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Doolittle Raid

Doolittle Raid
Part of World War II, Pacific War

A B-25 taking off from Hornet for the raid
Date 18 April 1942
Location Tokyo and other Japanese cities
  • US propaganda victory; US morale improved, Japanese weakened
  • No significant military effect
 United States  Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
James H. Doolittle Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni

16 B-25 Mitchells

  • 80 airmen (52 officers, 28 enlisted)

2 aircraft carriers
4 cruisers

8 destroyers
Unknown number of troops and homeland defense
Casualties and losses
  • 3 dead
  • 8 POWs (4 died in captivity: 3 executed, 1 by disease)
  • 15 B-25s
  • About 50 dead, 400 injured (including civilians)
  • 5 sailors captured
  • 5 patrol boats sunk
  • 3 aircraft
  • 1 light aircraft carrier damaged
Crew No. 1 in front of B-25 #40-2344 on the deck of USS Hornet, 18 April 1942. From left to right: (front row) Lt. Col. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; (back row) Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Doolittle Raid, also known as the Tokyo Raid, on 18 April 1942, was an air raid by the United States on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on Honshu island during World War II, the first air raid to strike the Japanese Home Islands. It demonstrated that Japan itself was vulnerable to American air attack, served as retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, and provided an important boost to U.S. morale while damaging Japanese morale. The raid was planned and led by Lieutenant Colonel James "Jimmy" Doolittle, U.S. Army Air Forces.

Sixteen U.S. Army Air Forces B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier USS Hornet 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—relanding a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible. Fifteen of the aircraft reached China, and one landed in the Soviet Union. All but three of the crew survived, but all the aircraft were lost. Eight crewmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three of these were executed. The B-25 that landed in the Soviet Union at Vladivostok was confiscated and its crew interned for more than a year. Fourteen crews, except for one crewman, returned either to the United States or to American forces.[1][2]

After the raid, the Japanese Imperial 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 applying 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 succeeded in its goal of raising American morale and casting doubt in Japan on the ability of its military leaders to defend their home islands. 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 (IJN) by the U.S. Navy in the Battle of Midway. Doolittle, who initially believed that loss of all his aircraft would lead to his being court-martialled, received the Medal of Honor and was promoted two steps to Brigadier General.


  • Origins 1
  • Preparation 2
  • Participating aircraft 3
  • Mission 4
  • Aftermath 5
    • Fate of the missing crewmen 5.1
    • Service of the returning crewmen 5.2
    • Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign 5.3
  • Impact 6
  • Post-war 7
    • Surviving airmen 7.1
  • Commemoration 8
    • Doolittle Raiders exhibit 8.1
    • Doolittle Raiders reenactment 8.2
    • Congressional Gold Medal 8.3
  • Popular culture 9
    • Films 9.1
    • Books 9.2
  • References 10
  • External links 11


The raid had its start in a desire by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, expressed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a meeting at the White House on 21 December 1941, that Japan be bombed as soon as possible to boost public morale after the disaster at Pearl Harbor.[3]

Doolittle later recounted in his autobiography that the raid was intended to bolster American morale and to cause the Japanese to begin doubting their leadership, in which it succeeded:

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.[4]

The concept for the attack came from Navy Captain Francis Low, Assistant Chief of Staff for anti-submarine warfare, who reported to Admiral Ernest J. King on 10 January 1942 that he thought twin-engine Army bombers could be launched from an aircraft carrier, after observing several at a naval airfield in Norfolk, Virginia, where the runway was painted with the outline of a carrier deck for landing practice.[5] The attack was planned and led by Doolittle, a famous military test pilot, civilian aviator and aeronautical engineer before the war.

Requirements that the aircraft have a cruising range of 2,400 nautical miles (4,400 km) with a 2,000-pound (910 kg) bomb load resulted in the selection of the B-25B Mitchell to carry out the mission. The range of the Mitchell at the time was only about 1300 miles, so the bombers had to be heavily modified to hold nearly twice the normal fuel reserves. The Martin B-26 Marauder, Douglas B-18 Bolo and Douglas B-23 Dragon were also considered,[6] but the B-26 had questionable takeoff characteristics from a carrier deck and the B-23's wingspan was nearly 50% greater than the B-25's, reducing the number that could be taken aboard a carrier and posing risks to the ship's island (superstructure). The B-18, one of the final two types considered by Doolittle, was rejected for the same reason.[7]

The B-25 had yet to be tested in combat,[Note 1][8] but subsequent tests with B-25s indicated they could fulfill the mission's requirements. Doolittle's first report on the plan suggested the bombers might land in Vladivostok, shortening the flight by 600 nautical miles (1,100 km) on the basis of turning over the B-25s as Lend-Lease.[9] Negotiations with the Soviet Union for permission, which had signed a neutrality pact with Japan in April 1941, were fruitless.[10]

Bombers attacking defended targets often relied on a fighter escort to defend them from enemy fighters; not only did Doolittle's aircraft lack a full complement of guns to save weight, but it was not possible for fighters to accompany them.


Lt. Col. Doolittle wires a Japanese medal to a bomb, for "return" to its originators.

When planning indicated that the B-25 was the aircraft best meeting all specifications of the mission, two were loaded aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hornet at Norfolk, Virginia, and subsequently flown off the deck without difficulty on 3 February 1942.[11] The raid was immediately approved and the 17th Bomb Group (Medium) was chosen to provide the pool of crews from which volunteers would be recruited. The 17th BG had been the first group to receive B-25s, with all four of its squadrons equipped with the bomber by September 1941. The 17th not only was the first medium bomb group of the Army Air Corps, but in the spring of 1942 also had the most experienced B-25 crews. Its first assignment following the entry of the United States into the war was to the U.S. Eighth Air Force.[12]

The 17th BG, then flying antisubmarine patrols from Pendleton, Oregon, was immediately moved cross-country to Lexington County Army Air Base at Columbia, South Carolina, ostensibly to fly similar patrols off the East Coast of the United States but in actuality to prepare for the mission against Japan. The group officially transferred effective 9 February to Columbia, where its combat crews were offered the opportunity to volunteer for an "extremely hazardous" but unspecified mission. On 17 February the group was detached from the Eighth Air Force.

