America was thrust into war when Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. It might not have been apparent at the time, but the task of defeating the Japanese was one of the greatest endeavors of America’s 165-year history. After Roosevelt’s declaration of war on December 8, the military went to work on how best to defeat the Japanese.

The situation was glum in the first few months of the war. The enemy  scored significant victories and had Allied forces on the run in both the Pacific and the European theaters. On January 2, 1942, Manila fell to the Japanese. Japan was bearing down hard on the Allies on Corregidor and Bataan. Rommel was fully entrenched in North Africa and the German army was planning a new offensive on the Russian front. Moreover, America had only a shadow of a navy left after the attack at Pearl Harbor. Also, the Air force had lost all of its planes in the Philippines when they were destroyed on the ground during a second Japanese attack on Dec 8, 1941.[1]  Morale was low. Something was needed to spark the American spirit both at home and among her fighting soldiers.

Revenge came in an idea conceived by some inventive military planners in the middle of January 1942. It was decided to bomb Japan with American-made, medium-range bombers. James H. Doolittle, a tough, fearless aviator, was chosen to lead the mission. Perfect for the role, he demanded a discipline and courage from his men that was essential on such a dangerous undertaking.

A number of military and industrial targets were selected in four different cities in the raid on Japan. The plan had a two-fold purpose. First, a successful raid would raise morale both at home and among America’s fighting forces in the Pacific theatre. Although a factor in planning the raid, it became increasingly more acute as the weeks passed. A string of loses both in the Pacific, and European theaters since Pearl Harbor, raised the specter of defeat throughout the Allied world. Indeed, Bataan fell two weeks before the raid was launched.

Second, it was specifically designed as a message to the Japanese. Even though the plan had no severe military consequences, it would compel the Japanese imperialists to consider that even if they won the war, they would not do it unscathed. This would take a psychological toll on Japanese confidence. Once thought invincible, after the raid, the Japanese would feel vulnerable. They thought the vastness of the Pacific Ocean would protect them.  Unless the Japanese could retaliate against America in kind, they would have a hard time defeating her in the end. At the very least, they would pay a heavy price for starting this war. Doolittle’s raiders delivered the message.

This two-fold idea came together as the first special operation of World War II. The logistics of the operation would be tricky. The huge ocean between the two countries dictated a land-based operation of bombers that could drop their load by surprise and then make their getaway before the Japanese realized what was happening. However, there was no “land” which would enable the Americans to successfully execute the raid. Something more creative was needed.

The Doolittle Raid was launched on April 18, 1942, four months after Pearl Harbor. This is the story of that raid, the men who participated in it and the genius that organized it. It marked the first offensive attack by American forces directly at the Japanese. Doolittle and his men gave back to America the confidence that she needed to move forward and win the war. This paper is dedicated to the men who flew that mission and who risked their lives in service to their country. It was through the spirit and courage of men like Doolittle and his raiders, who made it possible for the United States to be victorious in World War II.


The Plan


Three weeks after Pearl Harbor, James H. Doolittle was assigned to Henry H. “Hap” Arnold’s Staff as Director of Operations, and commissioned the rank of Lieutenant colonel. That appointment was the beginning of a series of events that would result in the raid on Japan in April, three months later.

On January 9, 1942, a meeting was held on the yacht, Vixen, which was the “quarters” of Fleet Commander Ernest J. King. The meeting was between King, Hap Arnold and General George Marshall. [2] The purpose was to discuss how best to avenge Pearl Harbor. That meeting lasted two days. Meanwhile, on January 11, Japan invaded Dutch Borneo, Timor and Celebes. This emphasized to American military planners the need to strike at the earliest possible date in a decisive manner.

A few days later, Francis S. Low, a submarine specialist under King’s command was on an unrelated matter en route to Norfolk, Virginia.  A chalked outline of a carrier drawn on the landing strip to simulate carrier takeoffs and landings for pilots in training, gave Low an idea. When he saw the shadows of some bombers superimposed over the chalk line, he surmised that under the right conditions it might be possible for a medium range bomber to take off from a carrier’s deck. That night he called Admiral King. 3

King liked the idea.  He proceeded to write a thirty-page paper concluding that a carrier launch was possible. It would have to be a joint Navy and Army operation. King sent Low and his air operations manager Donald B. Duncan to see Arnold with the plan. After a few days of studying its feasibility, Arnold decided to move forward. He assigned Doolittle in charge of the army’s responsibility for the plan and Duncan was to oversee the navy’s contribution. Its official name was “The Special Project No.1.” Arnold had dubbed it the  “First Aviation project,” but Doolittle just referred to it as the “B-25 Project.”4

One of Doolittle’s responsibilities was to find the plane to meet the specifications for the mission. Arnold told him that a minimum cruising range of 2400 miles with a 2000-pound bomb load was needed.5   There was no plane in the American arsenal that had those specifications. So, Doolittle would have to improvise.

The possibilities were the B-18, the B-23, the B-25, and the B-26. The B-18 was eliminated almost immediately because it was an older model. Doolittle had less confidence in that one than he did in the others.

The B-26 could have done the job as far as range and load carrying capacity was concerned but it was felt that the carrier take-off characteristics were questionable. The B-23 could have done the job but due to the larger wing span fewer of them could be taken and clearance between the right wing tip and the carrier island would be extremely close. 6

The B-25 and the B-23 both remained the possible considerations until Arnold tightened up the qualifications. He insisted that the plane be able to take off in an area no wider than seventy-five feet. The deck mounts on the carrier would only allow for that amount of space between them and the edge of the ship. With a wingspan of almost ninety-two feet this eliminated the B-23. The decision was made to go with the B-25. Doolittle thought that the wingspan of 67ft six inches was a little close, but it did meet the requirements set down by General Arnold.7

Knowledge of the mission was kept only to those who needed to know about it. Security was very tight. Even at the Whitehouse, great care was taken not to reveal too much. In a meeting in the last week in January, Arnold made the comment that “at present a man is working on the proposition of bombing from China or Russia.” This was purposely misleading as it was clear by that time that they were going to launch from the sea.

