"Powerhouse":
The quest to identify a particular B-25

A confident looking Roy Anderson, a B-25 pilot with the 42nd Bomb Group (Medium) in the South Pacific, giving a "thumbs up" from an airplane important enough to him to want his picture taken with it.
  • Which B-25 is "Powerhouse"?
  • Was it a regular plane, "Roy's plane"?
  • Did he get to name this plane?
I may never know for sure, but here is a report on my ongoing quest to find out...

(Click on the photograph to see a larger version)

My Current Thoughts:

(1 August 2006.) At this point I believe that Powerhouse is a B-25H (a B-25H-5 to be more specific, the version of B-25 with a 75mm cannon and four 0.50-cal machines guns in the nose, plus four more on the sides of the fuselage, all fired simultaneously by the pilot). This airplane belonged to 100th BS. The picture was also likely taken sometime between mid-June and mid-September 1944, when Roy's pilot records for 1944 list him as flying the H model.

I am also going to venture the guess that Powerhouse is one of the following airplanes, known to be flown by the 100th BS during the time that Roy was with the squadron: 43-4408, 469, 480, 484, 486, 488, 502, 511, 513, 515, 523, 545, or 43-4573. All thirteen B-25s listed here are the Block -5 models of B-25H's. And there is a one-in-thirteen chance, assuming I am right, that Powerhouse is the airplane in the background of this picture of the B-25, tail number 43-4498, known as "Dutch." (That is Roy standing in the white T-shirt in front of "Dutch.")

(12 September 2006) Breaking news: I have been in contact with the person who painted the artwork for Powerhouse! His name is Kenneth E. Miller, a pilot with the 100th BS, who painted the nose art on 15 of the 16 B-25s with squadron in mid-1944. Today I received a color print of the Ken Miller's original sketchwork for Powerhouse. (Click on the image to the right to see a higher resolution version.) The pilot he painted this for is 1st Lt. Theophilus ("Theo") Wright, Jr.. I don't have a specific plane number (Ken didn't keep those records), but Theo is known to have flown airplane "488" twice in early June, "480" twice, once in mid-June and once in early July, and "523" once in late June. What makes this more intriguing is that Theo was the pilot who had Donald Robertson as his co-pilot, and Donald Robertson, once he got is own crew in mid-1944, had my Uncle Roy as his co-pilot. Interesting....

(17 September 2006) "Powerhouse" was a plane "marked for destruction," according to Tokyo Rose. (See below.)

Where it all began...

I first began research back in 2001-2002 to learn about my three uncles who served in WWII, all with the Army Air Force. I knew that Chester, the oldest, had died in a tragic airplane crash just after the war ended while on a cross-country B-25 training flight, and that Lloyd had been in the Philippines at the start of the war, at Clark Field, and died as a prisoner of war after surviving the Bataan Death March. And that Roy, the youngest of the three, had been a B-25 pilot in the Pacific, and then, having survived the war, went on to make a career of the Air Force, retiring in the early 1960s, but then dying in 1967 before I could get to know him. Roy's children, the California cousins, were one's I had lost track of...until, that is, I ran into Cheryl at my parent's 50th wedding anniversary gathering in 2002. Working up the courage, I finally contacted Cheryl in early 2003, asking her about her father.

I first became acquainted with "Powerhouse" when I received a letter and small packet of photographs from my cousin, Cheryl, Roy's oldest child, in mid-April 2003. Besides the picture of Roy in Powerhouse, also included in the packet of photographs was this picture of Roy from somewhere the South Pacific and this crew picture. Not knowing yet that Roy had served with the 42nd BG(M), Thirteenth Army Air Force, I had been trying to contact, via e-mail and the Internet, all the various bomb groups that flew B-25s in the Pacific, most of them with the 5th Air Force. I was striking out all over the place - no one was finding Roy's name, or the plane Powerhouse, in their group and squadron rosters.

