Tag Archives: USAAF

The History In An Image: “Betty’s Dream”

With the war in Europe over in May, 1945 the focus shifted to conclude the fighting in the Pacific. The island hoping campaign brought the fight to Okinawa in April, 1945. For two months the battle raged on with the end result being airfields to use to bring the 4-engine B-29 Super Fortress fleet over Japan. If this tactic failed, the Allies were set to invade Japan. Luckily, the B-29s were successful in bringing the Japanese to accept the surrender demands set forth by the Potsdam Conference of “Unconditional Surrender”. On August 15, 1945 the Japanese verbally accepted the terms of surrender, but no formal documents were yet signed.

On August 19, 1945 the Japanese surrender delegation of twelve officials was set to arrive at the airfield at Le Shima, Okinawa. Upon landing they would board a large American transport aircraft for the final flight the Philippines to sign the initial surrender documents. Although the surrender was ordered and announced by the Emperor of Japan, some radical military leaders still sought to fight to the bitter end. These radicals ordered what remained of the Japanese Air Force to shoot down any aircraft attempting to surrender. In light of this, the American’s ordered an escort and fighter protection (twelve P-38 Lightnings) set up for the two Japanese aircraft to ensure their arrival.  The Japanese surrender delegation were sent in two unarmed G4M “Betty” medium bombers. The Japanese aircraft were ordered to be painted all white with green crosses to prevent confusion and signify the party as surrender delegates. The delegates landed at Le Shima and were immediately transferred to two awaiting C-54 transports to take them to the Philippines to sign the documents.

“Betty’s Dream” with an escort B-17 and the two Japanese surrender aircraft. Four of the P-38 fighters can be seen flying top cover. Photo via USAAF

The American escort group was made up of six aircraft, with two being B-25 Mitchells from the “Air Apaches” of the 345th Bombardment Group based at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. The Air Apaches were selected specifically due to the large contributions the unit made to the overall Allied victory. It has been suggested, but unconfirmed, that the B-25 was selected as the main escort aircraft in tribute to the Doolittle Raiders.

USAAF Photo of the 499th Bombardment Squadron “Bats Outta Hell” assembled together
The business end of Betty’s Dream

One of those escort B-25s was named “Betty’s Dream”, serial number 44-30934 from the 499th Bombardment Squadron “Bats Outta Hell”. She was a B-25J gunship model with a solid nose that housed eight .50 Caliber machine guns. About 800 of the gunship variants were produced and used to fly missions at tree-top level against shipping, airfields, troop concentrations and fuel dumps. It is believed that the “Bats Outta Hell” were selected as an intimidation tactic due to the fearsome angry bat painted on the nose of all of the squadron’s aircraft in combination with the guns pointing out of the nose. The other B-25 was from the 498th Bombardment Squadron “Falcons” – also part of the Air Apaches.

The current “Betty’s Dream” in the twilight of the 2016 Planes of Fame Friday evening show

Betty was assigned to pilot Capt. Charles “Pop” Rice, the Operations Officer of the 499th and co-pilot Capt. Victor Tatelman in June, 1945. At the time of the surrender escort, she had 22 mission markings and two ship silhouettes, which represented two sunken Japanese ships. However, the surrender escort mission was flown by Maj. Wendell D. Decker. Capt. Tatelman was pilot in command of Betty’s Dream when the Japanese envoys returned to Japan. This return mission was of the utmost importance considering the Japanese only had one copy of the official and executed surrender documents.

The current mission markings simulate those of the original Betty’s Dream

By signing the initial surrender, the formal end to WWII was set. Betty’s Dream flew her last combat missions. It would take several weeks for the occupation and final surrender ceremony to be worked out. The formal Japanese surrender took place on September 2, 1945 onboard the Battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo harbor.

Photo pass of Betty’s Dream from the 2016 Planes of Fame Airshow

The fate of the original Betty’s Dream is unknown. It is highly likely she ended up in a smelter’s pit. Thankfully, history has been kept alive with the current representation of her. The current airframe was produced in August of 1945 as serial 45-8835. It served in Arkansas until written off and sold as surplus in 1946. It served as a civilian testbed until 1972 when it was sold and used as a fire bomber in Canada. In 1993 she returned to the United States and the restoration back to its bomber configuration began. In March, 1999 she returned to the skies as “Betty’s Dream”.

I fell in love with Betty’s Dream at the 2004 Thunder Over Michigan airshow. It was the first time I saw her and she was memorable. What stood out to me was the gunship configuration and the menacing angry bat nose art. At the time, most B-25s flying used the greenhouse bomber nose. I always hoped that the next year would bring her back to the Midwest where I attended most of my airshows at that time.

I had to wait until 2016 to see her again, this time at the Planes of Fame airshow in Chino, California. She is easily one of the most impressive and memorable of the current flying B-25 restorations. I hope the livery continues for years to come – and I do not have to wait as long to see her again!

A simulated bombing pass during the 2016 twilight show at the Planes of Fame museum
The B-25 was one of the most heavily modified USAAF aircraft of WWII. The gunship nose modification was ideal for strafing and put lots of ordinance in place quickly

Although not the original aircraft, the current representation of Betty’s Dream is amazing. As I said, what made her my favorite was the nose art. I did not learn of the historical significance of the markings until I started doing some research. History is literally right in front of you sometimes. Now you know some of the story of Betty’s Dream.