Today Marks 77th Anniversary of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo During World War II

By  //  April 18, 2019

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first air operation to strike the Japanese Home Islands, important boost to American morale

View from the island of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8), while en route to the “Doolittle Raid” mission’s launching point. The light cruiser USS Nashville (CL-43) is in the distance. Eight of the mission’s 16 B-25B bombers are visible on the carrier’s flight deck. Aircraft at right is tail No. 40-2250 and mission plane No. 10. 2nd Lt. Richard O. Joyce piloted the aircraft to targets in the Tokyo area. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Doolittle Raid, also known as the Tokyo Raid, on Saturday, April 18, 1942, was an air raid by the United States on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II, the first air operation to strike the Japanese Home Islands.

It demonstrated that the Japanese mainland was vulnerable to American air attack, served as retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor, and provided an important boost to American morale.

The raid was planned and led by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle of the United States Army Air Forces.

Sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men.

The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China—landing a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible. 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 initially survived the mission.

Eight airmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three of those were later executed. The B-25 that landed in the Soviet Union was confiscated, with its crew interned for more than a year before being allowed to “escape” via Soviet-occupied Iran.

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Orders in hand, Navy Capt. Marc A. Mitscher, skipper of the USS Hornet (CV-8) chats with Lt. Col. James Doolittle, leader of the Army Air Forces attack group. This group of fliers carried the battle of the Pacific to the heart of the Japanese empire with a daring raid on military targets in major Japanese cities. It was the result of coordination between the two services. The USS Hornet carried the 16 North American B-25 bombers to within take-off distances of the Japanese Islands. (U.S.Navy photo)

Fourteen complete crews of five, except for one crewman who was killed in action, returned either to the United States or to American forces.

After the raid, the Japanese Army conducted a massive sweep through the eastern coastal provinces of China, in an operation now known as the Zhejiang-Jiangxi campaign, searching for the surviving American airmen and inflicting retribution on the Chinese who aided them, in an effort to prevent this part of China from being used again for an attack on Japan.

The raid caused negligible material damage to Japan, but it had major psychological effects.

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) launches a U.S. Army Air Forces North American B-25B Mitchell during the Doolittle Raid, 18 April 1942. (U.S. Navy)

In the United States, it raised morale. In Japan, it raised doubt about the ability of military leaders to defend the home islands, but the bombing and strafing of civilians also steeled the resolve to gain retribution and was exploited for propaganda purposes.

It also contributed to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s decision to attack Midway Island in the Central Pacific — an attack that turned into a decisive strategic defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy by the U.S. Navy in the Battle of Midway.

The consequences were most severely felt in China, where Japanese reprisals cost an estimated 250,000 lives.

Doolittle, who initially believed that the loss of all his aircraft would lead to his court-martial, received the Medal of Honor and was promoted two ranks to brigadier general.

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Brigadier General James H. Doolittle, famous speed flyer who won his wings in World War I, shown receiving the Medal of Honor from President Franklin D. Roosevelt for leading a squadron of Army bombers in a raid on Tokyo and other Japanese cities. Looking on (left to right) are Lieutenant General H.H. Arnold, Chief of Army Air Forces, Mrs. Doolittle, and then Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall. Office of War Information Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

– Wikipedia

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