Losses and Aviation Safety

The Sad Story of the B-25 Mitchell that crashed into Empire State Building

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

Taken on Jul. 28, 1945 the photos in this post feature the Empire State Building after the infamous 457th Bomb Group B-25 Mitchell crash.

B-25 Bomber

The 457th Bomb Group had only been in the States a short while (in fact the unit was deployed at Glatton, U.K., 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.


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.

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‘.

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

Gabriele Barison

Gabriele Barison is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Co-Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. He has flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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