Initial planning called for 20 aircraft to fly the mission,[13] and 24 of the group's B-25B Mitchell bombers were diverted to the Mid-Continent Airlines modification center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. With support provided by two senior managers of Mid-Continent Airlines, Wold-Chamberlain Field's maintenance hangar was the first modification center to become operational. From nearby Fort Snelling, the 710th Military Police Battalion provided tight security around this hangar. Modifications included:

  • Removal of the lower gun turret
  • Installation of de-icers and anti-icers
  • Steel blast plates mounted on the fuselage around the upper turret
  • Removal of the liaison radio set (a weight impediment)
  • Installation of a 160-gallon collapsible neoprene auxiliary fuel tank fixed to the top of the bomb bay, and support mounts for additional fuel cells in the bomb bay, crawlway and lower turret area to increase fuel capacity from 646 to 1,141 U.S. gallons (538–950 imperial gallons; 2,445–4,319 L)
  • Mock gun barrels installed in the tail cone
  • Replacement of their Norden bombsight with a makeshift aiming sight devised by pilot Capt. Charles Ross Greening and called the "Mark Twain". The materials for the bombsight cost only 20 cents.[12]

Two bombers also had cameras mounted to record the results of bombing.[10] The 24 crews selected picked up the modified bombers in Minneapolis and flew them to Eglin Field, Florida, beginning 1 March 1942. There the crews received concentrated training for three weeks in simulated carrier deck takeoffs, low-level and night flying, low-altitude bombing and over-water navigation, primarily out of Wagner Field, Auxiliary Field 1. Lieutenant Henry Miller, USN, from nearby Naval Air Station Pensacola supervised their takeoff training and accompanied the crews to the launch. For his efforts, Lt. Miller is considered an honorary member of the Raider group.[14]

Doolittle stated in his after-action report that the crews reached a "safely operational" level of training despite several days when flying was not possible because of rain and fog. One aircraft was heavily damaged in a takeoff accident and another removed from the mission because of a nose wheel shimmy that could not be repaired in time.[10]

On 25 March 1942, the remaining 22 B-25s took off from Eglin for McClellan Field, California. They arrived two days later at the Sacramento Air Depot for final modifications. A total of 16 B-25s were subsequently flown to NAS Alameda, California, on 31 March. Fifteen raiders were the mission force and a 16th aircraft, by last-minute agreement with the Navy, was squeezed onto the deck to be flown off shortly after departure from San Francisco to provide feedback to the Army pilots about takeoff characteristics. The 16th bomber was made part of the mission force instead.

Participating aircraft

B-25 Mitchells aboard the USS Hornet during the raid

In order of launching, the 16 aircraft were:[14]

AAF serial # Nickname Sqdn Target Pilot Disposition
40-2344 Tokyo Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle crashed N Chuchow, China
40-2292 37th BS Tokyo Lt. Travis Hoover crashed Ningpo, China
40-2270 Whiskey Pete 95th BS Tokyo Lt. Robert M. Gray crashed SE Chuchow, China
40-2282 95th BS Tokyo Lt. Everett W. Holstrom crashed SE Shangjao, China
40-2283 95th BS Tokyo Capt. David M. Jones crashed SW Chuchow, China
40-2298 The Green Hornet 95th BS Tokyo Lt. Dean E. Hallmark ditched at sea Wenchu, China
40-2261 The Ruptured Duck 95th BS Tokyo Lt. Ted W. Lawson ditched at sea Shangchow, China
40-2242 95th BS Tokyo Capt. Edward J. York interned Primorsky Krai, USSR
40-2303 Whirling Dervish 34th BS Tokyo Lt. Harold F. Watson crashed S Nanchang, China
40-2250 89th RS Tokyo Lt. Richard O. Joyce crashed NE Chuchow, China
40-2249 Hari Kari-er 89th RS Yokohama Capt. Charles Ross Greening crashed NE Chuchow, China
40-2278 Fickle Finger of Fate 37th BS Yokohama Lt. William M. Bower crashed NE Chuchow, China
40-2247 The Avenger 37th BS Yokosuka Lt. Edgar E. McElroy crashed N Nanchang, China
40-2297 89th RS Nagoya Maj. John A. Hilger crashed SE Shangjao, China
40-2267 TNT 89th RS Kobe Lt. Donald G. Smith ditched at sea Shangchow, China
40-2268 Bat Out of Hell 34th BS Nagoya Lt. William G. Farrow crashed S Ningpo, China


B-25Bs on the USS Hornet en route to Japan

On 1 April 1942, the 16 modified bombers, their five-man crews and Army maintenance personnel, totaling 71 officers and 130 enlisted men,[13] were loaded onto the USS Hornet at Naval Air Station Alameda. Each aircraft carried four specially constructed 500-pound (225 kg) bombs. Three of these were high-explosive munitions and one was a bundle of incendiaries. The incendiaries were long tubes, wrapped together in order to be carried in the bomb bay, but designed to separate and scatter over a wide area after release. Five bombs had Japanese "friendship" medals wired to them—medals awarded by the Japanese government to U.S. servicemen before the war.[15] The bombers' armament was reduced to increase range by decreasing weight. Each bomber launched with two .50-caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns in an upper turret and a .30-caliber (7.62 mm) machine gun in the nose. The simulated gun barrels mounted in the tail cones, intended to discourage Japanese air attacks from behind, were cited afterward by Doolittle as being "particularly effective".[10] The aircraft were clustered closely and tied down on Hornet‍ '​s flight deck in the order of launch.