Fortunately my cousin, Marty, another of Roy's kids who I finally contacted, remembered that his dad flew with the 13th AAF. That at least narrowed things down to one bomb group, the 42nd, and to possibly five squadrons, the 69th, 70th, 75th, 100th, or 390th. That led me to websites on the "Jungle Air Force" (a colloqial name for the 13AAF) and the 42nd BG. But none of those had pictures or rosters that helped.

armyairforces.com

In March 2005, I discovered the website, armyairforces.com, a collection of databases, documents, and discussion forums on all aspects of the U.S. Army Air Force during WW II. A question posed in the discussion forum for the 42nd BG didn't produce any direct answers to whether anyone knew Roy or recognized Powerhouse, but it did move me into another level of research. Through this website and forum, I began learning the ins and outs of identifying different models of B-25s, including field modifications, and about getting archived records from the government.

This led me ultimately to writing the National Military Personnel Center in St. Louis to see what records they could give me on my uncle Roy, Chester, and Lloyd. While the records on Roy did not come right out and tell me (as I had hoped they would) the bomb group/squadron he belonged to, the records I did receive provided me with dates of his being overseas and the list of campaigns he participated in. Those records matched the known campaigns and dates for the squadrons of the 42nd BG. So I at least had more confidence in how I could narrow my research on Powerhouse.

Roy's Personal Records Are Found!

Admittedly the biggest breakthrough came first when my cousin, Bobbe, Roy's second oldest child, discovered in her basement, while packing to move, a briefcase of her dad's, including lots of records he had kept from his Air Force days, including WW II. This was in the spring of 2005. Included in this treasure trove were actual copies of orders, directing Roy overseas, assigning him to the 42nd BG and its various squadrons, and recording times he flew. From these records I learned that Roy had been variously assigned to the 390th, 100th and 70th BS during his time overseas from mid-March 1944 to early April 1945.

B-25D 43-3659

The first likely candidate for Powerhouse was a B-25D, tail number 43-3659, which was the plane Roy was assigned to fly overseas. While a likely candidate, I was able to determine later (see below on 100th BS archives) that Roy never got to fly this plane in combat (at least I could not find any record listing this airplane with the 100th). Also, I've subsequently learned that new pilots, especially co-pilots (which Roy started out as in combat), didn't get to name their own planes, at least not in the 42nd BG. Instead you had to wait until you were higher in seniority, such as a first pilot with your own crew.

AFHRA Microfilm Roll A0576

The second major breakthrough in my research came when I purchased, in November 2005, a copy of AFHRA (Air Force History Research Agency, Maxwell AFB) Microfilm Roll A0576. Costing $30, this microfilm roll archives the official history records of the 100th BS from May 1944 through December 1944. This time period corresponds to the time Roy was known to be with the squadron. Of particular importance was that the historian of the 100th BS chose to save for official record a large number of actual Operation Orders for missions flown by the squadron, which listed actual crews that were to fly together on missions. While actual full plane numbers are not given, only the last three digits, these records were nonetheless useful in identifying people and planes on the roster. It was through a review of these operations orders that I learned two important facts: (1) while there may be a notion of a set "crew" that flew together, the reality was that crew members were constantly being substituted, as everyone wanted to get home early and thus would volunteer to fly whenever they could; and (2) no one seemed to fly the same plane over and over - instead they flew whatever was assigned to them by the Operations Officer, who in turn had to work with what was available on a given day. Also, as was becoming evident in the research I was performing, airplane names are not part of the normal record of the 42nd BG (much to my chagrin, which is different than studying the 8th AAF in Europe, which seemed more commonly to record that information), although airplane names might be mentioned in a periodic news release for the home front.

These squadron records were certainly useful in my overall quest, as they ultimately helped me figure out (very doggedly, but also with a lot of luck) who was in the crew picture that Cheryl first sent me - Roy was co-pilot for the Donald Robertson crew. (See my main webpage on Roy for the names of all the crew members.) And while they don't tell yet which plane is Powerhouse, they nonetheless helped me know where to look further, or where not to look.

B-25J 43-27983

My next thought, actually an earlier thought based on discussions on the armyairforces.com website, was that Powerhouse could be a B-25J, from the time Roy was with the Robertson crew, October 1944 or later. The plane listed most frequently in the microfilm archive (five times) as being flown by Roy was a 100th BS B-25J model, listed in operation orders as ship "983." "983" is tail number 43-27983. The aircraft record card suggests, however, that this airplane is a "greenhouse" B-25J (i.e., not one with a solid nose of strafing guns), which means it doesn't match well the picture of Powerhouse, as you cannot see the start of a glassed nose in front of the cockpit as you should be able to discern.

