Doolittle Raiders – 71 Years After Their Historic Tokyo Raid
Holding a copy of the May 2013 issue of Armchair General are three of the famed Doolittle Tokyo Raiders of World War II. They are standing in front of a WWII B-25 Mitchell medium bomber, the same type of aircraft the men flew on their historic April 1942 mission. This plane is one of 4 B-25s flying out of Destin, Florida, airport that were present for the Doolittle Raiders’ April 2013 reunion at Fort Walton Beach. This photo was taken 71 years plus 1 day after 16 B-25s carrying these three and the 77 other Doolittle Raiders took off from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet on their heroic mission undertaken during America’s darkest days of World War II.
After the December 7, 1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was decimated and America was thrust into war. Island by island, country by country, Japanese air, naval and land forces proceeded to invade and conquer the Philippines and Southeast Asia. They appeared to be unstoppable. America was losing the war it had just entered. American fortunes – and morale – were at their lowest ebb.
In the first joint operation by the U.S. Army Air Forces and the U.S. Navy, on April 18, 1942, sixteen B-25B Mitchell bombers hurled into the sky from the pitching flight deck of USS Hornet. The fleet had been spotted by a Japanese radio-equipped fishing vessel and, assuming the American ships’ position had been reported, the decision was made to launch the bombers 200 nautical miles farther from the Japanese mainland than planned. This made the likelihood of the Raiders landing safely in China highly questionable.
Led by then Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, eighty men flew on to bomb targets on the Japanese mainland. While doing very little actual damage, the raid was extremely successful in that it gave the American people a much needed morale boost while forcing Japanese leaders to rethink their plans and reposition Japan’s forces to defend their homeland. (See Battlefield Leader, “Jimmy Doolittle’s Extraordinary Life,” July 2006 ACG)
All of the men who took part in the Doolittle Raid were volunteers. They were told that at best they would have a fifty-fifty chance of surviving a dangerous mission, but still they volunteered. Each one exemplified the best that is an American, the willingness to put their lives on the line to ensure freedom.
Now famed as the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, the surviving airmen met this past April 18 to mark the raid’s 71st anniversary. Sadly, however, this was the last of such reunions. Of the 80 men who took part in the raid, only four remain and only three of those are well enough to travel.
ACG’s APPEAL – THE RAIDERS NEED YOUR HELP!
Efforts are currently underway to honor these American heroes by obtaining the Congressional Gold Medal for these brave veterans. “This effort is much more involved than you would think,” reported Brian Anderson, Doolittle Raiders association Sergeant at Arms who is spearheading the project. Although the necessary legislation has been started – Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio initiated Senate Bill S.381 and Congressman Pete Olson from Texas initiated H.R.1209 – each bill requires two-thirds of its respective members (in both the Senate and the House) to become co-sponsors in order to bring it to the floor for a vote.
Therefore, ACG appeals for YOUR help to move this legislation forward to recognize the Doolittle Raiders’ courage and sacrifice with the Congressional Gold Medal. Please visit doolittleraider.com for more information and direct links to contact your Senators and Representative and urge them to sign on as co-sponsors.