Orders in hand, Navy Capt. Marc A. Mitscher, skipper of the USS Hornet, chats with Lt. Col. James Doolittle.

Hornet and Task Force 18 left the port of Alameda at 10:00 on 2 April and a few days later rendezvoused with Task Force 16, commanded by Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr.—the carrier USS Enterprise and her escort of cruisers and destroyers in the mid-Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii. Enterprise‍ '​s fighters and scout planes provided protection for the entire task force in the event of a Japanese air attack, since Hornet‍ '​s fighters were stowed below decks to allow the B-25s to use the flight deck. The combined force was two carriers, three heavy cruisers, one light cruiser, eight destroyers and two fleet oilers. The escort ships—Salt Lake City, Northampton, Vincennes, Nashville, Balch, Fanning, Benham, Ellet, Gwin, Meredith, Grayson, Monssen, Cimarron and Sabine—then proceeded in radio silence. On the afternoon of 17 April, the slow oilers refueled the task force, then withdrew with the destroyers to the east while the carriers and cruisers dashed west at 20 kn (37 km/h; 23 mph) toward their intended launch point in enemy-controlled waters east of Japan.[16]

No.23 Nittō Maru sinking by USS Nashville
Doolittle's B-25 at launching, 18 April 1942.

At 07:38 on the morning of 18 April, while the task force was still about 650 nautical miles (1,200 km; 750 mi) from Japan (at approximately ), it was sighted by the Japanese picket boat No. 23 Nittō Maru, a 70-ton patrol craft, which radioed an attack warning to Japan.[17] The boat was sunk by gunfire from USS Nashville.[Note 2] The chief petty officer who captained the boat committed suicide rather than be captured, but five of the 11 crew survived when they were picked up by Nashville.[19] Doolittle and Hornet skipper Captain Marc Mitscher decided to launch the B-25s immediately—10 hours early and 170 nautical miles (310 km; 200 mi) farther from Japan than planned.[Note 3] After re-spotting to allow for engine start and runups, Doolittle's aircraft had 467 feet (142 m) of takeoff distance.[21] Although none of the B-25 pilots, including Doolittle, had ever taken off from a carrier before, all 16 aircraft launched safely between 08:20 and 09:19. (The 16th B-25 had been included only as a reserve, intended to fly along as an observation and photographic platform, but when surprise was compromised, Doolittle decided to use all 16 aircraft in the attack.)[22]

The B-25s then flew toward Japan, most in groups of two to four aircraft before flying single file at wave-top level to avoid detection.[23] The aircraft began arriving over Japan about noon Tokyo time, six hours after launch, and bombed 10 military and industrial targets in Tokyo, two in Yokohama and one each in Yokosuka, Nagoya, Kobe and Osaka. Although some B-25s encountered light antiaircraft fire and a few enemy fighters over Japan, no bomber was shot down. Only the B-25 of Lt. Richard O. Joyce received any battle damage, minor hits from antiaircraft fire.[21] B-25 No. 4, piloted by Lt. Everett W. Holstrom, jettisoned its bombs before reaching its target when it came under attack by fighters after its gun turret malfunctioned.[24] At least one Japanese fighter was shot down by the gunners of the Whirling Dervish, piloted by Lieutenant Harold Watson. Two other fighters were shot down by the gunners of the Hari Kari-er, piloted by Ross Greening. Many military targets were strafed by the bombers' nose gunners.

Fifteen of the sixteen aircraft then proceeded southwest along the southern coast of Japan and across the East China Sea toward eastern China, where several fields in Zhejiang province were supposed to be ready to guide them in using homing beacons, then recover and refuel them for continuing on to Chongqing, the wartime Kuomintang capital.[13] The primary base was at Zhuzhou, toward which all the aircraft navigated, but Halsey never sent the planned signal to alert them, apparently because of a possible threat to the task force. One B-25, piloted by Capt. Edward J. York, was extremely low on fuel, and headed instead for the closer Soviet Union.

The raiders faced several unforeseen challenges during their flight to China: night was approaching, the aircraft were running low on fuel and the weather was rapidly deteriorating. None would have reached China if not for a tail wind as they came off the target, which increased their ground speed by 25 kn (46 km/h; 29 mph) for seven hours.[25] The crews realized they would probably not be able to reach their intended bases in China, leaving them the option of either bailing out over eastern China or crash-landing along the Chinese coast.[10][Note 4] Fifteen aircraft reached the Chinese coast after 13 hours of flight and crash-landed or the crews bailed out; the crew who flew to the Soviet Union landed 40 miles (65 km) beyond Vladivostok, where their B-25 was confiscated and the crew interned. It was the longest combat mission ever flown by the B-25 Mitchell medium bomber, averaging approximately 2,250 nautical miles (4,170 km). Although York and his crew were well-treated, diplomatic attempts to return them to the United States ultimately failed. Eventually they were relocated to Ashgabat, 20 miles (32 km) from the Iranian border, and York managed to "bribe" a smuggler, who helped them cross the border and reach a nearby British consulate on 11 May 1943.[1][2] The smuggling was actually staged by the NKVD, according to declassified Soviet archives, because the Soviet government was unable to repatriate them legally in the face of the neutrality pact with Japan.[26]

Doolittle and his crew, after parachuting into China, received assistance from Chinese soldiers and civilians as well as John Birch, an American missionary in China. As did the others who participated in the mission, Doolittle had to bail out but fortunately landed in a heap of dung (saving a previously injured ankle from breaking) in a paddy in China near Quzhou. Doolittle felt the raid had been a terrible failure because all the aircraft were lost, and he expected to be court-martialed on his return.[27] He subsequently recommended Birch for intelligence work with Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers.

