As Allied troops were storming the beaches of Normandy during World War II, on D-Day, June 6, 1944, the crew of a “C” model B-25 Mitchell bomber dipped low during a training run over the waters of Lake Greenwood and crashed.
In 1983, the plane was raised from the lake, and has since had a glorious but mainly miserable fate. It was restored once and served as the focus of many reunions of the famous World War II Doolittle Raiders.
But it degenerated while moving from owner to owner. Now that the bomber – one of seven B-25C Mitchells remaining – is once again being restored, its owners wish to give the piece of S.C history a lasting home.
Once known as “Skunkie,” the plane is being housed at Owens Airport. A group of volunteers, equipped with $20,000 in grants provided by the Richland County Conservation Commission as well as small donations from supporters, is roughly halfway through a second restoration meant to make the plane museum-worthy.
President of the S.C Historic Aviation Foundation (which owns the bomber), Ken Berry, is leading the restoration.
The restoration is taking place in a non-descript hangar close to Owens Field terminal. The standard-sized hangar is packed with not only the bomber, but with a wide range of other aviation and military artifacts.
The team hopes to open a museum and learning centre one day at the downtown general-aviation airport.
Berry stated that they require something about six times bigger.
SC was centre for B-25s
B-25s were two-engine, medium-sized bombers that flew throughout World War II. They were utilized in bombing and strafing soldier strongholds from the Pacific to Europe.
Most well-known, Col. Jimmy Doolittle led a raid on Tokyo with the bombers, loading 16 of the normally land-based planes on an aircraft carrier and bombing Japan not long after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Raiders volunteered for what many believed to be a suicide mission in 1942 at Columbia Air Base, which was the biggest B-25 training base in the country.
Of the 1,660 “C” model B-25s that were built, most of them went to South Carolina and Columbia Air Base. 268 men perished in training accidents in the state.
A permanent home
The B-25 was taken from Greenwood to Columbia and restored to its present condition in 1992 at a cost of $30,000.
In 2007, the city of Columbia gave the plane to the Celebrate Freedom Foundation, which now gives tours and hosts weddings and other events at the hangar. The foundation would have room at a new facility to display other donated aircraft including the B-25C and existing artifacts.