B-25 Mitchell in Dutch Service

Last revised October 3, 2009

During the Second World War, the Mitchell served in fairly large numbers with the air force of the Dutch government in exile. They participated in combat both in the East Indies as well as on the European front. Following the war, they were used in a vain attempt of the Dutch to retain control of Indonesia.

Dutch Mitchells in the Pacific:

On June 30, 1941, the Netherlands Purchasing Commission, acting on behalf of the Dutch government in exile in London, signed contract 71311/NA with North American Aviation for 162 B-25C aircraft under the company designation NA-90. The planes were to be delivered to the Netherlands East Indies to help deter any Japanese aggression into the region.

The first planes were to be delivered in November 1942, with the remainder being delivered by February 1943. Deliveries were to begin as soon as all 184 B-25, B-25A and B-25B aircraft on the original Mitchell order, plus all 863 B-25Cs of contract AC16070 had been delivered to the USAAF.

In July of 1941 General Carl Spaatz notified the Netherlands Purchasing Commission that three B-25s would be released to the Dutch in September for training. On August 11, Spaatz informed the Dutch that an accelerated delivery schedule had been approved, with 42 planes scheduled for delivery from March through September 1942, 36 during October and November, 72 during during December, and the last 12 planes to be delivered by February 1943. These planes were not to be equipped with the Norden bombsight, which was considered highly secret at the time and was not cleared for export. The British Mark XIV or the Sperry sight were proposed as possible alternatives, but the Dutch were not pleased with not having access to the top of the line equipment.

War came to the Dutch in the East Indies sooner than anyone expected. Following Pearl Harbor, there were pressures by the Dutch for even more rapid delivery of their Mitchells, as well as pressures by the USAAF for use of these planes by itself. However, it was ultimately concluded that the augmentation of Dutch strength in the East Indies was in America's own self-interest, and so on January 21 an emergency allocation of 60 B-25s was approved for delivery to the Netherlands East Indies Air Force (NEIAF) at Archerfield, Australia and Bangalore, India. These planes would be immediately diverted from USAAF deliveries, and would be replaced later by an equal number of planes drawn from the NA-90 contract.

These planes were delivered equipped with Norden bombsights, since the Sperry alternates were not available and the B-25 had been produced to accommodate the Norden. The time and effort to refit the planes for the Sperry sight would have caused unacceptable delays in deliveries, and the US government somewhat reluctantly approved the inclusion of the Norden in the Dutch planes.

On January 28, 1942, the US Ferry Command was ordered to arrange for transport of these sixty planes. The Consolidated Aircraft Corporation through its subsidiary Consairways was contracted to ferry eight planes in February, 16 in March and from then on 15 to 32 per month until the delivery was complete.

In February, the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) agreed to ferry 20 of the Dutch B-25s from Florida to Australia via Africa and India, and an additional ten via the South Pacific route from California.

During March, five of the airplanes on the Dutch order had reached Bangalore, India and 12 had reached Archerfield in Australia.

Unfortunately, these planes were too late to help stem the Japanese advance, and the Netherlands East Indies capitulated to the Japanese on March 9. The United States government no longer recognized the NEIAF as an independent fighting force.

The B-25s in India (NEIAF serials N5-139, N5-143, N5-144, N5-145, and N5-148) were requisitioned by the RAF and were modified to photographic reconnaissance configuration. Two of them were assigned RAF numbers MA956 and MA957, but the other three retained their NEI numbers of N5-144, 145, and 145. All were eventually assigned to No 681 Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron in India.

It was agreed that the B-25s in Australia would be used as the nucleus of a new squadron, designated No. 18. This squadron would be staffed jointly by Australian and Dutch aircrews plus a smattering of aircrews from other nations, but would operate at least initially under Royal Australian Air Force command. However, the B-25s of No. 18 Squadron would be painted with the Dutch national insignia (at this time a rectangular Netherlands flag) and would carry NEIAF serials.