One crewman, Corporal Leland D. Faktor, flight engineer/gunner with Gray, was killed during his bailout attempt over China, the only man in that crew to be lost. Two crews (10 men) were missing.


Fate of the missing crewmen

Lt. Col. Doolittle with members of his flight crew and Chinese officials in China after the attack. From left to right: Staff Sgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; Staff Sgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner; General Ho, director of the Branch Government of Western Chekiang Province; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Doolittle; Henry H. Shen, bank manager; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; Chao Foo Ki, secretary of the Western Chekiang Province Branch Government.

Following the Doolittle Raid, most of the B-25 crews who had reached China eventually achieved safety with the help of Chinese civilians and soldiers. Of the sixteen planes and 80 airmen who participated in the raid (with the single exception of Capt. Edward York and his crew (eighth off—AC #40-2242), which landed in Russia and the crew interned), all either crash-landed, were ditched or crashed after their crews bailed-out. Nevertheless, 69 escaped capture or death, with only three [30]

Accounted for as KIA shortly after the raid was Cpl. Leland D. Faktor, the flight engineer/gunner on Lt. Robert M. Gray's crew, (third off—AC #40-2270). The citation for his posthumous [29][31]

The crews of two aircraft (ten men in total) were unaccounted for: Hallmark's crew (sixth off) and Farrow's crew (last off). On 15 August 1942, the United States learned from the Swiss Consulate General in Shanghai that eight of the missing crew members were prisoners of the Japanese at the city's Police Headquarters. Two crewmen drowned after crash-landing in the ocean. On 19 October 1942, the Japanese announced that they had tried the eight prisoners and sentenced them all to death, but said several had received commutation of their sentences to life imprisonment. No names or details were given.

The story of the missing crews was revealed in February 1946 during a Jacob DeShazer. On 28 August 1942, pilot Hallmark, pilot Farrow, and gunner Spatz faced a war crimes trial by a Japanese court alleging they strafed and murdered Japanese civilians. At 16:30 on 15 October 1942, they were taken by truck to Public Cemetery Number 1, and executed by firing squad.

Robert L. Hite, blindfolded by his captors, 1942

The other captured airmen remained in military confinement on a starvation diet, their health rapidly deteriorating. In April 1943, they were moved to Nanking, where Meder died on 1 December 1943. The remaining men, Nielsen, Hite, Barr and DeShazer, eventually began receiving slightly better treatment and were given a copy of the Bible and a few other books. They were freed by American troops in August 1945. Four Japanese officers were tried for war crimes against the captured Doolittle Raiders, found guilty, and sentenced to hard labor, three for five years and one for nine years. DeShazer graduated from Seattle Pacific University in 1948 and returned to Japan as a missionary, where he served for over 30 years.[32]

Total crew casualties: 3 KIA: 2 off the coast of China, 1 in China; 8 POW: 3 executed, 1 died in captivity, 4 repatriated.[28][29][30][33] Of the surviving prisoners, Barr died of heart failure in 1967, Nielsen in 2007, DeShazer on 15 March 2008, and the last, Hite, died 29 March 2015.

Service of the returning crewmen

Immediately following the raid, Doolittle told his crew that he believed the loss of all 16 aircraft, coupled with the relatively minor damage to targets, had rendered the attack a failure, and that he expected a court-martial upon his return to the United States. Instead, the raid bolstered American morale to such an extent that Doolittle was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Roosevelt, and was promoted two grades to brigadier General, skipping the rank of colonel. When General Doolittle toured the growing Eglin Field facility in July 1942 with commanding officer Col. Grandison Gardner, the local paper of record (the Okaloosa News-Journal, Crestview, Florida), while reporting his presence, made no mention of his still-secret recent training at Eglin. He went on to command the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa, the Fifteenth Air Force in the Mediterranean, and the Eighth Air Force in England during the next three years.

Corporal David J. Thatcher (a flight engineer/gunner on Lawson's crew) and 1st Lt. Thomas R. White (flight surgeon/gunner with Smith) each received the Silver Star for helping the wounded crew members of Lt. Lawson's crew to evade Japanese troops in China. All 80 Raiders were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and those who were killed or wounded during the raid awarded the Purple Heart. Every Doolittle Raider was also decorated by the Chinese government.

Twenty-eight of the crewmen remained in the China Burma India theater, flying missions, most for more than a year. Five were killed in action. Nineteen crew members flew combat missions from North Africa after returning to the United States, four of whom were killed in action and four becoming prisoners of war. Nine crew members served in the European Theater of Operations; one was killed in action. Altogether 12 of the survivors died in air crashes within 15 months of the raid. Two survivors were separated from the USAAF in 1944 due to the severity of their injuries.[1]

The 17th Bomb Group, from which the Doolittle Raiders had been recruited, received replacement crews and transferred to Barksdale Army Air Field in June 1942, where it converted to Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers. In November 1942 it deployed overseas to North Africa, where it operated in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations with the Twelfth Air Force for the remainder of the war.

Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign

After the raid, the Japanese Imperial Army began the Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign (also known as Operation Sei-go) in order to prevent these eastern coastal provinces of China from being used again for an attack on Japan. All airfields within a range of some 20,000 sq mi (50,000 km2) in the areas where the Raiders had landed were torn up.[34] Germ warfare was used and atrocities committed, and those found with American items were shot. The Japanese killed an estimated 10,000 Chinese civilians during their search for Doolittle's men.[35] Some estimates are that as many as 250,000 Chinese were killed during the campaign.


