MITCHELL VS. NELL – TWO FAMOUS PACIFIC BOMBERS ARE DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT IN DETAIL

From the War and Navy Department’s Recognition Journal

The two medium bombers shown on these pages are famed for scoring spectacular “firsts.” The U.S. Army’s B-25 was the first Army plane to sink an enemy submarine, the first U.S. plane to bomb Tokyo, and the first medium to mount a 75-mm. cannon. The Mitsubishi bomber Nell, in addition to being the first Japanese plane to fly around the world, scored heavily in conquest of the Philippines and East Indies, capped this performance by helping sink the Repulse and Prince of Wales, in high-level and torpedo attack.



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A B-25 leaves the deck of the carrier Hornet on its way to bomb Tokyo.

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Nell’s Angular wing, tailplane show clearly.



Consistently good performers in the Pacific area, these two planes have several general recognition characteristics in common that at first glance might lead to confusion, but close scrutiny will show that their differences far outweigh their similarities.

Nell is the third-biggest operational land-based bomber in the Japanese stable. Its 82-ft wing is longer than that of any U.S. medium bomber; both wing and tailplane are angular and have the same sharp cut-back on the trailing edges that is so marked on Nell’s bigger sister Betty. Pronounced taper of wing and tailplane is in direct reverse. The Mitchell’s wing measures 67 ft., 6 in. and tapers evenly to round tips. Engine nacelles protrude noticeably. Tailplane is almost rectangular with small sharp cutouts on trailing edge. Both planes have 54-ft. fuselages, but Nell’s is more slender, broken by unevenly set side blisters. The G and H models of the B-25 which carry the 9 ½ ft., 75-mm. cannon are 2 ft., 2 in. shorter than other models, the glassed-in nose being replaced by a solid heavier-armed version.

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Nell’s close-set fins and rudders sometimes appear as one in distant views, are not as quickly visible on B-25’s. Fuselage is broken at top by huge blister housing 20-mm. cannon set above trailing edge of wing.

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Wide-set fins and rudders on the B-25 are visible from nearly every angle. On B-25H and J dorsal turret has been moved forward to straddle leading edge of wing.



Head-on Nell’s wing shows its strong dihedral from root to wingtip, in marked contrasted to the B-25’s distinguishable gull-wing appearance. Nell’s angular fins and rudders are set halfway between its fuselage and the tips of its wide flat tailplane; Mitchell’s slabsided rectangular fins and rudders are set completely outside the tailplane, show up clearly in quartering as well as head-on views.

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A flying arsenal in deed as well as in word, the Mitchell carries its bulk gracefully on its gull-shaped wings.

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Wing dihedral, straight flat tailplane and non-retractable tailwheel are visible on Nell. As on the B-25, its two engines are underslung.

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Wide-set fins and rudders on the B-25 are visible from nearly every angle. On B-25H and J dorsal turret has been moved forward to straddle leading edge of wing.



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Three Nells cross Pacific skies. Nell is known to have Junkers-type flaps and ailerons (see silhouette), and it is believed to have been modeled after the German Ju-86. A transport version of this plane called the “Nippon” made a flight around the world in 1939.

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One thought on “MITCHELL VS. NELL – TWO FAMOUS PACIFIC BOMBERS ARE DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT IN DETAIL

  • Bill Getz says:

    After the war I was an instructor pilot in the B-25. A very stable, enjoyable plane to fly, but very noisy causing a vibration in the eardrums. Probably why so many of us lost hearing ability.

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