Doolittle Raid

April 18th, 2011 | by Sqotty |

Today marks the 69th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, the first bombing of the Japanese main islands during World War 2. The raid, planned and lead by Jimmy Doolittle with a force of 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers with all volunteer air crews were successful in their mission and achieved not only the desired morale boost in the U.S. after the Pearl Harbor attack, but also forced the Japanese to reconsider their defenses and pull back many fighter squadrons in order to defend the homeland. The raid was depicted in the MGM film 30 Seconds Over Tokyo with Spencer Tracy as Doolittle. A great film, by the way.

The B-25 was selected as being the most capable aircraft for the raid for a number of factors, including the smaller wingspan, thus allowing the carrier Hornet to carry more bombers for the raid. I’ve always been fond of the B-25 due to its look and the twin tail it sports. There are still a few of these birds in flyable condition, such as the “Miss Mitchell”, that can be seen at various air shows in the upper Midwest.

The task force was discovered by a Japanese patrol boat, forcing the mission to launch 10 hours early. The raid itself did no significant damage to their targets, and all of the aircraft were lost due to the necessity of being ditched, most of the air crews made it back to U.S. control. Of those captured by the Japanese, several were executed and the others poorly treated. Even though little material damage was inflicted by the raid, it helped change the course of the Pacific War by forcing Japan to recall its main carrier task force under Nagumo to defend Japan. It also lead to Yamamoto’s decision to capture Midway, which resulted in a decisive U.S. victory in the Battle of Midway, thus fixing the course for the rest of the war in the Pacific.

Doolittle, instead of receiving the court-martial he expected for losing all 16 aircraft, was awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted to Brigadier General. Other awards to the mission crews included two Silver Stars, Distinguished Flying Crosses for all members, and Purple Hearts for those killed, wounded, or injured due to the raid. Eighty gallant men participated in the raid. Gallant with a capital “G”.

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