Though the baby-boomers and every generation since has heard stories from their elders and learned lessons about World War II in school, it is still difficult to truly grasp how emotional the war was to those who lived through it.
On Thursday, simply the sight of a World War II B-25 bomber had some veterans holding back tears.
At approximately 12:45 p.m., a U.S. Army Air Forces B-25J Mitchell medium bomber decorated as "Tondelayo," one of the 16 bombers that participated in the Doolittle raid of Japan in 1942, landed at the Jamestown Airport to refuel and drop off a very important passenger.
Bomber lands at Jamestown Airport
Mark Nickerson of North Warren has spent the past week making the Tondelayo flight-worthy and presentable for a group fly-over which occurred Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio in honor of the 70th and final reunion of the surviving Doolittle raiders.
"We took off this last Friday (from Daytona, Fla.) and went to Savannah to pick up one of our sponsors," said Nickerson.
"From Savannah we flew to Knoxville where we fueled up. It was a little bumpy there, because we had to climb to 6,500 feet to clear the Smoky Mountains," Nickerson continued. "Finally we landed in Urbana, Ohio, where it was about an eight-minute flight to the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio."
Mark Anderson and his son sit in the pilot’s seat of the Tondelayo.
P-J photo by Remington Whitcomb
At the base, the Tondelayo met up with 15 other B-25 bombers decorated as the bombers that flew in the Doolittle Raids for the group fly-over.
"We took off in 90-second intervals, just like they did on a bomber mission," said Nickerson. "It took a lot of patience and a lot of work, but we got it done. All (of the bombers) got in the air on Wednesday. They had us lined up as close as they could as to the way the planes were lined up on the Hornet when they launched on the raid on April 18, 1942."
Some historians consider the Doolittle Raid of Japan to be one of the major turning points in World War II. The Doolittle Raid, named after Lt. Col. James Doolittle, was the first air raid by the United States to strike the Japanese mainland during World War II. Though the raid caused minimal material damage to Japan, it provided a moral victory for the United States and showed that Japan was vulnerable to attack by air. The United State's decisive victory at the Battle of Midway followed only months later.
- Wingspan: 67 feet, 7 inches
- Length: 52 feet, 11 inches
- Height: 16 feet, 4 inches
- Empty weight: 19,480 lbs
- Max. weight 35,000 lbs
- Powerplants: Two 1700 hp Wright R-2600-92 Engines
- Armament: 10 .50 cal. Machine Guns
- Crew: 4-6 men
- Max Speed: 272 mph
- Service Ceiling: 24,200 ft.
- Range: 1,350 miles
- Production: S/N 44-28932
- Built August 1944 by North American Aviation, Kansas City, Kan.
Phil Howard was one of the war veterans who came to see the Tondelayo at the Jamestown Airport who had a direct connection with the Doolittle Raid.
"Lt. Travis Hoover was the pilot of the second plane off on the raid," said Howard. "Fourteen years later, he was base commander at Reese Air Force Base. The B-25s at that point were used for basic training. I was a Cadet in training at that point and normally two cadets and an instructor would go up and train at once. We got a call from tower saying to hold up because Hoover was coming and he was going to fly with us. At that point we were all nervous because we were going to have a Colonel looking over our shoulders. He came into the cockpit and shook our hands, went back and went to sleep in the bomb bay. We didn't see him again until it was time to leave. When we completed training, Col. Travis Hoover was the one to pin my wings on me and I'll remember that for as long as I live."
All those who visited the bomber were welcome to stand next to the airplane and pose for photographs, as well as look inside the bomb bay and cockpit. Seven visitors even climbed on-board for a half-hour flight on the Tondelayo, at the cost of $400 per seat.
After the festivities, the Tondelayo began its flight back to Massachusetts, where the owners of the bomber will use it to give tour flights over the summer.