However, the Archerfield B-25s were immediately "requisitioned" by the USAAF in the desperate attempt to halt the Japanese advance toward Port Moresby. It was agreed that the Dutch government would be credited accordingly, or else the planes would be replaced on a one-to-one basis by later deliveries. The next batch of B-25Cs were promised to the Dutch, but these too were seized by the USAAF. The first five B-25Cs delivered to this squadron had carried the NEIAF serial numbers N5-132, N5-134, N55-135, N5-136 and N5-151. In late June, another five (N5-122, N5-124, N5-125, N5-126, and N5-127) were delivered, apparently replacing the first five B-25Cs which had "disappeared" into USAAF service during the interim.

It was not until August of 1942 that No 18 Squadron finally received its "permanent" supply of Mitchells, all new deliveries from the North American factory. Although most of the crew members in No. 18 Squadron were Dutch or Australian, there were representatives of no fewer than 38 nationalities who spoke 13 different languages. No. 18 Squadron spent most of its time in training around Canberra and in antisubmarine patrols. In December of 1942, 18 Squadron moved to a new base at MacDonald in the Northern Territories.

Discounting the ten "temporary" B-25s delivered to 18 Squadron in early 1942, a total of 150 Mitchells were taken on strength by the NEIAF, 19 in 1942, 16 in 1943, 87 in 1944, and 28 in 1945. They flew bombing raids against Japanese targets in the East Indies. In 1944, the more capable B-25J Mitchell replaced most of the earlier C and D models. As the Japanese were pushed farther back, enemy targets became progressively more distant from Australian bases, and some thought was given to replacing the Mitchell in Dutch service with the longer-ranging B-24 Liberator. However this plan came to naught.

After the war, No. 18 Squadron was formally transferred from Australian to Dutch control on January 17, 1946. It became a unit of the Royal Dutch Indies Army--Army Aviation (KNIL-ML) and was part of the occupation force on Sumatra and Java that took over after the Japanese left. However, scarcely had the war ended when the Dutch B-25s were in combat yet again--this time against Indonesian rebels who wanted independence from Holland. Combat missions were flown by No. 18 Squadron with B-25s equipped with both medium bomber and with attack noses. In the post-war period several other Dutch units based in the East Indies flew B-25s. No. 16 Squadron was formed in November 1946 with 9 B-25Js. It operated from Palembang until merging with No. 18 Squadron in August 1948. A conversion school operated twelve B-25s at Piak from mid-1946 until August 1948, retraining former POWs as well as new pilots from Holland. A photographic reconnaissance unit was formed in January 1947 with five B-25s, two P-51s, and one P-40N. It merged with 18 Squadron in August of 1948. No 19 Squadron had been formed in 1944 as NEI No. 1 Transport Squadron and in August 1945 was equipped with C-47s and about twelve B-25s that had been converted into transports. It was redesignated No. 20 Squadron and operated until December 1947.

The Indonesian uprising of 1946 kept the NEIAF busy for another three years. Fighting continued until an armistice was agreed upon in July 1949. The Republic of Indonesia was declared on December 27, 1949, and No. 18 Squadron was disbanded in June of 1950. Their B-25s were turned over to the new independent Indonesian air force, the Angkatan Udara Republik Indonesia (AURI).

Dutch Mitchells in Europe:

In June of 1940, No 320 Squadron of the Royal Air Force had been formed from personnel formerly serving with the Royal Dutch Naval Air Service who had escaped to England after the German occupation of the Netherlands. Equipped with various British aircraft, No. 320 Squadron flew anti-submarine patrols, convoy escort missions, and performed air-sea rescue duties. They acquired the Mitchell II in September 1943, performing operations over Europe against gun emplacements, railway yards, bridges, troops and other tactical targets. They moved to Belgium in October of 1944, and transitioned to the Mitchell III in 1945. No. 320 Squadron was disbanded in August of 1945.

