Aviation Historian 18
P.Turk - The Real Catch-22
Heller’s most frequently assigned aircraft was 43-27703, “8W”, in which he completed seven missions. A soldier in khaki gazing at a vision of a young lady was painted on the nose, as was the name Duration Plus, perhaps a comment on the ever-increasing number of missions crews were being ordered to fly.
North American B-25J-1-NC serial 43-27798/“8V” after the 488th’s Mitchells had Olive Drab applied to the natural metal upper and side surfaces in mid-1944. Note the spear-carrying red-head and Battlin’ Betty nose art, plus red spinners and lower engine cowlings denoting one of the 488th’s section flights.
A picture you can almost hear - B-25s line-up for take-off during the making of the 1970 film Catch-22.
Mitchells of the 488th BS at one of the Foggia complex of airfields in southern Italy in 1944. The unit had played a part in the liberation of the French island of Corsica from Italian and German occupation in late 1943, and moved to Alesani airfield on the island in the spring of 1944.
Battlin' Betty - B-25 serial 43-27708/“8V” - delivers a devastating package of high explosives on a bridge target in Italy in 1944. Heller flew two missions aboard Battlin’ Betty; his 18th, to the marshalling yards at Fano, on June 10, 1944, and his 58th, a raid on a road and railway bridge at Canneto, on October 11 the same year.
Bearing an apt piece of nose art in the shape of Swiss folk hero William Tell, B-25J serial 43-27551, “8H”, is seen with the Alps in the background during a raid on a bridge at Ora (Auer) in northern Italy. Heller flew only one mission in “8H”, his 40th, on August 24, 1944. It later crashed after take-off from Alesani on March 16, 1945.
Photographed from a sister 488th BS Mitchell, B-25 serial 43-27504, “8K”, departs the target area during a raid. The aircraft are in natural-metal finish, suggesting the photograph was taken during the spring or summer of 1944, before Olive Drab topsides were added. Heller flew one mission in “8K”, his 47th, on September 13, 1944.
North American B-25J Mitchells “8B” and “8P” of the 488th Bombardment Squadron, 340th Bombardment Group (Medium) on their way to a target in the Brenner Pass in late 1944. Heller flew one mission in “8B” (his 44th on September 3, 1944) and two (his 26th and 39th) in “8P” in July and August 1944 respectively.
A pair of 488th BS B-25s, including 43-27695, “8J” (in which Heller flew five missions), and the much-photographed “8V”, make their way back to Corsica following the completion of a mission over Italy. The photo is not dated, but the Olive Drab topsides and snowscape below suggest it was taken during the winter of 1944-45.
A pair of B-25Js of the 488th BS survey the columns of black smoke rising from German coastal gun emplacements on the island of Ratonneau off the French coast, near Marseille. Heller flew a mission against the same gun battery in Mitchell “8H” on August 24, 1944. The nearest B-25 here is 43-27708, “8V”, Battlin’ Betty.
With smoke rising from the target below, B-25J serial 43-27702, “8L”, turns for home following a raid on the railway marshalling yards at Fano, Italy, on June 10, 1944. Heller flew aboard Mitchell “8V” during the same raid, but flew in “8L” on three of his missions during May-June 1944. The aircraft was lost on a raid on Ferrara on July 3, 1944.