Skip to comments.Doolittle Raid
Posted on 04/16/2014 12:17:41 PM PDT by Retain Mike
One week after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt began pressing the U.S. military to immediately strike the Japanese homeland. The desire to bolster moral became more urgent in light of rapid Japanese advances. These included victories in Malaya, Singapore, the Philippines, Wake Island, and the Dutch East Indies, as well as sinking the British battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse.
Only improbable ideas warranted consideration, because submarines confirmed Japan placed picket boats at extreme carrier aircraft range. One idea even involved launching four engine heavy bombers from China or Outer Mongolia to strike Japan and fly on to Alaska. Captain Francis Low, a submariner, was the first to broach the idea of flying Army Air Corps medium bombers from an aircraft carrier. Jimmy Doolittle sold his boss at the Pentagon on the idea, with the proviso he would return to Washington for some real work.
By mid-January 1942 Doolittle began assembling the planes and crews. As one of the first MIT aeronautical engineering graduates he chose the B-25B. Since few Army personnel underwent training or had experience for operations involving ocean navigation, crews were chosen from the 17th Bombardment Group flying anti-submarine patrols from the newly build airfield at Pendleton Oregon.
Unaware of this pending mission, the 24 crews flew to Minneapolis where the bombers received extensive modifications. Installing auxiliary fuel tanks increased capacity over 70%. Range eventually increased from about 1,000 to 2,500 miles by also utilizing flying configurations and practices designed to conserve fuel. Increased fuel weight then required removing a 230 pound liaison radio. The lower twin 50cal. ball turret was later removed at Eglin Field in Florida saving 600 pounds. An armored 40gal fuel tank was then inserted. Cameras were installed to record bombing results.
While in Minneapolis Captain David M. Jones told the officers their destination was not Columbia, South Carolina for anti-submarine patrol. They were asked to volunteer for a dangerous, important, and interesting mission for which no information could be given. Nearly everyone volunteered even though most were new to their trade. Of the 16 pilots Doolittle actually took on the raid, only five had won their wings before 1941 and all but one was less than a year out of flight school.
Jimmy Doolittle, now a Lieutenant Colonel, met all 140 of them in Eglins operations office. He said, If you men have any idea that this isnt the most dangerous thing youve ever been on, dont start this training period ..This whole thing must be kept secret. I dont want you to tell your wives ..Dont even talk among yourselves about this thing. Now does anyone want to drop out? Nobody dropped out.
The crews began training with Lieutenant Henry L. Miller, USN (who later became an Honorary Tokyo Raider) on Elgin Field 48 days before the raid. The crews used a remote runway flagged to mark available carrier deck length. In three weeks the crews learned to take off at near stalling speeds of 50-60 miles per hour, overloaded, and in just over a football field length. At Pendleton pilots had used a mile long runway to build up speed to 80-90 miles per hour.
As the mission armament officer, Captain Charles Ross Greening improvised substitutes after removal of the top secret Norden bombsight, the lower ball turret and tail guns. At Elgin he and Tech Sergeant Edward Bain designed a substitute bomb sight with two pieces of aluminum. The Mark Twain device could be rapidly fabricated in the base metal shop and provided superior accuracy for this low-altitude bombing assignment. On board the Hornet Greening installed a pair of black-painted broom handles in each aircraft's tail cone to intimidate attacking enemies.
Twenty two bomber crews hedgehopped across country to San Francisco. The sixteen crews who reported no problems had their planes lifted aboard ship. Those who reported problems, however minor, were devastated when Doolittle excluded them from the mission.
The Hornet left the U.S. and joined the Enterprise at sea April 13, 1942. Now two of the four American carriers in the Pacific with 14 escorts and 10,000 crew members steamed towards Japan. The Army crews shared quarters with the navy squadrons. Edgar McElroy, pilot of #13 aircraft remembers bunking with two members of Torpedo Bomber Squadron Eight. He later learned that they along with all but one member of the squadron died at the Battle of Midway.
From radio traffic analysis, the Japanese knew carriers that had eluded their six carrier strike force on December 7 were underway somewhere in the Western Pacific. Unbeknownst to the Americans, the Japanese patrolling picket boats were 650 miles, not 300 miles, offshore to provide the intelligence needed for an overwhelming counterattack.