No 320 Squadron was reformed in 1949 as a naval patrol squadron of the Royal Dutch Navy. They were initially equipped with B-25s (in some cases, the very same aircraft that they had used in World War 2). No. 320 Squadron transitioned to PV-2s in 1951.

Peter Boer has written an article on Dutch East Indies Mitchells, which I link to here.

Serial Numbers of Dutch B-25 Mitchells

41-12434/13038		North American B-25C Mitchell
				c/n 82-5069/82-5673
				12798 to NEIAF as N5-145 - crashed 10/43 
				12885 to NEIAF as N5-134 
				12912 to NEIAF as N5-135 - lost in action 4/43 
				12913 to NEIAF as N5-139 - crashed 2/43 
				12914 to NEIAF as N5-130 - scrapped 8/45 
				12916 to NEIAF as N5-129 
				12919 to NEIAF as N5-132 - crashed 2/43 
				12924 to NEIAF as N5-133 - ditched 2/43 
				12933 to NEIAF as N5-136 - missing 10/43 
				12934 to NEIAF as N5-138  
				12935 to NEIAF as N5-128 - soc 2/45
				12936 to NEIAF as N5-131 
41-29648/29847		North American B-25D Mitchell
				c/n 87-7813/8012
				29716 to NEIAF as N5-142
				29717 to NEIAF as N5-144 - ditched 2/43
				29722 to NEIAF as N5-143
				29723 to NEIAF as N5-140 - ditched 4/43
				29725 to NEIAF as N5-141 - crashed 11/44
				29735 to NEIAF as N5-137 - missing 1/44
41-30173/30352		North American B-25D-10 Mitchell
				c/n 87-8338/8517
				30321 to NEIAF ad N5-169 - missing 8-44
41-30353/30532		North American B-25D-15 Mitchell
				c/n 87-8518/8698
				30414 to NEIAF as N5-167 - destroyed 12/44
41-30533/30847		North American B-25D-20 Mitchell
				c/n 87-8699/9012
				30584 to NEIAF as N5-154
				30586 to NEIAF as N5-155 - crashed 9/44
				30587 to NEIAF as N5-156 - w/o 9/43
				30588 to NEIAF as N5-157 - crash landing 8/44
				30589 to NEIAF as N5-158 
				30682 to NEIAF as N5-159 - missing 12/43 
				30713 to NEIAF as N5-160 
				30816 to NEIAF as N5-161 - scrapped 1/44
42-32383/32532		North American B-25C-15 Mitchell
				c/n 93-12491/93-12640
				32337 to NEIAF as N5-150 - lost in action 6/43
				32338 to NEIAF as N5-148
				32339 to NEIAF as N5-153 - crashed 9/43
				32483 to NEIAF as N5-152 - crashed 5/43
				32484 to NEIAF as N5-147 - lost in action 5/43
				32485 to NEIAF as N5-151
				32511 to NEIAF as N5-149
				32512 to NEIAF as N5-146
42-87138/87452		North American B-25D-25 Mitchell
				c/n 100-20631/100-20945 
				87254 to NEIAF as N5-170 - 
				87255 to NEIAF as N5-171, later to RAAF as
					A47-36.  struck off charge 3/50.
				87256 to NEIAF as N5-172 - 
				87257 to NEIAF as N5-173 
				87258 to NEIAF as N5-174, later to RAAF as
					A47-37.  lost en route 8/45.
				87259 to NEIAF as N5-175, later to RAAF as 
					A$7-33.  lost on operations 12/44
				87260 to NEIAF as N5-188
				87305 to NEIAF as N5-164 
				87307 to NEIAF as N5-179 - missing 3/44 
				87311 to NEIAF as N5-177 - missing 5/44
				87312 to NEIAF as N5-178 
				87313 to NEIAF as N5-176 - crashed 5/44
				87321 to NEIAF as N5-180 
				87349 to NEIAF as N5-162 - missing 6/44
				87350 to NEIAF as N5-163 
				87398 to NEIAF as N5-166 
				87416 to NEIAF as N5-168, later to RAAF as
					A47-35.  struck off charge 3/50.
