B-25 Mitchell Units of the CBI
By Edward M. Young, Illustrated by Jim Laurier
Series: Osprey Combat Aircraft Number 126
Softcover, 96 pages, index, photographs, 30 color profiles
Published by Osprey Publishing, December 2018
Dimensions: 7.33 x 0.26 x 9.8 inches
The China-Burma-India theater is the forgotten front of the Second World War. From the Allied perspective, it was always a backwater at the far end of an over-extended supply chain, and a priority lower than Europe or even the Pacific, which suffered from its own lack of material support early in the war. For the Imperial Japanese Army it was the primary focus and the IJA enjoyed successes up until the last year of the war. For the Imperial Japanese Navy the theater barely existed, and for the Chinese it was the only war. In the West little of the Chinese wartime history is known, likely due to the language barrier and the historical revisions imposed by the Communist regime after the Chinese Civil War.
Despite the vast geographical area involved, there was only a limited commitment of airpower in the theater, the American medium bomber component being comprised of just three groups of B-25 Mitchells. The Allies had no access to shipping ports through China, and a limited roadway from India was not established until late in the war. All parts and supplies, including fuel and bombs, had to be flown in over the “Hump” by transport aircraft, a costly and time-consuming process. In addition, the monsoon season prohibited operations of any kind for several months and made life miserable for both sides. These factors resulted in reducing the number of sorties flown by an already small force.
Most of the missions assigned were of the same type flown by medium bombers in other theaters – the interdiction of supply lines. In the CBI this took the form of bridges, rail lines, and shipping. Bridges were particularly problematic as only a direct hit on the piers or spans would result in damage, and the Japanese proved adept at repairs. Only after the 341st Bomb Group perfected a glide bombing technique did the attacks become effective. The devastation was compounded as a dropped span resulted in congestion in rail marshaling yards, the concentrated locomotives and cars providing a lucrative target for B-25s configured as strafers. This title conforms to the quality and format expectations for Osprey subjects. The profiles, as always are superb and the highlight of the volume. Coverage of lesser-known Groups fighting in neglected campaigns is always welcome. I was struck by the similarities in missions flown by the Mitchells in the CBI and medium bomber Groups fighting in the Italian Campaign. A good book and welcome addition to the series, recommended.