On April 18 the U.S. task force encountered this picket line 170 miles before their planned launch. The pilots rushed to their planes as the ship plowed into the wind and 30 foot swells. Each aircraft received at this last minute 11 extra 5gal gas cans. A Navy officer twirled a flag, listened for the right tone from the revving engines, and felt for the precise moment to release them on the pitching deck. The pilots, who had never flown from a carrier, saw the ships bow reaching into a grey sky, and then falling into a dark angry ocean sending salt spray across the flight deck. When released, they quivered down a bucking flight deck keeping the left wheel on a white line to just miss the superstructure by six feet. Every plane lifted safely from a rising deck into the stormy sky; even Ted Lawson who discovered he had launched with flaps up and initially plunged towards the ocean.
The bombers proceeded independently to Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Nagoya and Kobe. While underway the industrial targets had been briefed by Lt Stephen Jurika who was naval attaché in Tokyo 1939-1941. He imparted information from not only his own travels, but from a Soviet counterpart who had spent several years researching possible bombing targets. The Soviet Union was long aware of Japans plans to attack both China and U.S.S.R. (strike north), or to attack colonial possessions of the U.S, Netherlands and Britain (strike south).
Colonel Doolittle considered the raid a failure. Every plane had been lost. One plane and crew was interred in the Soviet Union. Fifteen crashed in China resulting in three crewmen deaths. Eight crew members were captured of whom three were executed and one starved to death in Japanese prison camps. He saw the raid as secondary to the bombers safely arriving and providing Chennaults air force an offensive capability.
However, the raid proved a crucial moral victory demonstrating Americans could do the impossible even if their battle fleet was blasted to wreckage, and they were losing an army in the Philippines. The Imperial Navy suffered a devastating loss of face, because Admiral Yamamoto had guaranteed the Emperor that the Americans would never attack their home islands.
Charles Ross Greening, Colonel United States Air Force http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/crgreening.htm
Greening, Colonel Charles Ross (1914-1957), HistoryLink.org Essay 10320 http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=10320
Captain David M. Jones http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_M._Jones
Letters from the Precipice of War (Steven Jurika) http://www.usni.org/magazines/navalhistory/2014-01/letters-precipice-war
Sorge: A Chronology (Excerpts 1942) http://richardsorge.com/excerpts/1942/index.html
The Official Website of The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders http://doolittleraider.com/
Doolittle Raiders 70th Anniversary: http://www.washingtontimes.com/specials/doolittles-tokyo-raid/ http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=doolittle+raiders+70th+anniversary&qpvt=doolittle+raiders+70th+anniversary&FORM=IGRE http://doolittlereunion.com/
Pendleton Field http://www.ohs.org/education/oregonhistory/historical_records/dspDocument.cfm?doc_ID=C9A94F93-E10A-57A0-B694B0AFFE69184C
A final toast for the Doolittle Raiders http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/14/opinion/greene-doolittle-raiders
Jonna Doolittle Hoppes "Jimmy Doolittle Raid" presentation at Historic Flight Foundation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgt8PMoRGG8
Doolittle Raiders: The Last Reunion (VIDEO) http://salem-news.com/articles/may302013/doolittle-raiders-rn.php
Doolittle Raider forum, etc. http://www.doolittleraider.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=128&t=579 http://www.dontow.com/2012/03/the-doolittle-raid-mission-impossible-and-its-impact-on-the-u-s-and-china/ http://www.historynet.com/countdown-to-the-doolittle-raid.htm
One nice rthing about posting to Free Republic is that each year I get at least one comment about something I missed or mis-stated to improve it next year.
The fact that the Doolittle raid was really the first significant counter attack is important because it was essentially a suicide raid, signaling that there was no limit to what the US would do in war. 4 years later, every major city in Japan would be burned to the ground.
Now, as then, the big wars start when one side underestimates the others resolve.
as an interesting aside, Japan economy was roughly the same proposition in size the the US in 1941 that Russia is today to the US . think about that stat next time you hear why Russia would never start a war in the Ukraine because “it makes no sense”.
I have a friend that her father flew this mission. He eventually went across Russia on a train to get back home. He had wrestled in the 1934 Olympics. She swan in Mexico City in the Olympics. There are a lot of high achievers.
