Army Air Forces B-25B bombers parked on the flight deck of USS Hornet (CV-8). The plane in the upper right is tail No. 40-2242 and mission plane No. 8. Capt. Edward J. York piloted the aircraft to targets in the Tokyo area. (U.S. Navy photo). PHOTO BY: VIRIN: 060415-F-0000G-019
Idaho’s Warhawk Museum in Nampa will be holding its annual Warbird Roundup on Aug. 27 and 28 from 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. The Roundup is the largest 2-day gathering of historic warplanes in the state. Food, drinks, vendors, and kid’s activities begin at 8:30 a.m. Flying is from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., with a special flyover by the U.S. Air Force F-34 Lightning II Demonstration Team. Click here for schedule updates and ticket information.
This year, on Saturday, Aug. 27, the museum will be honoring the 80th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, with a special guest speaker, Joanna Doolittle Hoppes— The granddaughter of U.S. Air Force General James (Jimmy) Doolittle, Medal of Honor recipient, and commander of the Doolittle Raid. The Raid was an ambitious long-range retaliatory attack occurring on April 18, 1942, as a result of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Following are some highlights of this historical mission recounted later in many books and movies.
Doolittle was a famous military test pilot, civilian aviator, and aeronautical engineer before WWI. He helped develop and test the now universally used artificial horizon and directional gyroscope. He attracted wide attention with this feat of blind flying and later received the Harmon Trophy for conducting the experiments. These accomplishments made all-weather airline operations practical. He was also a flying instructor during World War I and a reserve officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He returned to active duty during World War II.
In January 1942, Doolittle was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assigned to Army Air Forces Headquarters in Elgin, Fla. to plan the air raid on the Japanese following their attack on Pearl Harbor. He volunteered to lead the top secret attack with targets in Tokyo, Kobe, Yokohama, Osaka, and Nagoya.
Doolittle carefully considered different aircraft for the one-way mission. It would need a cruising range of more than 2,400 nautical miles and be able to carry a one-ton bomb load and extra fuel. He selected the B-25B Mitchell to carry out the mission.
The aircraft was a twin-engine bomber that became standard equipment for the Allied Air Forces in WWII. A versatile bomber, capable of high and low-level bombing, photoreconnaissance, submarine patrol, as well as ground and air attacks. By the end of WWII, North American Aviation had built more than 9,800 B-25Bs.
The B-25Bs underwent a few modifications to prepare for the raid. Gun turrets were removed, and mock gun barrels were installed in the tail cone. Crews reported later they felt this deterred the Japanese from firing at the bombers. The liaison radio was removed, deicers and anti-icers were added, as were steel blast plates around the upper turret fuselage, and a collapsible neoprene fuel tank. The bombsight was replaced and two bombers were equipped with cameras to capture the mission. The raid used 16 bombers. Each had a crew of five, and no escort air fighters were provided.
After departing the USS Hornet, 15 of the aircraft reached the Chinese coast (largely due to a significant tailwind) after 13 hours of flight- either crash-landing or bailing out. Doolittle had successfully bailed out and he and his crew were helped through Japanese lines by Chinese guerrillas and an American missionary.
Of the 16 U.S. Army Airforce crews (80 men) involved, three were killed in action. Eight were captured by Japanese forces, three of which were later executed and one would die during captivity. Only one of the B-25Bs wasn’t destroyed when it made a landing in the Soviet Union.
With the loss of aircraft and minimal damage to the Japanese military, Doolittle felt the mission was a failure. However, for the United States, it was a huge morale boost. In Japan, it raised fear and doubt about the military leaders to defend the home islands. Ultimately, Doolittle was celebrated as a hero and recognized as one of the most important national figures of the war. He would receive the Medal of Honor and be promoted to brigadier general. He would go on to command the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa, the Fifteenth Air Force in the Mediterranean, and the Eighth Air Force in England.
All 80 raiders were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Those who were killed or wounded during the raid were awarded the Purple Heart.
A great deal is documented about the mission, their confinements as prisoners, assistance from the Chinese (at great cost), and the impacts it had strategically on the United States’ involvement in WWII.
Doolittle passed away at the age of 96 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery