| WRITTEN BY Robert Buchwalter
Best Recipe for 2010
Ingredients required: seventeen B25 Mitchell bombers, their pilots and crews; dozens of volunteers and planners; hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of spectators; a dozen golf carts. Combine with a love of aviation and history; bake in the sun, add two dashes of Mustang, a splash of water; allow to cool, let rise at dawn. The delicious result is the Grimes Gathering of B25s!
On April 15, 16, and 17, our airspace and ramps were crowded with B-25 Mitchells medium bombers. The airplanes were in western Ohio in support of the Doolittle Raiders 68th Reunion, which was held at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Champaign Aviation Museum and Grimes Field hosted these wonderful airplanes for display, practice, and public rides. This exciting event was one of the largest, if not the largest, gatherings of B25s since the end of World War II. It was one of our most popular events in terms of crowds, as well!
The first of the seventeen airplanes, Pacific Prowler, arrived Wednesday afternoon; others flew in Thursday and Friday afternoon..
Airplanes at our field are known by their November numbers but last week, we were talking about the names of the planes instead. The colorful monikers included Devil Dog, Pacific Prowler, Maid in the Shade, Miss Hap and thirteen other B-25 Mitchell bombers. It was an exciting three days!
Yet, there are other names we would do well to recall. Names such as Doolittle, Cole, Lawson, Knobloch, Low, Miller, Eierman, Dieter, Fitzmaurice, and so many others ought to resonate within us as well. We appreciate the airframes but we should also reflect on the people whose sacrifice and efforts brought us together for this event.
Hundreds of spectators came to the field to be a part of this event; the grass on the east side of the hangars was filled with cars from north to south. Visitors could walk the length of the cold ramp and inspect the airplanes from every angle. For a small fee, they could crawl through some of them and learn how cramped the spaces are inside a B-25. In addition to ramp inspections, several B25s were selling rides. Though we do not have a final tally on the number of rides sold, it was considerable. The airplanes would no sooner land, then it seemed they would take off again with another manifest of people learning what it is like to ride in a Mitchell. It was gratifying to see the support of so many people, because we all know the steep financial requirements to operate these flying history books.
We were honored to have many veterans on hand as well as so many airplanes. Veterans from the 1940s to the present day joined with us and told their stories with visitors up and down the ramp. Tears and laughter were in equal supply. Many veterans met each other for the first time and shared their personal humor and heartbreak. Even those of us who work on the B 17 project heard some new tales!
The Champaign Aviation Museum, Grimes Flying Lab, B17 Project, and Ohio High Point, and a few private hangars were open for inspection and they were filled with visitors throughout the event. Mid-afternoon Friday, a fast moving cold front ushered in a brief shower which made the hangars even more popular! But the rain was a fleeting thing and did not affect flight operations nor our high spirits. Aside from this, our Champaign County skies featured only widely scattered clouds…just enough to give some background and sparkle to hundreds of terrific photos of flying bombers.
In itself, the snarl of air cooled, radial engines was a powerful and constant symphony but Friday morning, a pair of liquid cooled Merlins driving four blade props provided a perfect counterpoint. Big Friends need Little Friends and Old Crow and Gentleman Jim were on hand to hold up their end of the bargain. Hundreds of spectators saw three B25s in the air in formation with their fighter escorts for well over an hour. The topside passes and overhead breaks were tremendous.
The bombers were scheduled to fly out for Dayton on a clear and brisk Saturday morning. At 0630, the north wind took on a different note, joined by the sounds of the Wright R-2600 engines cranking over and coughing into life. This was way too early for spectators, except for the hundreds of people who braved the cold and filled the fence lines three, four and five deep wanting to see these airplanes depart to the south for the reunion. Safety concerns kept the ramps closed but every available spot on the perimeter was occupied! It was a special sight to see a taxiway crowded with these aggressively attractive airplanes. One by one, the bombers turned onto runway 20 an their engines up, and lifted in to the air, the rising sun gleaming off the polished skins. With a little imagination, you could put yourself on the pitching flight deck of USS Hornet as Colonel Doolittle led his squadron to the west.
We watched as the bombers few south over the horizon, secure in the knowledge that as they left our airspace, there was a similar crowd of people in Dayton waiting to welcome them to The National Museum of The United States Air Force.
And then there were none. The ramp was deserted. The roar of 34 Wright engines was far away, replaced only by the rush of the north wind. The hard work was done, the people headed home, the golf carts were corralled, and the Grimes Gathering of B-25s settled into our memories as a very special three days.