The day a B-25 Mitchell medium bomber crashed into the Empire State Building

The day a B-25 Mitchell WWII medium bomber crashed into the Empire State Building

By Dario Leone
Jul 28 2023
Share this article

The B-25 Mitchell

The B-25 Mitchell medium bomber was one of America’s most famous airplanes of World War II. It was the type used by Gen. Jimmy Doolittle for the Tokyo Raid on Apr. 18, 1942.

Subsequently, B-25s saw duty in every combat area being flown by the Dutch, British, Chinese, Russians and Australians in addition to US forces. Although the airplane was originally intended for level bombing from medium altitudes, it was used extensively in the Pacific Theater for bombing Japanese airfields and beach emplacements from treetop level, and for strafing and skip bombing enemy shipping.

Built by North American Aviation, the B-25 first flew on Aug. 19, 1940, and the US Army Air Corps accepted the first five B-25s in February 1941. By the end of the war, North American Aviation had built a total of 9,816 B-25s at its California and Kansas plants.

B-25
B-25 Bomber

The B-25 that crashed into the Empire State Building

On Jul. 28, 1945 a B-25 Mitchell of the 457th Bomb Group crashed into the Empire State Building.

The 457th Bomb Group had only been in the States a short while (in fact the unit was deployed at Glatton, UK, for WW II operations over Germany until Jun. 21, 1945) when on Saturday, Jul. 28, Lieutenant Colonel William F. Smith lost his way while flying a B-25 Mitchell bomber from Bedford, Massachusetts to Sioux Falls Army Air Base via Newark Airport. Emerging from low cloud at about 900ft, the 457th pilot found himself among the skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan.

Empire State Building after B-25 crash
The Empire State Building was enveloped in smoke after it was rammed by a U.S. Army B-25 bomber on Jul. 28, 1945.

As explained by Roger A. Freeman in his book Airfields of the Eighth Then and Now, the aircraft crashed headlong into the 79th floor level of the Empire State Building killing Lieutenant Colonel Smith, two servicemen ‘hitch-hikers’ and eleven office workers.

As the photos in this post show, the B-25 exploded on impact spraying burning fuel into West 34th Street below, one of the engines completely passing through the building and out the other side! On Sep. 28, 1977, New York publishers of a new book on crash (The Sky is Falling), Grosset & Dunlop presented a plaque which can now be seen on the 86th floor, ‘in grateful appreciation to those men and women of the Empire State Building who unselfishly gave their assistance in the crash‘.

Empire State Building after B-25 crash
The wreckage of the B-25 bomber that crashed into the Empire States Building at the 78th floor in 1945

Photo credit: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives and Acme Newspictures


Share this article

Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this article


Share this article
Share this article

Always up to date! News and offers delivered directly to you!

Get the best aviation news, stories and features from The Aviation Geek Club in our newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

Error: Contact form not found.


Share this article
Back to top
My Agile Privacy
This website uses technical and profiling cookies. Clicking on "Accept" authorises all profiling cookies. Clicking on "Refuse" or the X will refuse all profiling cookies. By clicking on "Customise" you can select which profiling cookies to activate. In addition, this site installs Google Analytics in version 4 (GA4) with anonymous data transmission via proxy. By giving your consent, the data will be sent anonymously, thus protecting your privacy. We and our selected ad partners can store and/or access information on your device, such as cookies, unique identifiers, browsing data. You can always choose the specific purposes related to profiling by accessing the advertising preferences panel, and you can always withdraw your consent at any time by clicking on "Manage consent" at the bottom of the page.

List of some possible advertising permissions:

You can consult: our list of advertising partners, the Cookie Policy and the Privacy Policy.
Warning: some page functionalities could not work due to your privacy choices