One of the B-25D medium bombers assigned to the 22nd Bomb Group in the summer of 1943, this aircraft joined the 408th Squadron in August 1943. It is believed to have been flown overseas by a crew led by 2/Lt. (later Capt.) Harry J. Copsey, a cowboy from Broken Bow, Nebraska, who was one of 15 crews who trained with their aircraft at Savannah, Georgia, and began their trip overseas in July 1943. The other members of Copseys crew on the initial combat missions were 2/Lt. (later 1/Lt.) Otto W. Leib, co-pilot; 2/Lt. Joseph F. Kent, Jr., navigator; 2/Lt. Leonard Teitelbaum, bombardier; S/Sgt. Frederick E. Pelegrin, engineer and turret gunner; S/Sgt. Warren J. Carstens, radio operator and waist gunner; and S/Sgt. Russell W. Lowery, armorer-gunner. Leib, who soon became a first pilot, got his own crew and was replaced by 2/Lt. Jack E. Simonini. Other crew replacements during the plane’s combat tour included 2/Lt. Kenneth W. Gores at Teitelbaum’s position and S/Sgt. James M. Teague for Lowery. The name of the crew chief for the aircraft is not known.
The nickname FIVE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT and its accompanying artwork were painted on the aircraft by 2/Lt. Steve N. Karall, the co-pilot on 2/Lt. (later Capt.) Vernon L. Ruther’s crew, and also the artist for his own plane, SHOT LOAD. Ruther had been the original co-pilot on Copsey’s crew back in the States, but had his own plane and crew by the time combat operations began. The artwork on Copsey’s Mitchell depicted a black bronco being ridden by a cowboy superimposed on a white disc. See the color section for a crew patch done by Lt. Karall that also carried this design. FIVE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT was the name of a famous horse on the rodeo circuit back in the States.
This artwork was probably put on the aircraft before it entered combat, although the earliest photo available depicts it on the Mitchell in mid-November 1943, displaying 12 mission markers in yellow below the cockpit window. On the pilot’s window ledge the name “Copsey” was written in yellow script, while what appears to be the name Arthur was written below the bombardiers greenhouse nose panel on the left side. Other markings which were probably done by the squadron painter, S/Sgt. Chester J. McNavage, included a thin yellow vertical band around the radio compass housing, Kelly Green prop hubs and patches on both sides of the horizontal stabilizers, and a nose wheel cover that carried what appeared to be a cattle brand design, probably from Copsey’s cowboy days. By the end of its tour, the name MOAN had been painted on the outboard side of the left cowling ring and presumably the right ring was similarly painted with the word GROAN. This was probably done by the ground crew and appears in a photo illustrating the text for January 30, 1944. Our profile shows the aircraft as it appeared in early December 1943, with 21 mission markers on the scoreboard, of a total of at least 43 which were eventually carried in double rows with 25 on the top row.
Of the 44 known mission flown by this aircraft between October 14, 1943, and January 30, 1944, twenty were flown by the Copsey crew, including both the first and the last. Eight other pilots were at the controls for the other missions. During its B-25 era, the 408th Squadron seldom encountered heavy opposition; no member of the crew is known to have been injured. Nor was any significant damage inflicted on the aircraft by enemy fire. On June 9, 1944, Carstens, Lowery and Pelegrin were crewmen aboard a B-24 that was damaged during a mission to Peleliu, and subsequently ditched off the northern coast of New Guinea with fatal results for Carstens and serious injuries to Lowery. For details, see Appendix II for that date. FIVE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT was transferred to the V Bomber Command Replacement Pool at the beginning of February 1944, when the Squadron began conversion training for the B-24.
This week, we thought we’d try something really different: a profile history from one of our books. In this case, we chose Profile #20 from Revenge of the Red Raiders. Do you want to see more of these from time to time? Let us know in the comments.