If you’ve ever learned the story of Doolittle’s Raid and Doolittle’s Raiders, you remember. After Pearl Harbor, as Japan was racking up victories in the Pacific, then Army Air Force Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle led something like a suicide mission to bomb Tokyo. Today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of Doolittle’s Raid. On the occasion Gerald Skoning recalls the story’s highlights in “How Doolittle little did so much for so many 75 years ago today.”
The Naval History and Heritage Command has a somewhat more detailed account in Halsey-Doolittle Raid.” CNN has posted a good account by Richard Roth along with a brief video here. Michael Paradis puts the story in a contemporary context in the Weekly Standard column “Bombing for show.”
Doolittle and his Raiders rose to almost unbelievable heights of martial valor and patriotic self-sacrifice on this mission. The video below gives a sense of the difficulties that had to be overcome as well as the skill necessary to pull off the mission. As can be seen in the video, it was a challenge even to get the Mitchell B25s to take off from the USS Hornet’s flight deck.
Both in the planning and as it played out, this was an incredibly improbable mission. Luck certainly played a part in its success. Three of the 80 Raiders were nevertheless captured by the Japanese and executed; one starved to death in the captivity of the Japanese.
Doolittle thought the raid would be assessed a failure after its completion. Instead his service was recognized with the Medal of Honor. Of the Raiders only Doolittle co-pilot Richard Cole survives. Today is a day to remember them all and to be thankful.