World War II bomber revived as ‘living memorial’

The Pacific Prowler, a restored World War II B-25 bomber, was in service from 1944 to 1958 before it was decommissioned. Since that time it was used in the films “Flight of the Phoenix” and “Memphis Belle.” (Staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

In a San Antonio junkyard, the B-25 Pacific Prowler idled, bird nests and cobwebs cluttering her insides. That was until Jim Terry rescued her.

Three years ago, the retired Air Force pilot restored the famous World War II bomber, built in August 1944.

“It was a ghost,” said Terry, a Fort Worth, Texas, resident.

No longer, however, is the plane a ghost. Its metal exterior glints in the sunlight, oiled for the brilliant shine. When the plane starts, it may rumble like angry lawn mower, but it flies.

“I knew it would fly again,” said Terry, who spent a winter restoring the bomber with memories of his uncle, who fought in World War II, floating in his mind.

Terry and his Pacific Prowler jump from air show to air show. The plane and the pilot are part of the Cannon Air Force Base Air Expo 2006. But the greatest of their treasures is hidden.

The underbelly of the plane is marked with the signatures of roughly 100 men who flew the boxy plane in World War II. Among them are the handwritten stamps of a Tuskegee airman and a Japanese man who claimed a B-25 bombed his boyhood home, Terry said.

“We want to make the plane a living memorial to the men who fought in World War II,” Terry said, under the shadow of the B-25.

“There is no way to express how I feel about this plane.”

The pilot hopes World War II veterans of eastern New Mexico will come to see the plane. Those who flew B-25s, he invites to add their mark to the underbelly of his “living memorial.”

By the
numbers

4,000
maximum bomb load in pounds

275
maximum speed in miles per hour

140
gallons of fuel per hour of flight

15,000
Normal altitude in feet

67
wing span in feet

21,000
weight in pounds when in empty

670
fuel capacity in U.S. gallons

— Compiled by CNJ staff writer Marlena Hartz