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B-25 Mitchell

The aircraft was nicknamed 'L’il Critter From the Moon,’ after the popular US cartoon character, L’il Abner which was painted on to the aircraft’s nose. It replaced the original drawing of a baby's bottle which had been used to reflect the term ‘milk run,’ the name crews gave to missions they thought were safe or easy. A superstitious commanding officer, however, considered 'milk run' to be an unsuitable name for the aircraft and ordered it to be changed.

'L'il Critter From the Moon' was flown by Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22 on three of his 60 missions during the Second World War. One scene in the book describes how Yossarian dangles from the ceiling of the nose of his aircraft by the top of his head, unable to move. It’s a key Catch-22 moment which Heller found the inspiration for during a flight in the 8U over Avignon on 15 August 1944.

Heller’s group experienced such heavy anti-aircraft fire over the target, the pilot was forced to take extreme evasive action that threw Heller from his seat inside its nose, and pinned him against the top of the Perspex dome by the G-force. The action cause Heller’s headset to become detached, causing confusion among his crew. In the book, a side gunner called Snowden is wounded in the leg and Yossarian is unable to stop him from bleeding to death. In reality, Seargeant Carl Frankel, the side gunner on Heller’s crew was injured on board the 8U over Avignon but Heller was able to save him. The moment serves as a catalyst for Yossarian’s outlook for the majority of the book, and embodied his desire to avoid death.

‘L’il Critter From the Moon’ was ultimately lost in a mid-air-collision on 21 January 1945, its remains were recovered and are displayed in the American Air Museum at IWM Duxford



  • 340th Bomb Group

    340th Bomb Group

    Activated on 20 August 1942. The 340th Bombardment Group trained with B-25's for duty overseas. They arrived in the Mediterranean theater in March 1943. Assigned first to the Ninth Air Force and later (in August 1943) to the Twelfth. Served in combat...

  • 488th Bomb Squadron


  • Fready Boutte

    Military | Technical Sergeant (2nd Grade) | Aerial Gunner | 340th Bomb Group

  • George Hellyar

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 340th Bomb Group
    The missions listed in the bio were gleaned from mission records/load lists. The missions do not represent his complete combat mission record.

  • Robert Pagh

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 340th Bomb Group

  • Aubrey Porter

    Military | Staff Sergeant (3rd Grade) | Tail Gunner | 340th Bomb Group

  • Eugene Sallen

    Military | Captain | Pilot



Event Location Date
Crashed 21 January 1945

Mid-Air Collision


Date Contributor Update
09 June 2021 10:08:54 Emily Created entry with serial number, aircraft type, production block number, manufacturer, nicknames, markings, description, events, unit associations and place associations

IWM collection, Air 559 and article Joseph Heller and Catch-22

Missing Air Crew Report, image of the aircraft from Charles Cook's photo collection at