â€œTHIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO â€“ 70TH REUNION OF DOOLITTLEâ€™S RAIDERSâ€ (#1)
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[Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, April 18, 2012. Shown are twenty vintage B-25 â€œMitchellâ€ bombers participating in the flyover that afternoon, exactly 70 years after Doolittle's Raid. I edited this photo to "suggest" what it might have looked like in movie theaters in 1942 and to people on the ground, who would have been milling around without a clue of what was about to happen.]
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, America faced a grim and uncertain future. The national mood darkened.
The United States Army Air Force (USAAF) proposed a bold and daring bombing raid on Japan to improve the national morale. Such a raid would also demonstrate that the Japanese homeland was not immune to attack.
Under the proposal, an aircraft carrier would enter the Japanese defensive perimeter and launch its aircraft toward several selected targets, including Tokyo. The planes â€“ medium bombers â€“ would not return to the carrier but would, instead, land in China where their crews would be sheltered by Chinese allies.
Under the leadership of Lt. Col. (later Gen.) Jimmy H. Doolittle, sixteen (16) B-25 â€œMitchellsâ€ and eighty pilots and crew were assembled for the mission on board the U.S.S. Hornet, which had a flight deck of 500 feet. However, the â€œDoolittle Raiders,â€ as they came to be called, were confident that their aircraft could takeoff from such a short runway.
On April 18, 1942, the Hornet was spotted by a Japanese ship, part of the Japanese â€œpicket line.â€ Still hundreds of miles from their launch point, Col. Doolittle made the decision to â€œgo,â€ even though it meant that the planes would not have the fuel to reach Chinese landing fields.
The Hornet turned into the wind and the sixteen bombers and their crews of eighty men took off. All sixteen bombers delivered their payloads and completed their runs.
Doolittleâ€™s Raiders crash-landed and some ditched in the sea. Of the eighty men, several were killed on impact, and others drowned. A handful were captured and executed by the Japanese. The large majority made their way back to friendly lines, thanks to the Chinese.
Doolittleâ€™s Raiders did not return to the United States for a USO tour. Those who were fit to fly continued to do so. Many saw action in Africa and Europe, and four Raiders were captured by the Germans.
After the Second World War, Gen. Doolittle began hosting an annual reunion of the Raiders. And every year, the Raiders reassemble to remember that day, so long ago, when these young men literally threw caution to the wind in the defense of their nation. Yes, this was the "greatest generation."
For more information, I highly recommend "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" (1944), starring Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson. You will enjoy it!
As always, thanks for stopping by!
Also by Richard Knight
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