1942 US newsreel about the raid

Compared with the future devastating Boeing B-29 Superfortress attacks against Japan, the Doolittle raid did little material damage, and all of it was easily repaired. Eight primary and five secondary targets were struck. In Tokyo, the targets included an oil tank farm, a steel mill, and several power plants. In Yokosuka, at least one bomb from the B-25 piloted by Lt. Edgar E. McElroy struck the nearly completed light carrier Ryūhō,[21] delaying her launch until November. Six schools and an army hospital were also hit. Japanese officials reported the two aircraft whose crews were captured had struck their targets.[36]

Despite the minimal damage inflicted, American morale, still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor and Japan's subsequent territorial gains, soared when news of the raid was released.[37] The Japanese press was told to describe the attack as a cruel, indiscriminate bombing against civilians, women and children. For years before Pearl Harbor, there had been mock air raid drills in every Japanese city,[Note 5] although China's air force was almost nonexistent; this may have been part of the process of keeping warlike emotion at a high pitch.[39]

The Japanese Navy attempted to locate and pursue the American task force. The Second Fleet, its main striking force, was near Taiwan, returning from the Indian Ocean Raid to refit and replace its air losses. Spearheaded by five aircraft carriers and its best naval aircraft and aircrews, the Second Fleet was immediately ordered to locate and destroy the U.S. carrier force, but failed to do so.[40][41]

The Imperial Japanese Navy also bore a special responsibility for allowing an American aircraft carrier force to approach the Japanese Home Islands in a manner similar to the IJN fleet to Hawaii in 1941, and permitting it to escape undamaged.[Note 6] The fact that medium, normally land-based bombers carried out the attack confused the IJN's high command. This confusion and the knowledge that Japan was now vulnerable to air attack strengthened Yamamoto's resolve to capture Midway Island, resulting in a decisive Japanese defeat at the Battle of Midway.[43][44][45]

"It was hoped that the damage done would be both material and psychological. Material damage was to be the destruction of specific targets with ensuing confusion and retardation of production. The psychological results, it was hoped, would be the recalling of combat equipment from other theaters for home defense thus effecting relief in those theaters, the development of a fear complex in Japan, improved relationships with our Allies, and a favorable reaction on the American people." —General James H. Doolittle, 9 July 1942[10][46]


WWII Army veteran George A. McCalpin (right) talking to Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole (seated) about McCalpin's cousin, raider Sgt. William 'Billy Jack' Dieter, at the 66th anniversary at the University of Texas at Dallas in April 2008.
Major Tom Griffin's signature on a B-25 operated by the Tri-State Warbird Museum

The Doolittle Raiders held an annual reunion almost every year from the late 1940s to 2013. The high point of each reunion was a solemn, private ceremony in which the surviving Raiders performed a roll call, then toasted their fellow Raiders who had died during the previous year. Specially engraved silver goblets, one for each of the 80 Raiders, were used for this toast; the goblets of those who have died were inverted. Each Raider's name was engraved on his goblet both right side up and upside down. The Raiders drank a toast using a bottle of cognac that accompanied the goblets to each Raider reunion.[47] In 2013 the remaining Raiders decided to hold their last public reunion at Fort Walton Beach, Florida, not far from Eglin Air Force Base, where they trained for the original mission. The bottle and the goblets had been maintained by the United States Air Force Academy on display in Arnold Hall, the cadet social center, until 2006. On 19 April 2006, these memorabilia were transferred to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.[48]

On 18 April 2013, a final reunion for the surviving Raiders was held at Eglin Air Force Base, with Robert Hite the only survivor unable to attend.[49]

The "final toast to fallen comrades" by the surviving raiders took place at the NMUSAF on 9 November 2013, preceded by a B-25 flyover, and was attended by Richard Cole, Edward Saylor and David Thatcher.[50]

17 B-25s forming up over Wright Field at Wright-Patterson AFB Dayton, Ohio, 18 April 2012.
Doolittle fly over Museum of United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio, 18 April 2012.

Surviving airmen

  1. Colonel Richard E. Cole, copilot of aircraft No. 1 [51]
  2. Staff Sergeant David J. Thatcher, gunner of aircraft No. 7[52]

Seven other men, including Lt. Miller and raider historian Col. Carroll V. Glines, are considered honorary Raiders for their efforts for the mission.[53]

Colonel Bill Bower, the last surviving Doolittle raider full pilot, died on 10 January 2011 at age 93 in Boulder, Colorado.[54][55] Lieutenant Colonel Edward Saylor, the then-enlisted engineer/gunner of aircraft No. 15 during the raid, died on Wednesday, 28 January 2015 of natural causes at his home in Sumner, Washington.[56] Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Hite,[57] copilot of the plane piloted by Lt. William G. Farrow, died in a nursing home at the age of 95 on 29 March 2015. Colonel Richard Cole and Staff Sergeant David J. Thatcher are the last surviving Doolittle Raiders.[58][59]


The United States Navy named the aircraft carrier USS Shangri-La, after the fictional place, as a reference to the Doolittle Raid. President Roosevelt had answered a reporter's question by saying that the raid had come from "Shangri-La", which was the name of the mysterious place of perpetual youth in the Himalayas in the popular book and movie of the time, Lost Horizon.[60][61]

Doolittle Raiders exhibit

NMUSAF Doolittle Raid exhibit. The engine shrouds cover the dissimilar engine exhausts of the 'D' model which varied from the 'B' models flown on the raid.

The most extensive display of Doolittle Raid memorabilia is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force (on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) in Dayton, Ohio. The centerpiece is a like-new B-25, which is painted and marked as Doolittle's aircraft, 40-2344, (although built as an F-10D photo reconnaissance version of the B-25D). The bomber, which North American Aviation presented to the Raiders in 1958, rests on a reproduction of Hornet‍ '​s flight deck. Several authentically dressed mannequins surround the aircraft, including representations of Doolittle, Hornet Captain Marc Mitscher, and groups of Army and Navy men loading the bomber's bombs and ammunition. Also exhibited are the silver goblets used by the Raiders at each of their annual reunions, pieces of flight clothing and personal equipment, a parachute used by one of the Raiders in his bailout over China, and group photographs of all 16 crews, and other items.

Raiders' goblets

A fragment of the wreckage of one of the aircraft, and the medals awarded to Doolittle, are on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The last B-25 to be retired from the U.S. Air Force inventory is displayed at the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin AFB in the markings of Gen. Doolittle's aircraft.[62]

The 2006 Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor on Ford Island, Oahu, Hawaii, also has a 1942 exhibit in which the centerpiece is a restored B-25 in the markings of "The Ruptured Duck" used on the Doolittle Raid.[63]

The San Marcos, Texas, chapter of the Commemorative Air Force has in its museum the armor plate from the pilot seat of the B-25 Doolittle flew in the raid.

Doolittle Raiders reenactment

The restored World War II B-25 "Heavenly Body" takes off from the deck of Ranger

On 21 April 1992, in harmony with other World War II 50th Anniversary commemorations 1992-1995, USS Ranger participated in the commemorative re-enactment of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, Japan, with 1,500 guests including several Raiders and VIP military veterans. Four World War II–era B-25 bombers were craned on board at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, Calif., and took off under their own power 5 miles off Point Loma. Bradley Grose (event producer) proposed the reenactment idea to General Jimmy Doolittle in 1989 and was referred to General Knobloch of the Doolittle Raiders Association. With help from V/Admiral William Houser — who was a member of task Force 16 — Pentagon wheels began turning. General Mick Kicklighter who was head of Department of Defense WWII 50th Anniversary Commemorative Committees also got behind the idea of a reenactment. In January 1992 — Grose received word that the reenactment "concept" was approved by DoD. The assignment was turned over to Naval Air Force U.S. Pacific Fleet NAS North Island in San Diego. Pentagon JAG flew out to NAS North Island where the runways were marked off in increments of 500 feet. Four World War II North American B-25 bombers had to prove they could take off in under 500 feet. The B-25's were: Heavenly Body, In the Mood, Pacific Princess, and Executive Suite. Of the four B-25's — "Heavenly Body" and "In The Mood" were selected to be craned onboard Ranger dockside. The Navy and civilian team had three months to organize the event — about the same amount of time as the original Raid.

Congressional Gold Medal

On 19 May 2014, the United States House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 1209, a bill that would award the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders a Congressional Gold Medal for "outstanding heroism, valor, skill, and service to the United States in conducting the bombings of Tokyo."[64][65] The award ceremony took place at the Capitol Building on 15 April 2015 with retired Air Force Lieutenant General John Hudson, the Director of the National Museum of the Air Force, accepting the award on behalf of the Doolittle Raiders.

Popular culture


The raid inspired several films. The 1943 RKO film Bombardier starred Randolph Scott and Pat O'Brien. The climax of this movie is an attack on Japan by a group of B-17s.

A highly fictionalized film in 1943, Destination Tokyo starring Cary Grant, tangentially involved the raid, concentrating on the fictional submarine USS Copperfin. The submarine's mission is to enter Tokyo Bay undetected and place a landing party ashore to obtain weather information vital to the upcoming Doolittle raid. The film suggests the raid did not launch until up-to-the-minute data was received. All the after-action reports indicated the raid launched without time for weather briefings because of the encounter with the picket ships.[10]

The Doolittle Raid was the subject of the 1944 feature film, Thirty Seconds over Tokyo, based on a book of the same title by Doolittle Raider pilot Captain Ted W. Lawson, who was seriously injured in a crash landing off the coast of China. Spencer Tracy played Doolittle and Van Johnson portrayed Lawson. Footage from the film was later used for the opening scenes of Midway and in the TV miniseries War and Remembrance.

The Purple Heart, made in 1944, starring Dana Andrews, was a fictional depiction based on a Japanese war crimes trial of captured American airmen from the Doolittle Raid.

The 2001 film Pearl Harbor (with Alec Baldwin playing Doolittle) presented a heavily fictionalized version of the raid. The film utilized the retired World War II aircraft carrier USS Lexington in Corpus Christi, Texas, to stand in for a Japanese carrier, while the aircraft were launched from the USS Constellation, standing in for the USS Hornet from which the Doolittle Raid was launched. The film's portrayal of the planning of the raid, the air raid itself, and the raid's aftermath, is not historically accurate.[66][67]

A VHS video with contemporary footage of Doolittle and the flight preparations, along with the B-25s launching, is DeShazer, the story of missionary Sergeant Jake DeShazer of B-25 No. 16 (the last to launch from the Hornet). The video is based on "The Amazing Story of Sergeant Jacob De Shazer: The Doolittle Raider Who Turned Missionary by C. Hoyt Watson. At the end of both the video and the book, DeShazer after the war meets Mitsuo Fuchida, the commander and lead pilot of the Pearl Harbor attack.