The B25B normally had a lower Sperry rand remote controlled and sighted turret..while the B25B had them and were removed for the raiders...it was very ineffective anyway and was remove early in the war from all B25
Also the B25B normally had no tail guns..the A had a manned tail gun...the B just had a clear tail cone with no room for a gunner
The later B25s model did get a tail gun portion again I believe staring with the G model
One minor point is it's "Eglin Field" where the Raiders trained.
A bit of trivia. When asked where the Raiders came from, Rooselvelt replied, "They came from our secret base at Shangri-La." This was a fictional place from the novel Lost Horizon. When the Essex Class carriers were being built the Navy departed from its custom at the time and named one U.S.S. Shangri-La. Beginning in September 1944, the Japanese will again be hit from Shangri-La.
I occcasionally see clips of the 'X Games' on the internet. Kids doing things nobody could imagine. We Americans still have the will to be audacious, but our government education has created a subservient attitude towards government. All people want to be free.
FP- The goblets for those who have passed are turned upside down. I sadly counted only four that are still upright.
I know I would have "lost it" seeing that in person.
We are nearing the end of the Greatest Generation sad to say that this Country and the World were saved from the nazi's by Our Fathers/Mothers and Grandparents only for History to start repeating itself because 1/2 of this Country are F'ing lazy scum that live in a fantasy world and We have let politicians run loose and take Us where We are.
My Father and both Uncle's "suddenly" were all 18 (born 1 year apart from each other) when the US got into the War.
Grandma worked in the local bomb factory after signing off for all 3 Son's to enlist.
The whole Country just did what had to be done. Nobody complained, You did Your part.
I look at what we have now and just want to scream!
That is awesome!
Great post. Thanks for sharing.
What the raid also did that was more than a moral victory, was make Japan even more determined that they need to destroy the American carriers. This made them take higher risks than they otherwise would have. This in turn led them into a plan to invade Midway and lure the American carriers to it so the Japanese could destroy them. Thanks to codebreakers and some good luck, the element of surprise was with the Americans, and instead it was the Japanese Navy that suffered the devestating loss of 4 carriers to only 1 American one. The Japanese Navy was always on the defensive after that. So the Doolittle raid was much more effective inthe grand scheme of things.
While you were there did you happen to notice that the bottle of 1896 (Doolittles birth year) cognac had been opened? Meaning that the “final toast” of living Raid survivors has been drunk?
I believe the agreement was that the last two survivors would share in the final toast, but last December three of the four were there and agreed that that would be it. The cognac is also with the goblet display, very moving. That’s just a great museum, I always leave there with a sense of awe and gratitude.
Thanks for posting this.
What’s not mentioned is that the decision to launch 170 miles earlier because of the Japanese picket ships was that every man jack on the carrier knew that there was scant chance to make it to the Chinese mainland as planned. Headwinds encountered further reduced the odds.
Doolittle spoke with the assembled crews and offered them the chance to decline the now almost suicidal mission stressing that no stigma would or could be attached under the new circumstances. Not a man hesitated.
Doolittle was the first off the deck as every member of the flight crew and ship’s deck crews held their breath. A great cheer went up as he cleared the deck and the bomber crews followed.
Flying through the squall ironically gave them cover from both Japanese ships and aircraft. And as if by some miracle the skies cleared as they approached the shores.
Doolittle’s Raiders flew so low that Japanese civilians thinking the squadron was theirs waved enthusiastically.
The Japanese were incensed by the attacked and complained long and loud to any that would listen in the international community.
The Raiders surely caused more than a few samurai wannabes to realize that they would need more than bushido to win against such men as these.
I very nice article, the only thing I think that needs fixing is I don’t believe there was a “Pentagon” in 1942. It was under construction, or in the planning stage. It was pretty much just called the “War Department” before the Pentagon came into use.
Thanks for the help. I checked some of my sources again and they were accurate. I just didn’t pick up the correct understanding of what I read.
You are right. Thank you.
So true. My boys would have never been allowed to play dadge ball in grade school.
Thanks for the reminder — 72 years ago tomorrow.
Thanks for the ping — lest we forget.
And one of my favorite movies as well...:)
What a sweet plane.