3rd AG commander of his plan. Pappy will
remain with the group for another two
weeks to finish his job and then he will
lower altitudes were too dangerous for
the bombers since the Japanese continuously boosted their ships’ AA defense.
The General could see a group of shirtless sweaty men commanded
by a tall, slim, blue eyed man in T-shirt wearing a mechanic’s cap with
pinned Major’s insignia.
report to the Army Headquarters where he will be assigned as an Officer for
the Special Projects. And he will take
with him his “Friday Man”, Sgt. Evans.
Col. Davies opposed but to no avail. And
when on August 21 the General returned
to the Army Headquarters Pappy already waited in his office. And he received
his first assignment right away. At that
time the USAAF was suffering from the
lack of the fighters. There were approximately 170 non-airworthy ones gathered
at Eagle Farm airbase, mostly P-40s
suffering from various defects and damages. Pappy’s task was to make airworthy as many as possible in the shortest time possible. Any workshops in
Australia able to manufacture the necessary spare parts were at his disposal,
as well as the required number of mechanics. Pappy, shadowed by Evans, left
the office smiling and in relatively short
time reported that a hundred of fighters
are ready for the combat deployment.
Against the ships
The attacks against the surface vessels
showed that the conventional bombing
of these slim and maneuverable targets was difficult. Dropping the bombs
from the high altitudes was inefficient,
The new tactics was developed, so-called
skip-bombing i.e., bombs released at
a very low altitude above the sea surface
utilizing the effect of the bombs bouncing
off the surface and hitting the ship’s hull.
Initially B-17s were considered for these
missions but they lacked the forward-firing force to silence the enemy’s AA fire.
General McKenney decided to try B-25 for
this mission and of course commissioned
Pappy to execute the task. The goal was to
fit into the nose, a bombardier’s position,
as many 12.7 mm machine guns as possible with minimum 500 rounds per barrel.
The General also requested, based on the
Gunn’s A-20 modification, to install the
additional machine guns on the fuselage
sides or even on its bottom. At that time
Pappy had one whole hanger in Brisbane
at his disposal. It was in fact the prototype workshop. The installation of four
machine guns into the B-25’s glass nose
was created here, and the plan was to add
a pair of guns on each side of the fuselage
and another three on the bottom of it. Problem with feeding the ammunition belts
at the end prevented the bottom weapons installation and it looked that eight
forward firing machine guns was a maximum number feasible, the fact neither
Kenney nor Gunn considered sufficient.
But in the meantime, they had other
problems to solve. In the beginning the
aircraft was nose heavy which Gunn
resolved by moving the waist guns to
the rear and by installing the auxiliary
two hundred gallons fuel tank into the
fuselage behind the wing’s trailing edge.
This eliminated the installation of the
ballast in the rear fuselage and in addition increased the aircraft range. Another problem was popping up the rivets
from the skin due to the side weapons’
recoil which Pappy ultimately resolved
by installing the rubber inserts between
the aircraft skin and the weapons. Such
modified aircraft received, as an answer
to all critics, the inscription “Pappy’s
Folly” under the cockpit supplemented
by a cartoon of a cowboy with two drawn revolvers yelling” “And that’s plain
In the middle of December, Pappy, with
Evans in the co-pilot’s seat, flew his new
“toy” to his good old 3rd AG to show the
modification to his old comrades and
let them try it as well. On the following
day after his arrival in Charters Towers
“Pappy’s Folly” and five more B-25s
took off so as the pilots could see the
effect of Pappy’s simulated attack.
The concentrated fire of eight weapons
left an impression on them and it was
decided: 3rd AG Mitchells will become
skip-bombers! The first victim of such
modified B-25 though became a cow
which walked into the target area at the
moment Pappy squeezed the triggers
during the simulated attack …
The schematic of the machine guns
installation in the B-25 nose and
on the fuselage sides.
To be continued
Pic.: author´s archive
A dramatic picture of an A-20 at the moment of explosion of the “skipping bombs” on the ships’ hull.