42-87453/87612		North American B-25D-30 Mitchell
				c/n 100-20946/100-21105 
				87595 to NEIAF as N5-165 
				87597 to NEIAF as N5-182 - crashed 7/44 
				87607 to NEIAF as N5-183, later to RAAF as
					A47-1.  struck off charge 3/50.
				87608 to NEIAF as N5-186, later to RAAF as
					A47-34.  struck off charge 3/50.
43-3280/3619		North American B-25D-30 Mitchell
				c/n 100-23606/100-23945  
				3282 to NEIAF as N5-184
				3421 to NEIAF as N5-185
				3422 to NEIAF as N5-187, later to RAAF as
					A47-2.  crashed 12/44
				3423 to NEIAF as N5-181, later to RAAF as
					A47-3.  lost on operations 9/44.
				3424 to NEIAF as N5-189, later to RAAF as
					A47-4.  Scrapped 12/46.
				3425 to NEIAF as N5-191  (may be 3435)
				3426 to NEIAF as N5-192, later to RAAF as
					A47-5.  struck off charge 3/50.
				3427 to NEIAF as N5-193, later to RAAF as
					A47-6.  crashed 9/44.
				3607 to NEIAF as N5-194, later to RAAF as
					A47-7.  struck off charge 3/50.
				3613 to NEIAF as N5-195, later to RAAF as
					A47-8.  lost on operations 11/44.
43-3620/3869		North American B-25D-35 Mitchell
				c/n 100-23946/100-14195
				3620 to NEIAF
				3621 to NEIAF as N5-196, later to RAAF as
					A47-9.  crashed 12/44.
				3623 to NEIAF as N5-197, later to RAAF as
					A47-10.  struck off charge 3/50.
				3624 to NEIAF as N5-198, later to RAAF as
					A47-11.  scrapped 12/44.
				3625 to NEIAF as N5-199, later to RAAF as
					A47-12.  ditched 9/44.
				3626 to NEIAF as N5-200, later to RAAF as
					A47-13.  crashed 8/44.
				3765 to NEIAF
				3766 to NEIAF as N5-201, later to RAAF as
					A47-14.  struck off charge 3/50.
				3767 to NEIAF as N5-202, later to RAAF as
					A47-15.  struck off charge 3/50.
				3768 to NEIAF as N5-203, later to RAAF as
					A47-16.  scrapped 8/45.
				3769 to NEIAF as N5-204, later to RAAF as
					A47-17.  struck off charge 3/50.
				3770 to NEIAF as N5-205, later to RAAF as
					A47-18.  struck off charge 3/50.
				3789 to NEIAF as N5-213, later to RAAF as
					A47-21.  struck off charge 3/50.  
				3790 to NEIAF as N5-206, later to RAAF as
					A47-19.  Crashed 9/45.  
					(conflict here) 
				3791 to NEIAF as N5-207, later to RAAF as
					A47-20.  scrapped 6/44.  
				3830 to NEIAF as N5-190, later to RAAF as
					A47-22.  struck off charge 3/50.  
				3832 to NEIAF as N5-212, later to RAAF as
					A47-23.  scrapped 10/45.  
				3833 to NEIAF as N5-208
				3834 to NEIAF as N5-210.  Shot down by AAA Sept 19, 1944 with
					No. 18 Squadron RAAF.  All crew KIA.
				3835 to NEIAF as N5-209
				3836 to NEIAF as N5-211
				3867 to NEIAF as N5-216, later to RAAF as
					A47-24.  crashed 12/44.  
				3868 to NEIAF
				3869 to NEIAF as N5-215, later to RAAF as
					A47-25.  struck off charge 3/50.  
43-27473/27792		North American B-25J-1 Mitchell
				c/n 108-34486/108-34805
				27688 to NEIAF as N5-221
				27689 to NEIAF as N5-220, later to RAAF as
					A47-26.  struck off charge 3/50.  
				27691 to NEIAF as N5-219, later to RAAF as
					A47-27.  struck off charge 3/50.  
				27692 to NEIAF as N5-218

