This month’s featured artifact is an original WWII E-1 Bombardier’s bag that belonged to 1st Lt. Scott A. Mouse of Emporia, Kansas. Lt. Mouse was a bombardier-navigator and served with the 490th Bomb Squadron of the 10th & 14th Air Forces, infamously known as the ‘Burma Bridge Busters’.
The 490th Bomb Squadron flew innumerable missions in the (C.B.I.) China, Burma and India Theatre– often referred to as the “forgotten theater” of WW2. Activated in Karachi, British India as a B-25 Mitchell bomber squadron, the Burma Bridge Busters flew 615 missions between February 1943 and August 1945. During this period, the squadron dropped over 8,257,000 pounds of bombs and destroyed 192 bridges. Operating under the 10th Air Force, the squadron also carried out tactical interdiction missions against Japanese communications lines and supported the British ground forces in Burma between 1943 and 1944.
In January 1944, Squadron Leader Major Robert A. Erdin accidentally discovered a bridge-destroying skip bombing technique. After perfecting this skip-bombing technique and using it regularly during missions, the squadron was nicknamed ‘Burma Bridge Busters’ by the general in command of the Tenth Air Force.
A year later, the squadron assumed another role – dropping propaganda flyers over Burma for the U.S Office of War Information.
In April 1945, the squadron was reassigned to the 14th Air Force in China. Until the end of the war, they continued to disrupt enemy communication lines and provided support to Chinese ground forces.
The primary objective of the squadron was to keep the Chinese in the war simply because this would tie down the nearly one million Japanese troops preventing them from operating elsewhere.
During its three years of service, the 490th squadron received more than 1,000 individual citations, destroyed 192 bridges in China, Burma and India, and won two Distinguished Unit Citations.
This navigator’s bag was graciously donated to us by Lt. Mouses’ family this past summer during a stopover in Iola, Kansas with our own B-25J, Miss Mitchell. The bag contains a treasure trove of original manuals, maps, a first aid kit and even a pistol holster belonging to Mouse. These items are a wonderful tribute To Lt. Mouse and to all the brave B-25 Mitchell crews that served during WWII.
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