Rumor around the 405th Squadron had it that Col. Gunn got the idea to convert an old B-25C into a strafer-bomber by mounting fixed guns on her forward fuselage. The problems were so great they would have discouraged a lesser man, but Pappy's philosophy was the no idea was of any value until put into action, and his private war with the Japanese became an obsession.
With his power of persuasion Gunn, garnered a mixed crew of welders, sheet metal workers, armament men and electricians to help with the transition. Time was in short supply, and screening off a make-shift revetment,the crew went to work on an old Mitchell Gunn had scrounged, and after much sweat and hard work the B-25 was rolled out for a test hop. She sat on one end of the runway, engines thundering, struts moving up and down with the rythm of the surge of the props, and a stubble of '50 caliber guns jutting from her nose and more 50s mounted on each side of the fuselage. Guns and camera were operable by the pilot. When the brakes were released, the B-25 moved down the steel-matted runway, lifted off and climbed into the blue. Everything checked out perfectly, including test firing the guns.
The final test day arrived. Col Gunn took off alone, climbed to altitude to cross the pass in the Owen Stanley range, and headed towards Buna-no co-pilot, no navigator and no crew. With the high range behind him, Col Gunn began a slow decent from 14000 feet. The air pouring in through the drafty old aircraft felt good. His head was clear and visability was limitless, a few thin cumulo-stratus sailing high above.
After the wrinkled foothills of the range smoothed out, he maintained 2000 feet until the Buna runway was in sight, then dropped to tree top level for the approach. Everything had gone well - if his luck held would only hold out - if he could surprise them -, he cleared the last of the trees, dropped steeply and pulled out at the last second. Before his main gear wheels touched the runway, he was assured of a turkey shoot at least. There were targets aplenty parked to order for what the Col. had in mind.
As soon as he could without ground - looping, he braked to a hard roll stop. Keeping his foot on the left brake, he released the right one, gunning a right to left circular turn, and activating the camera and the fixed guns as he went. The guns combined to fire approximately 6000 rounds per minute with a tracer every fifth round and incendiaries interspersed at regulat intervals.
THe Mitchell revolved around the pivot wheel provided Papy a ringside view of the action with tracers hosing into the targets. As he came around the second time he could see flame and smoke sweeping the line of double parked fighters. When the explosions began to splash burning gasoline over the fighters , setting fire to those that might have escaped direct hit, Col Gunn decided it was time to get out. He also became aware that there had been a total lack of return fire as he could determine over the thunder of his own guns.
As the B-25 fuselage paralleled the runway he released the pivot brake, brought the craft into take-off position, leveled his throttles and took off down the runway. the Mitchell was gathering speed fast when Col. Gunn glanced to his right and saw a small man in fatigue clothes standing transfixed, as if he was seeing something beyond his comprehension, something alien to his own physical world.
Gunn pulled back on the yoke lifting the B-25 over the fringe of trees. At altitude he flattened the B-25 across the jungle canopy, took a deep breath and muttered "Mission accomplished".
(EPILOGUE - so much time has passed, we may never know how much of the above is true. It is worth noting that , however, some months after this saga, crews were being equipped with new B-25s, factory made gun ports in the nose and twin packs both sides of the fuselage. sound familiar?)