This Date in History : 18th April 1942
Lt.Col. Jimmy Doolittle's Raid
The Doolittle Raid, on 18 April 1942, was the first air raid by the United States
to strike the Japanese Home Islands (specifically Honshu) during World War II.
By demonstrating that Japan itself was vulnerable to American air attack,
it provided a vital morale boost and opportunity for U.S. retaliation after the Japanese attack
on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. The raid was planned and led by
then-Lieutenant Colonel James "Jimmy" Doolittle, USAAF.
Doolittle would later recount in his autobiography that the raid was intended
to bolster American morale and to cause the Japanese to begin doubting their leadership:"The Japanese people had been told they were invulnerable ... An attack on the Japanese homeland
would cause confusion in the minds of the Japanese people and sow doubt about the reliability of their leaders.
There was a second, and equally important, psychological reason for this attack ...
Americans badly needed a morale boost."
Sixteen U.S. Army Air Forces B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched
from the U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the Western Pacific Ocean.
The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward
to land in China-landing a medium bomber on the Hornet was impossible.
All the aircraft involved in the bombing were lost and 11 crewmen
were either killed or captured-with three of the captured men executed by the Japanese Army in China.
One of the B-25s landed in the Soviet Union at Vladivostok, where it was confiscated
and its crew interned for more than a year. Thirteen entire crews,
and all but one crewman of a 14th, returned either to the United States or to American forces.
Bound for Tokyo, Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle launches his B-25 Mitchell from the heaving deck
of the carrier USS Hornet on the morning of 18 April, 1942. Leading a sixteen-bomber force
on their long distance one - way mission, the Doolittle Raiders completed the first strike
at the heart of Imperial Japan since the infamous attack on Pearl Harbour four months earlier.
Together, they completed one of the most audacious air raids in aviation history.
The Doolittle Raid on Japan was always designed as a one way mission:
from the carrier to friendly airfields in China by way of Tokyo.
Due to early discovery by Japanese picket boats, Captain David Jones and the rest of Crew 5 (aircraft 02283)
left the deck of the USS Hornet knowing their one-way trip was perilously shorter.
They knew that their B-25 did not have the range to make those friendly airfields,
and getting to the China coast or past Japanese-occupied China would take great skill and uncommon luck.
At a small break in the cloud cover over Chu Chow the members of Crew 5,
who could coax their aircraft no further, left the plane, trusting their parachutes,
the wind and the Chinese people to lead them to safety. In Chinese folklore the lóng,
or dragon, symbolizes all that is good: abundance, prosperity, good fortune, nobility,
and divine protection, as well as the Chinese people themselves.
The dragon is believed to be the benevolent guardian of water, as well as life-giving rain and storms.
As they tumbled into the stormy night sky, Captain Jones and his crew entrusted their safety-
and their lives-to the arms of the dragon. The Chinese paid dearly for the aid and shelter
they provided to American soldiers. In the Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign, Japanese forces killed
an estimated 250,000 Chinese civilians as retaliation and intimidation to prevent
further assistance of American soldiers. The brave sacrifices of the Chinese saved many lives
and solidified the American people in their determination to succeed.