The Doolittle Raid
of April 18,
1942 was the first US attack on the Japanese mainland during WW II.
The raid is named after its planner and lead pilot, then Lieutenant
Colonel James Harold Doolittle. The need was to create some kind of propaganda
victory and grew out of the technical observation by Captain Francis Low
that twin-engined bombers could be launched from an aircraft carrier. Subsequent
tests appeared to prove that a B-25 Mitchell could be launched with a reasonable
bomb load, hit targets in Japan and then fly on to land in China.
Sixteen North American Aviation B-25Bs were loaded onto the USS Hornet,
with 500 lb of bombs and extra fuel tanks but with reduced guns, they were
arranged on the flight deck in the order of launch and secured. The Hornet
which left port on April 2, meeting up with the USS Enterprise mid-ocean
and both proceeding together with the fourteen vessel escort towards the
launch point 400 miles from Japan. Launched prematurely at 600 miles due
to the presence of enemy shipping, the sixteen bombers were successfully
airborne and completed their bombing with little resistance, only three
encountering flak or enemy fighters. The targets were dockyards or factories
around Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya.
None of the attacking aircraft reached the airfields in China, the aircraft
either crash landing or ditching with the crews bailing out, although one
landed in Russia, three crewmen died during these crashes. Eight airmen
were captured by the Japanese in China and three were subsequently executed
- William Farrow, Dean Hallmark, and Harold Spatz. One other of the captured
men died during his captivity.
James Harold Doolittle (December 14, 1896 - September 27, 1993)
was a United States Army General who fought in World War I and World War
II, and was the commander of the famous Doolittle Raid. He was born in
Doolittle was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for accomplishing
this mission which is viewed by historians as a major public relations
victory for the United States even though the amount of damage done to
Japanese war industry was minor and quickly fixed. President Franklin D.
Roosevelt presented the medal to Doolittle.
Doolittle was also a famous pylon-racing pilot. He died in California
and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.