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Air Apaches

Air Apaches

Brave Little Indians

The 345th Bomb Group (BG) was first acti­vated at Columbia Army Air Base, South Carolina, in November 1942 and was christened the “Air Apaches.” As a B-25 bomber group, it was broken into four squadrons: the 498th, known as the “Falcons”; the 499th, “Bats Outa Hell”; the 500th, “Rough Raiders”; and the 501st, the
“Black Panthers.”

The 345th BG was sent to the Southwest Pacific Theater in 1943 and began flying missions from Port Moresby, New Guinea, and earned the recognition of the first Air Force Combat Group sent to the Pacific in World War II.

Although the twin-engine North American Aviation B-25 Mitchell was originally designed as a medium-level bomber, the crews in the Southwest Pacific Theater quickly augmented the B-25 into a low-level strafer, bomber, and all-around tormentor of the Japanese. To accomplish this new role, modifications were made to the B-25s. The bottom turret was removed and replaced with a fuel tank, which allowed for extended range. The three .50-caliber machine guns in the nose operated by the bombardier-navigator were replaced with four forward-firing .50-caliber machine guns, along with twin side-pack .50-caliber machine guns mounted on either
side of the lower fuselage. A “flying fortress” in its own right, the newly improved gunship employed eight forward-firing .50-caliber machine guns along with the twin .50 calibers in the top turret and tail as well as a .50-caliber machine gun at each waist positions.

Although the 345th BG was credited with sinking 260 enemy ships and destroying 260 Japanese planes on the ground and more than 100 in aerial combat during the 26 months of continuous combat, this is the story about Lt. Roman Ohnemus, “one little Indian brave,” who skimmed treetops and ocean waves at the controls of the B-25.

To read the article from the August 2018 issue of Flight Journal, Click Here.

by Lt. Col. Roman H. Ohnemus, USAF, Retired, as told to & written by James P. Busha

Updated: December 19, 2018 — 1:07 PM
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