When it came to building a B-25 bomber during World War II, Rosie the Riveter was as busy as a bee.
“There are 150,000 rivets in that plane,” said Mitch Bertrang, of the Commemorative Air Force, which flew and displayed a B-25 Saturday at Rochester International Airport. The plane, an example of those that served throughout the war in both Europe and the Pacific, was available for tours and guest flights.
“This one was built in Kansas City, at the Fairfax plant, where 9,000 women were employed,” Bertrang said. “At the height of production during the war, they were turning out a plane every three hours.”
“Miss Mitchell,” the plane on display Saturday, was one of those, although it was intended as a training aircraft for new pilots when it was produced in 1944. The Commemorative Air Force eventually obtained the plane, and a 13-year restoration project has turned Miss Mitchell into a model of the B-25 that flew bombing missions at the end of the war.
The plane cruised to Rochester on Saturday morning at a speed of about 200 mph. It has operative bomb bay doors, a Norden bomb sight, and other authentic touches. Pilots who flew a B-25 during the war would certainly recognize it.
“When we go to air shows, you get these guys coming up who are in their 90s,” said Larry Utter, a crew member on “Miss Mitchell.” “Some of them break down and cry.”
Like all bombers, the B-25 was vulnerable to being damaged or shot down by enemy fighters and anti-aircraft guns, with crew members either perishing or bailing out to be captured and consigned to prisoner-of-war camps.
“These were 19- and 20-year-old kids,” Utter said. “You could say it was a glorious war because we were defeating evil, but there was nothing glorious about it.”
Also at the airport Saturday was a BT-13 Valiant two-seat training plane, and two smaller vintage planes.
Dozens of people lined up to sit in and tour the planes. One of them, 8-year-old Jonathan Heffernan, hopes to join the Air Force someday. “I want to be a pilot,” he said.
The planes, which are normally based at the Commemorative Air Force hangar at the South St. Paul airport, were in Rochester as part of activities surrounding the Rochester Hangar Dance held Saturday night.