Picture Credit: “100418-F-5964B-1537” by AirmanMagazine is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Vintage B-25 Mitchell bombers on 18th April 2010 flying over the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, during a memorial flight honouring the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders.

The Doolittle Raid, also known as the Tokyo Raid, was an air raid on 18th April 1942 by the United States on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on Honshu during World War II. Sixteen U.S. Army Air Forces B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men, in the first air operation to strike the Japanese archipelago.

The air raid was given the name Doolittle after Jimmy Doolittle who had never been a Captain or a Colonel prior to that action, when his rank was Lieutenant Colonel – he was promoted to Brigadier General after the raid.

There’s a great source of information about the raid at http://www.childrenofthedoolittleraiders.com/doolittle-raiders-history/

Wikipedia (here) records that ‘the bombing raid killed about 50 people, including civilians, and injured 400. Fifteen aircraft reached China but all crashed, while the 16th landed at Vladivostok in the Soviet Union. Of the 80 crew members, 77 survived the mission.’

Doolittle initially believed that the loss of all 16 of his aircraft would lead to his court-martial, but instead he received the Medal of Honor and was promoted two ranks to Brigadier General.

Encyclopaedia Britannica (here) records that ‘following  Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt demanded that the U.S. military find a way of striking back directly at Japan. The only possible method was with carrier-borne aircraft, but standard naval planes had too short a range—carriers launching them would have to sail dangerously close to Japan’s well-defended coast. Instead a special unit of USAAF B-25 Mitchell bombers, far larger than naval aircraft, was trained under Colonel James Doolittle to take off from the carrier USS Hornet. They were to drop their bombs on Japan and then fly on to land in an area of China controlled by the pro-Allied Nationalists.’

Martin Pollins
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