It’s one thing to fly Hangar 9’s detailed scale model of a B-25J Mitchell, but imagine flying the real thing… in combat. 87-year-old Jimmy Littlefield of Denton, Texas has been flying model airplanes for almost seventy years. However, during World War II, Jimmy found himself in the cockpit of a full-size B-25, flying sixty-six missions for the Allied Forces in 1944 as a member of the 340th Bomb Group and the 487th Squadron. Horizon Hobby Product Manager Bill Brundle talked to Jimmy about those days in combat.
Bill: What variant of Mitchell did you fly in WWII?
Jimmy: After completing basic training, which included Basic and Advanced, I was given a choice of whether I would like to fly B-25s or P-38s, and I chose the B-25. I did fly the B-25J Mitchell variant, but we were not assigned a specific airframe in the squadron.
B: How did the B-25 handle?
J: The B-25 handled great and was one of the most heavily armed aircraft of the war. On the deck at low altitudes, we were almost invincible against enemy fighters when you take into consideration the fact that we had at least twelve .50 caliber machine guns on board.
B: What was your last mission?
J: It was a bombing run on the Brenner Pass between Switzerland and Germany. Most of my missions were flown into Italy and France.
B: Do you have any exciting anecdotes?
J: I finished my missions just before Christmas 1944. On Christmas Eve night, everyone wanted to buy me a drink to celebrate the end of my missions. The drinks at our small club were fifty cents each or three for a dollar, so they all wanted to buy me three drinks. As you know, it is an insult not to drink their drinks when offered. Well, about 8:00 pm, I am “three sheets to the wind,” and I left the club, but I was back a half-hour later wanting a “shubble.” Everyone wondered what I wanted with a shovel in my condition. I told them my friend Semanac was dead, and I wanted to bury him. They came with me and found Semanac passed out in a slit trench half-covered with dirt and a shovel with a broken handle lying next to him.
B: What was your most exciting memorable mission?
J: I had completed B-25 transition as an Air Force Cadet and had graduated from B-25 training. I was returning home from a mission when we ran out of gas in the left engine and the engine quit. As we touched down, the left wheel brake locked up, and, in an attempt to keep the airplane on the runway, I added power to try to turn the B-25 back to the right with engine thrust. We veered slightly off the side of the runway and struck a dud bomb on the side of the runway that knocked out the nose gear.
B: Where were you stationed?
J: I was stationed on the island of Corsica, which is located southwest of France in the Mediterranean Sea.
B: How long have you been flying RC?
J: I have been flying radio control models for about twenty years, but I began flying free flight back in 1938.
B: How does flying models compare to flying the real thing?
J: I definitely think flying the models is more difficult. You do not have the perspective when you are standing on the ground flying a model.
B: Where do you currently live?
J: I live in North Texas in the city of Denton. I fly at the local North Texas Aero Modelers Club, and our local hobby shop is Aero Hobbies in Lewisville, Texas.