Many books have been written about the Doolittle Raid:

  • Doolittle's Tokyo Raiders, by C. V. Glines - tells the complete story of the raid, including the unique experiences of each B-25 crew.
  • Guests of the Kremlin, by copilot Bob Emmens - describes his crew's adventures as internees in The Soviet Union after their landing in that country following the raid.
  • Four Came Home, also by C. V. Glines - tells the story of Nielsen, Hite, Barr, and DeShazer, the Raiders who were held in POW camps for over three years.
  • The First Heroes by Craig Nelson - goes into great detail of the events leading up to the raid and the aftermath for all the pilots and their families.
  • Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, by Captain Ted W. Lawson - a pilot who participated in the raid, focuses on the experiences of himself and his crew. It describes the training, the mission, his plane's crash just off the coast of China, the help he and his crew received from the Chinese in making their escape from Japanese-held territory, and the eventual loss of his leg, injured in the crash and amputated by the mission's flight surgeon. A popular film based on the book was released in 1944.
  • Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid That Avenged Pearl Harbor, by James M. Scott (2015) - based on scores of never-before-published records drawn from archives across four continents as well as new interviews with survivors.



  1. ^ The first bombing mission by B-25s preceded the Doolittle Raid by only 12 days. On 6 April 1942, six Mitchells of the 3rd Bomb Group bombed Gasmata, New Britain, followed on 12 and 13 April by two days of sorties against Cebu City and Davao in the Philippines. The Third Bomb Group staged 10 Mitchells through Darwin, Australia to Mindanao for the latter.
  2. ^ The order to Nashville did not go out until 07:52. Heavy seas made hitting the picket boat difficult even with rapid fire, and it was not sunk until 08:23.[18]
  3. ^ Doolittle, first off, was 610 nautical miles (1,100 km; 700 mi) from Tokyo at launch, while Farrow, last off, was 600 nautical miles (1,100 km; 690 mi) from landfall.[20]
  4. ^ Doolittle's after-action report stated that some B-25s were heard overflying the bases but, because the Chinese had not been alerted to the attack, they assumed it was a Japanese air raid.
  5. ^ An air raid drill took place in Tokyo on the morning of the raid.[38]
  6. ^ The Japanese, through a small amount of intercepted radio traffic between Halsey and Mitscher, were aware that an American carrier force was at large in the Western Pacific Ocean and could possibly attack Japan.[42]


  1. ^ a b c "Eighty Brave Men." Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Memorial site of Richard O. Joyce. Retrieved 17 February 2008.
  2. ^ a b Glines 1998, pp. 166–168.
  3. ^ Glines 1998, p. 10.
  4. ^ Doolittle and Glines 1991, pp. 1–2.
  5. ^ Glines 1998, p. 13.
  6. ^ Glines 1998, p. 19.
  7. ^ Glines 1998, pp. 19–20.
  8. ^ Martin and Stephenson 2008, pp. 174, 182–183.
  9. ^ Glines 1998, p. 27.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "General Doolittle's report on raid, 9 July 1942." Hyper War. Retrieved 19 June 2007.
  11. ^ Glines 1998, p. 22.
  12. ^ a b Craven and Cate 1948, p. 439.
  13. ^ a b c Craven and Cate 1948, p. 440.
  14. ^ a b "Memorial site of Richard O. Joyce." Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. Retrieved 23 October 2010.
  15. ^ Coletta 1993, pp. 73–86.
  16. ^ Glines 1998, p. 63.
  17. ^ Chun 2006, p. 45.
  18. ^ Glines 1988, p. 70.
  19. ^ Glines 1998, p. 71.
  20. ^ Glines 1988, p. 71.
  21. ^ a b c Craven and Cate 1948, p. 442.
  22. ^ Watson 1950, p. 17.
  23. ^ Watson 1950, p. 20.
  24. ^ Glines 1998, p. 94.
  25. ^ Glines 1998, pp. 81, 91.
  26. ^ Roshchupkin, Vladimir. "Секретная миссия подполковника Дулиттла" (in Russian). NRC Magazine: The Guardian, 6 February 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  27. ^ Doolittle and Glines 1991, p. 12.
  28. ^ a b "Japs execute 3 Doolittle Flyers." Lodi News-Sentinel, 27 September 1945, p. 4, col 5.
  29. ^ a b c Shepherd, Joel. "1942 - Doolittle Raid Aircrews." USS Enterprise CV-6, 15 February 2014.
  30. ^ a b "The Doolittle Raid (CV-8)." USS Hornet Museum. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  31. ^ "Faktor, Leland Dale (Doolittle Raid), Cpl.", 15 February 2014.
  32. ^ DeShazer Dixon, Carol Aiko. "Return of the Raider: A Doolittle Raider's Story of War and Forgiveness.", 2010.
  33. ^ "We didn't know to be afraid: Five surviving vets from daring WWII Doolittle Raid on Tokyo gather on the 70th anniversary and remember the 75 who have died." Daily Mail, 17 April 2012.
  34. ^ Chang 1997, p. 189.
  35. ^ Yamamoto, 2000, p. 166.
  36. ^ Shepherd, Joel. "USS Enterprise CV-6: The most decorated ship of the Second World War." Retrieved 19 April 2010.
  37. ^ Glines 1998, p. 219.
  38. ^ Glines 1988, p. 77.
  39. ^ Chun 2006, p. 84.
  40. ^ Glines 1988, pp. 75–76.
  41. ^ Craven and Cate 1948, p. 441.
  42. ^ Glines 1998, pp. 60–62.
  43. ^ Glines 1998, p. 218.
  44. ^ Prange et al. 1982, pp. 22–26.
  45. ^ Gill 1968, p. 24.
  46. ^ Glines 1998, pp. 215–216.
  47. ^ Rightmyer, Don. "A Gut Check of Sorts: The Doolittle Brandy." USAFA Class of 1973. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  48. ^ " 'Doolittle Goblets' Find New Home." Department of Defense News. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  49. ^ Nelson-Gabriel, Melissa. "Doolittle Raiders hold final reunion.", 15 February 2014.
  50. ^ Kenney, Jerry. "Doolittle Raiders Offer Final Toast To 71-Year-Old Mission." NPR. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  51. ^ Joyce, Todd. "Richard E. Cole, 0-421602, Colonel, Co-Pilot Crew 1.", 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  52. ^ Joyce, Todd. "David J. Thatcher, 19019573, Staff Sergeant, Engineer-Gunner Crew 7.", 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
  53. ^ Joyce, Todd. "80 Brave Men: The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Roster." The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, 10 December 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2009.
  54. ^ "Col. William Marsh 'Bill' Bower, February 13, 1917 – January 10, 2011." Camera (newspaper), 12 January 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  55. ^ Rees Shapiro, T. "Bill Bower, last surviving bomber pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, dies at 93." Washington Post, 15 January 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  56. ^ Chawkins, Steve. "Edward Saylor dies at 94; Doolittle Raider who flew risky WWII raid." Los Angeles Times, 2 February 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  57. ^
  58. ^ "Lt. Col. Robert Hite, of 'Doolittle Tokyo Raiders,' dead at 95.", 30 March 2015.
  59. ^ Roberts, Sam."Robert Hite, 95, Ssurvivor of Doolittle Raid and Japanese imprisonment, dies." The New York Times, 31 March 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
  60. ^ "A Short History." U.S.S. Shangri-La. Retrieved 23 October 2010.
  61. ^ "He Flew From 'Shangri-La' to Bomb Tokyo." The War Illustrated, 6 August 1943.
  62. ^ Special, "B-25 Makes Last Flight During Ceremony at Eglin", Playground News, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Thursday 26 May 1960, Volume 15, Number "17" (actually No. 18), page 2.
  63. ^ "B-25 Mitchell." Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  64. ^ "H.R. 1209 - Summary." United States Congress. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  65. ^ Marcos, Cristina. "House votes to award medals to 'Monuments Men,' Jack Nicklaus." The Hill, 19 May 2014.
  66. ^ Gutthman, Edward. "'Pearl' - Hyped, yet promising / Movie to honor vets, nation's wartime spirit." MyUSA, 7 December 2000.
  67. ^ Heines, Vivienne. "Bringing 'Pearl Harbor' To Corpus Christi.", 1 August 2000.


