MARINE AIRMEN ARE ADEPTS WITH CANNON PLANES

By Robert Manning

Cherry Point, N.C., July 27, 1944--(UP)--Marine Corps fliers, who'll bet they can slap a 75-millimeter shell into the doorway of a Japanese pillbox from a speeding plane, are being groomed here to fight, with modified versions of the Army's artillery-packing Mitchell bombers.

The Marine Corps lifted censorship to reveal to a dozen new correspondents who toured this largest of the Marines' air stations, how the Leathernecks are using cannon planes.  The PBJs--as the Navy calls the B-25s--are considered to especially adaptable to knocking out well-emplaced strongpoints, like pillboxes.

The visiting newsmen were taken on a two-hour lesson in low-level cannonading and strafing.  Their host for the flight were eager-for-combat airmen of a PBJ squadron-experienced pilots like Squadron Leader Lieut. W.R. "Bodda" Hancock of Aucilla, Fla., who piloted "Pregnant Annie."

Like the rest of the PBJs mounting 75-MM cannon, "Annie" differs from earlier models of the two-motored B-25.  The gun muzzle nestles inconspicuously in a hole in the lower left of the nose, its barrel extending backwards.  Seven men make up the crew--pilot, co-pilot, two radiomen, a cannoneer and gunners for the rear and top turrets.

Lieutenant Handcock with PBJ Mitchell Photograph

Lieutenant W. R. "Bodda" Hancock points out the 75MM cannon on a Marine Mitchell bomber.

SHOT HITS YELLOW SPOT ON SAND

Co-Pilot Milton Schatan of Catalina Island, Calif., shared his seat with this correspondent.  After 15 minutes of cruising, the squadron leader pointed with a smile to a yellow speck on a strip of sandy beach paralleling the water. 

"We gotta knock the eye out of that." he said on the interphone.  "Get the baby primed, Bohannon!" 

Sgt. T.T. Bohannon of Orlando, Fla., slapped a 75MM shell into the breach and snapped: "Cannon loaded, sir."

"Annie" peeled off with an earth-revolving jerk.  Hancock caressed the twin throttles and then felt with his right thumb for a red button on the wheel marked "Cannon."  He aimed through his machine gun ring sights.  "Annie" screamed in at 250 miles an hour and suddenly: "Pow!!"  The plane shuddered an instant, shook it off and spit lead from the eight forward-firing machine guns.  Now the wooden target looked like a billboard.  Again: "Pow!"  If the target area had been a pillbox, it would have been a mighty sick one.

Hancock explained that on the usual run he could throw six 75MM shells at a ground target--thanks to the speed of cannoneer Bohannon.

Top Marine Air Force officers indicated the PBJs have been given--tentatively at least--a big part to play in future Marine operations in the island-hopping war of the Pacific.

Used with permission of United Press International (via Debbie Kane)

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