To further support this conclusion, just today (1 August 2006), I had verified for me (by a friend on armyairforces.com) that "983" is not Powerhouse, as "983" was a plane known as "Beautiful Ohio," which in late 1944 was modified for particular use as a radar search plane, and went on to serve a long a distinquished career, ending up in late 1945 as a very war-weary airplane, still with its glassed nose. Here is what Beautiful Ohio, a.k.a. 43-27983 looked like at the end of the war on the edge of a dusty runway, including a close-up of the artwork.

AFHRA Microfilm Roll A0560

From late December 1944 until he went back to the States in April 1945, Roy was assigned to the 70th BS. To research this time period, I acquired in late July 2006 ARHRA's microfilm roll A0560, which archives the records of the 70th BS up through May 1945. While not as complete as those provided by the 100th BS (such as not including copies of operations orders with crews listed), the archive of the 70th does provide some information. While Roy was now a 1st Lt, and flew more as a pilot than a co-pilot, it doesn't look likely that Powerhouse was a plane he got to name with the 70th BS. I cannot be certain - mainly a "gut feeling" (and confirmed somewhat by subsequent research) - but Roy just didn't seem to fly enough missions with them (he was done with combat missions on January 20, 1945, only 30 days after joining the 70th). Maybe Roy still got to name a plane, but I don't believe it was Powerhouse.

Dutch, B-25H 43-4498

Admittedly a major influence now in my thinking about Powerhouse as a particular plane stems from knowing what I do about "Dutch," a B-25H with the tail number 43-4498. But to explain this, I need to back up a bit in my retelling of the story.

When I discovered from the 100th BS archive that Roy had been flying as co-pilot for 1st Lt. Donald C. Robertson, I managed, after much searching on the Internet, to make connection with Robertson's son, Donald C. Robertson, Jr. It was from Donald Jr. that I learned that his father had the same crew picture, with names written on the back, to verify my guesses as to the crew members in the photograph. It was also from Donald Jr., in early 2006, that I learned that his father had an earlier crew, also with Roy as co-pilot, and an airplane known as "Dutch," which Robertson got to name after his wife. Dutch is a B-25H-5 model. Besides a complete picture of the airplane and some pictures of this earlier crew, Donald Jr. also provided me with another great find - a picture of Roy in the cockpit of Dutch

"Powerhouse" looks like "Dutch"

If you look at the two pictures - Roy in Powerhouse and Roy in Dutch - one is struck by their similarity. In particular, I note:

Most critical to me in my current thinking is the added protrusion at the lower part of the nose, in line just above the nose wheel, just behind and slightly below where the canon port would be in the nose of a B-25H. That protusion is most evident in this picture of the crew of Dutch and in this picture of another B-25H, the Barbie III. I've only seen his protrusion down this low on the nose of photographs of B-25H's; on the few solid-nosed J models that have it (and not all seem to), it is much higher on the nose of the plane or not evident at all (such as these 42nd BG B-25Js from 1945, or this plane). [From what I understand, again from research, is that this "doohickey" is a ram air vent, bringing air into the nose to help with clearing out gases from the firing of the guns and cannon.] The B-25J stafers, on the other hand, with their eight-gun nose, look more rounded below and in front of the cockit than the squarer appearance of the B-25H. Also, and finally, all of the pictures of B-25Js with the 42nd BG look to have dark camoflage paint, whereas neither Dutch or Powerhouse do.

Putting these thoughts together, I think Powerhouse could very well be a sister-ship to Dutch. They share too many visual similarities. The B-25Hs were flown by the 100th BS from June through mid-September, after which they all disappear from the operation orders, replaced by new -J models and a few -Ds still around. B-25H models listed in operation orders with the 100th BS for June and July (the only months in the squadron archive that list specific ship numbers with type, as there were no missions in August and September doesn't list plane numbers at all) include the following: 43-4408, 469, 480, 484, 486, 488, 502, 511, 513, 515, 523, 545, and 43-4573. It is entirely possible that Powerhouse is one of these. It is also possible it was an additional unrecorded H model that arrived on station in August or early September, such as Dutch (498) did.