  • Chang, Iris. The Rape of Nanking. New York: Basic Books, 1997. ISBN 0-465-06835-9.
  • Chun, Clayton K.S. The Doolittle Raid 1942: America's First Strike Back at Japan (Campaign: 16). Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2006. ISBN 1-84176-918-5.
  • Coletta, Paolo. "Launching the Doolittle Raid on Japan, April 18, 1942". The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 63, No. 1, February 1993.
  • Craig, John S. Peculiar Liaisons: In War, Espionage, and Terrorism in the Twentieth Century. New York: Algora Publishing, 2004. ISBN 978-0-87586-331-3.
  • Craven, Wesley Frank and James Lea Cate, series editors. "Chapter 12: Drawing the Battle Line in the Pacific". .Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. I: Plans and Early Operations, January 1939 to August 1942 Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948. (Air Force Historical Studies Office internet edition.)
  • Culbertson, Charles. Forgotten Hero: The Story of Jack Manch, 30 Seconds Over Tokyo and the Self-Sacrifice of An American Warrior. Staunton, Virginia: Clarion Publishing, 2013. ISBN 978-1493501847.
  • Doolittle, James H. and Carroll V. Glines. I Could Never Be So Lucky Again: An Autobiography. New York: Bantam Books, 1991. ISBN 0-553-58464-2.
  • Emmens, Robert G. Guests of the Kremlin. San Rafael, California: Ishi Press International, 2007. ISBN 0-923891-81-1.
  • Gill, G. Hermon. "Volume II – Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945." Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1968.
  • Glines, Carroll V. The Doolittle Raid: America's Daring First Strike Against Japan. New York: Orion Books, 1988. ISBN 0-88740-347-6
  • ———— Doolittle's Tokyo Raiders. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1981, First edition 1968. ISBN 978-0-44202-726-1.
  • ———— Four Came Home: The Gripping Story of the Survivors of Jimmy Doolittle's Two Lost Crews . New York: Van Nostrad Reinhold, 1981, First edition 1966. ISBN 978-1-57510-007-4.
  • Glover, Charles E. "Jimmy Doolittle's One Moment in Time." The Palm Beach Post, 18 April 1992.
  • Lawson, Ted W. and Robert Considine, ed.Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. New York: Random House, Inc., 1943.
  • Martin, Adrian R., and Larry W. Stephenson. Operation Plum: The Ill-fated 27th Bombardment Group and the Fight For the Western Pacific. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 2008. ISBN 1-60344-019-4.
  • Nelson, Craig. The First Heroes: The Extraordinary Story of the Doolittle Raid—America's First World War II Victory. London: Penguin Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0-14-200341-1.
  • Oxford, Edward. "Against All Odds: B-25 Bombers Strike Japan in 1942." American History Illustrated, March–April 1992.
  • Prange, Gordon W., Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon. Miracle at Midway. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982. ISBN 0-07-050672-8.
  • Tillman, Barrett. Enterprise: America's Fightingest Ship and the Men Who Helped win World War II. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4391-9087-6.
  • Watson, Charles Hoyt. DeShazer: The Doolittle Raider Who Turned Missionary. Winona Lake, Indiana: The Light and Life Press, 1950.
  • Yamamoto, Masahiro. Nanking: Anatomy of an Atrocity. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2000. ISBN 978-0-2759-6904-2.

External links

  • Official Doolittle Raiders site
  • Other Official Doolittle Raiders site
  • Official historian of the Doolittle raid, Carroll V. Glines talks about the raid
  • A film clip of Doolittle Raid is available for free download at the Internet Archive
  • POW, Nippon News, No. 125. in the official website of NHK.
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