instead. The “Apache Princess” was hit by AA fire during
attack and her left engine caught fire. After releasing the bombs, Hart feathered the damaged engine, but the fire spread to the bomb bay and
the aircraft crash landed into the rice field. SSgt. Robert E. Bever was fatally wounded, the rest of the crew survived and became POW. There
is no photo evidence of the port side of the ship, it is believed the beautiful and large nose art was only on the starboard side (although the
warbird with both sides painting of heavily modified theme exists). The original painting was a masterpiece of work of gifted Sgt. George M.
Blackwell. The aircraft sported the older variant of the Group´s badge, the head of the Indian. It is possible it might be already replaced by later
simplified badge at the time it reached its sour end.
B-25J-1-NC, 43-27708, 488th BS, 340th BG, 12th AF, Corsica, France, 1945
The 340th Bomb Group was the “home” of Joseph Heller´s famous Catch 22 novel as the author flew with the unit during the wartime
as a bombardier. The group was activated on August 20, 1942 and arrived in the Mediterranean theater in March 1943. Assigned to the 9th AF
and later to the 12th AF. On March 30, 1945, the 43-27708 ship named “Battli´n Betty” was flying the mission to bomb the Ora Rail Diversion
Bridge in northern Italy. Overflying the Brenner Pass just some 400 ft over the hills, the ship was hit by flak. The shells damaged right engine
and bomb bay doors and knocked out the electrical release system. Unable to drop the bombs and with one engine stopped the pilots just
managed to maneuver the ship to the Venice area, where all the crew of 1/Lt Emett W. Hughes bailed out and became POW. After captured by
Italians they were handed over to Germans and forced to march 225 miles (!) to the Stalag Luft 7A in Moosburg, Germany. The “Battli´n Betty”
and nice nose art of the woman with the javelin on the starboard side of the fuselage. Originally in natural metal finish the upper and side surfaces were overpainted in Olive Drab. The areas of the vertical fins with unit code and serial number were also left in bare metal, at least for
some time. Joseph Heller flew several missions with this ship.
INFO Eduard - September 2021