A footnote on the Doolittle Raid

A reader writes to add a comment on my post noting the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Doolittle Raid yesterday:

Because it was not at all obvious, reporters asked FDR from where the Doolittle raid bombers were launched. He just smiled and answered: “Shangri-La!” This great answer added to the mystique and psychological impact of the raid and maintained complete secrecy.

In contrast, within hours of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration had leaked that Seal Team Six had covertly flown into Abbottabad, Pakistan without permission. This caused Pakistan to lose face, got a doctor imprisoned and removed any opportunity to portray the US as having powerful and mysterious capabilities to be feared. Times have really changed.

Ben Wolfgang elaborated briefly on Roosevelt’s secrecy regarding the Doolittle Raid in a 2012 Washington Times story. Wolfgang adds: “Two years later, as an homage to the president’s wisecrack, the Navy commissioned an aircraft carrier named the USS Shangri-La. It remained in service until the early 1970s.”

Days after the raid, Wolfgang also notes, Roosevelt declined even to confirm Japanese reports that the raid had occurred. “Would you care to go so far as to confirm the truth of the Japanese reports that Tokyo was bombed?” a reporter asked FDR.

“No, I couldn’t even do that,” Roosevelt replied. “I am depending on Japanese reports very largely.”


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