43-27793/28112		North American B-25J-5 Mitchell
				c/n 108-34806/108-35125
				27926 to NEIAF as N5-223
				27927 to NEIAF as N5-224, later to RAAF as
					A47-28.  struck off charge 3/50.  
				27928 to NEIAF as N5-225, later to RAAF as
					A47-29.  struck off charge 3/50.  
				27929 to NEIAF as N5-226
43-28113/28222		North American B-25J-10 Mitchell
				c/n 108-35126/108-35235
				28181 to NEIAF as N5-227, later to RAAF as
					A47-32.  struck off charge 3/50.  
				28182 to NEIAF as N5-228
				28183 to NEIAF as N5-231, later to RAAF as
					A47-31.  struck off charge 3/50.  
				28184 to NEIAF as N5-230
				28185 to NEIAF as N5-229, later to RAAF as
					A47-30.  struck off charge 3/50.  
44-28711/29110		North American B-25J-15/17 Mitchell
				c/n 108-31986/108-32385
				29021 to NEIAF as N5-232, later to RAAF as 
					A47-38.  struck off charge 3/50.
				29022 to NEIAF as N5-233
				29023 to NEIAF as N5-234
				29024 to NEIAF as N5-235, later to RAAF as 
					A47-39.  struck off charge 3/50.
				29029 to NEIAF as N5-236
				29030 to NEIAF as N5-237
				29031 to NEIAF as N5-238
				29032 to NEIAF as N5-239
				29033 to NEIAF as N5-240
				29034 to NEIAF as N5-241
44-29111/29910		North American B-25J-20/22 Mitchell
				c/n 108-32386/108-33185
				29260 to NEIAF as N5-242
				29261 to NEIAF as N5-243
				29262 to NEIAF as N5-244
				29263 to NEIAF as N5-245
				29514 to NEIAF as N5-246
				29515 to NEIAF as N5-247
				29516 to NEIAF as N5-248
				29517 to NEIAF as N5-249

44-29911/30910		North American B-25J-25/27 Mitchell
				c/n 108-33186/108-34185
				30504 to NEIAF as N5-250
				30505 to NEIAF as N5-256
				30506 to NEIAF as N5-251
				30507 to NEIAF as N5-252
				30508 to NEIAF as N5-253 
					struck off charge 7/45
				30900 to NEIAF as N5-254 - ditched 11/45
				30902 to NEIAF as N5-266  
					struck off charge 46
				30903 to NEIAF as N5-255 - crashed 9/45
44-30911/31510		North American B-25J-30/32 Mitchell
				c/n 108-36986/108-37585
				31201 to NEIAF as N5-259
				31202 to NEIAF as N5-260
				31203 to NEIAF as N5-261
				31204 to NEIAF as N5-262
				31256 to NEIAF as N5-263
				31258 to NEIAF as N5-264
				31259 to NEIAF as N5-265


  1. B-25 Mitchell: The Magnificent Medium, N. L. Avery, Phalanx, 1992.

  2. Medium with the Mostest--The B-25 Mitchell, Jerry Scutts, Air International, Vol. 44, Nos 2 and 3, 1993.

  3. Boston, Mitchell, and Liberator in Australian Service, Stewart Wilson, Aerospace Publications, 1992.

  4. Famous Bombers of the Second World War, William Green, Doubleday, 1959.

  5. North American's Flying Gun--The Story of the B-25 From Paper Airplane to Legendary Bomber, Jack Dean, Wings, Vol 23 No 4, 1993.

  6. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  7. United States Navy Aircraft Since 1911, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Naval Institute Press, 1990.

  8. North American B-25A-G Mitchell, Aircraft in Profile, Doubleday, 1966.

  9. Jane's American Fighting Aircraft of the 20th Century, Michael J. H. Taylor.

  10. E-mail from Ian Webley on loss of 43-3834, his uncle's plane.