The B-25 Mitchell bomber named Barbie III does … and the 75 mm cannon mounted in the nose of the twin-engine, twin-tail warbird drew a steady stream of people on the Warbird Ramp at this year’s SUN ‘n FUN who had never heard of the rare “H” model of the versatile medium bomber from World War II.
After sitting idle for about eight years at the Deland, Florida, airport, Barbie III was purchased and made airworthy last year by the Cavanaugh Flight Museum of Addison, Texas.
“This is the No. 2 prototype of the H Model and the only one still flying,” explained Doug Jeanes, museum director. “It never saw wartime service, but it carries the markings of R.T. Smith, an original member of the Flying Tigers, who named the plane for his wife when he transitioned from fighters to bombers.”Instead of the shiny paint seen on some warbird restorations, Barbie III is finished in authentic dull olive drab, just as it appeared in wartime.
The huge Howitzer cannon mounted in the nose, which was built by the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors, is the same gun used in the Sherman Tank.
It fires an M46 high explosive 75 MM shell, one of which was displayed with the plane. Until an automatic loader was eventually developed, the large heavy shell, about 25 inches long, had to be hand-loaded by a crew member stationed in the plane’s belly.
The B-25H, called the “Flying 75,” could fire three to four cannon rounds a minute, with the weapon’s recoil causing the plane to shudder each time. A video of the plane firing its cannon is available on YouTube.
Capable of shooting from two miles away, the Howitzer was used against ground-based targets and was also especially effective against ships and submarines.
The cannon’s firepower was augmented by four 50 caliber machine guns in the nose and eight more in other parts of the plane.
And, of course, the B-25H could still drop bombs.
Now in its 24th year, and with over 80 aircraft on display, the Cavanaugh Flight Museum brought a total of five warbirds to SUN ‘n FUN, including two T-28 Trojans, a Mustang and an AD-6 Skyraider.