My thinking, therefore, is this (1 August 2006): That Powerhouse is not a plane that Roy got to name, but instead may represent one of the first planes that Roy got to fly in combat. Maybe he particularly liked the B-25H. Or maybe his picture in the cockpit of Powerhouse was to "celebrate" the success (or survival) of some early mission. The name "Powerhouse," to me at least, seems very appropriate for a strafer with a cannon in the nose.

"Powerhouse" is the plane Theophilus Wright got to name, and that Ken Miller got to paint!

(12 September 2006) As noted at the beginning of the webpage, in current thoughts, I now know that "Powerhouse" was the plane that 1st Lt. Theophilus ("Theo") Wright, Jr., got to name, with Lt. Ken Miller the artist. To see a really high resolution copy (LARGE, nearly 1 MBtyte) of the artist's original sketchwork, click on this link. According to squadron mission reports, Theo Wright flew airplane "488" twice in early June, "480" twice, once in mid-June and once in early July, and "523" once in late June. It is possible that "Powerhouse" is one of those, or yet another plane whose number is unknown. What makes this more intriguing is that Theo was the pilot who had Donald Robertson as his co-pilot, and Donald Robertson, once he got is own crew in mid-1944, had my Uncle Roy as his co-pilot. (Don Robertson is known to have flown "502" once, "515" twice, "523" once, and "573" once during this same time frame, which makes any of those planes possibilities for "Powerhouse" as well, since Roy may have flown with Don.) So, either Roy got to fly in Theo's plane one or more times, or they were friends through Don Robertson and Roy was invited to sit in the cockpit for a photograph. Hopefully there will be more I can discover on this.

(17 September 2006) I have no solid evidence for this, but my current guess is that "Powerhouse" could be "523" (43-4523). My only basis for this is that Theo Wright is the first to pilot 523 in combat, on 30 June 1944, a day that Roy was known to be flying in an H-model (his second day only of flying H models in combat), and a day that Don Robertson was not flying (at least not as a first pilot). Roy may have been Theo's co-pilot that day. 523 was also not combat flying on 6 July 1944, a day that Roy's pilot records show him flying two and one-half hours as first pilot in an H model in likely a training or administrative flight, and maybe he got to have some fun with 523. Finally, Don Robertson flies 523 once on July 7, a day that Theo Wright is not flying as a first pilot.

Another option is that "Powerhouse" is "515" (43-4515), an airplane that Don Robertson flies for two missions, back to back, on 28 June, a day that Roy's records have him flying co-pilot on two missions, as if he could have been Don's co-pilot (as he becomes later). What makes this tantalizing, is that these are Roy's first combat flights in the H model, and only his fourth and fifth actual combat missions overall. These early combat flights would have been memorable. Mind you, these are guesses only. I will likely never know for sure.

"Powerhouse" was an airplane "marked for destruction"

(17 September 2006) According to Ken Miller, "Powerhouse" was a plane marked for death by the Japanese Air Force. Tokyo Rose said so, on the air. Here is the story as relayed to me by Ruth, Ken Miller's significant other. Ruth writes:

Supposedly Ken Miller and about 6 other men, including Theo, were in the tent area and listening to the shortwave radio early one evening in New Guinea. Ken said he didn't often do this, but he was there when Tokyo Rose came on and said, "For you pilots in the South Pacific, the B-25 with the dog chewing the Japanese flag has been marked for destruction by the Japanese air force." They all laughed and Theo said, "Let them come."

More on the B-25H

If you are interested, here is some background information on the 1,000 B-25H models that were built, including the Navy PBJ-1H variant:

More to come as the saga continues...


This is definitely a work in progress. Any remaining errors and inaccuracies are most certainly mine, and will be corrected whenever possible. New information, as it becomes available, will get added as appropriate.

Link back to the main tribute page on Roy Anderson.

Kevin Anderson
Dubuque, Iowa

Contact me with comments or information you might have on the B-25 "Powerhouse."

Webpage initially created 1 August 2006
Last updated 3 April 2007