Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

The Doolittle Raid: A 65-Year Retrospective

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

The Doolittle Raid: A 65-Year Retrospective

Article excerpt

AFTER JAPAN'S ATTACK on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt wanted to retaliate. The next month, Navy captain Francis S. Low suggested using Army medium bombers launched from an aircraft carrier. Gen Henry "Hap" Arnold, commander of US Army Air Forces, accepted the idea and selected Lt Col James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle-a well-known pioneer, military aviator, and aeronautical engineer-to plan and command the mission.

After secretly training at Eglin Field, Florida, from 9 to 25 March 1942, 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers with 80 crew members flew to AIameda, California, for loading onto the carrier USS Hornet. On 18 April, the aircraft took off from the Hornet, flew 650 miles across the western Pacific, and attacked targets in and around Tokyo. After the attack, one aircraft landed in the Soviet Union, which interned the crew until its "escape." The other 15 B-25s flew another 1,200 miles and ditched short of the Chinese coast or crash-landed after crossing the coastline.

Chinese forces and villagers rescued 67 raiders, including Colonel Doolittle. In retaliation, the Japanese army massacred up to 250,000 Chinese people and drove China's forces further from the coast. Japanese leaders tried eight captured raiders as war criminals, executing three of them. Of the remaining five prisoners of war, one died from disease before the war's end.

Given the minimal damage from the attack and the extensive losses, Arnold and Doolitde wondered if the raid had been worth the effort. …

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