By January 24th, they had met with various civilian and military experts to devise and plan modifications that would be necessary to equip the planes. This was also around the time that Doolittle wrote to Arnold and spelled out his ideas for a successful mission. There has been some controversy over the contents of the letter for a couple of reasons. 8

First, Doolittle never remembered writing it. When approached about it years later he definitely identified it as his handwriting but could not remember actually penning it. Also, the letter is undated so historians have only speculated on when it was written and sent. C.V. Glines, the official biographer of the Doolittle Raiders, said it had to be in the first week of February 1942. Doolittle correctly judged the reaction by America’s enemies and allies in the opening lines of the letter.9

The purpose of this special project is to bomb and fire the industrial center of Japan.

It is anticipated that this will not only cause confusion and impede production but will undoubtedly facilitate operations against Japan in other theaters due to the probable withdrawal of troops for the purpose of defending the home country.

An action of this kind is most desirable now due to the psychological effect on the American public, our allies and our enemies.10

Even more than Doolittle’s assessment, this became the essential element of the success of the mission. One might argue that it gave America the poise to move forward with even more determination than had been rallied after Pearl Harbor. Similarly, it had the adverse effect on Japanese morale. Their homeland once considered safe would now be vulnerable to attack.

Doolittle methodically proceeded to outline the details of the mission and escape. Each element was precisely spelled out.

The method contemplated is to bring the carrier-borne bombers to within 400 to 500 miles of the coast of Japan…these objectives will be military and industrial targets in the Tokyo-Yokohama, Nagoya and Osaka-Kobe areas…After clearing the Japanese outside coastline a sufficient distance, a general westerly course will be set for one or more of the following airports in China: Chuchow, Chuchow (Lishui), Yushan and /or Chienou.11

The reference to “after clearing the Japanese outside coastline” meant that after they dropped their payload, they were to turn around and go back out over the ocean in the direction in which they came. This was done to confuse the Japanese as to their plan of escape. To continue to move southwest through Japan would have told the Japanese that the raiders were headed for China. 12

The idea was to refuel at certain designated airfields inside China and continue on to Chunking where an “ultimate objective as may, at that time, be indicated.” In other words, it had not been decided how best to utilize the planes and the men after the raid.

Although some changes were added later, most of the specifics Doolittle  outlined were exactly what took place.  For example, he ordered two broomsticks, painted black to protrude out of the rear of the aircraft to assimilate machine guns. One of the drawbacks of the B-25 was that its firepower was a little weak. At a distance one could not tell if “black painted broomsticks” were real or not. They were a reasonable deterrent to keep enemy planes from coming up from behind.

Only sixteen planes participated in the attack. Doolittle had hoped originally to bomb Japan with twenty-four, but for various reasons it was not possible. In the beginning twenty-one had gone to Columbia South Carolina.12a One was damaged en route from Eglin to the West Coast. The crews were told to fly low to get more experience across country. “Hedge hop” was how Roy Stork  referred to it. One pilot flew so low he had a pinecone lodged in the “cowling” of his aircraft.12b That disqualified the crew from going because there was not enough time to remove it.13

Upon arriving at the Alameda Naval Air Station, it was discovered that there was only room for sixteen planes on the deck of the Hornet.  Doolittle was forced to eliminate four more planes. He selected them out this way.

Well there was a slip there that we had landed on.  He (Doolittle) landed the first plane and stood at the end and when the boys taxied up he’d shout up at the pilot,  “how’s everything?” And, if the pilot just gave him the ok sign and everything was fine he then told him to taxi over towards the carrier. If the man not knowing what he was doing said, “oh my left engine is rough” or anything like that, then he said go this way and he eliminated four crews that way. However, we took those personal aboard and they went across the ocean with us, I think for security reasons. It turned out they were a good labor pool to make some changes in the crews as we spent those seventeen days heading’ for Japan.14

Doolittle favored a daytime raid. He felt it would give greater accuracy in bombing. However, at that point the planning had called for a nighttime raid. Doolittle was not opposed to that idea if:

Due to last minute information received from our intelligence section or other source, a daylight raid is definitely inadvisable. The night raid should be made on a clear night, moonlight if Japan is blacked out; moonless if it is not.15

He fully expected to have the crews ready for launch by April 1. He added a short paragraph at the end of the letter, requesting to be put in command of the project.  “Lt. Col. J. H. Doolittle, Air Corps, will be in charge of the preparations for and will be in personal command of the project.”16 This is not a request to actually lead the mission. That came later. During the second week at Eglin, Doolittle flew to Washington to report on his progress. At that time he convinced Arnold to let him go. When interviewed about it years later, Doolittle recalled, “of course I wanted to fly the mission as first pilot…but only on the basis that I could do as well or better than the other pilots.”16a

A list was presented on January 31, of possible targets in ten Japanese cities by General Carl A. Spaatz. Some of the primary ones were:

Tokyo—      the army arsenal, Nippon Electric co., Ltd., Tokyo Gas and Electric. Yokohama—Ogura Oil Co.

Kobe City—Kawasaki Dockyard at Point Kawa, Kawasaki Aircraft Co.,

                   Kawasaki  Dockyard Co. Note: The two dockyards produced two different    products according to intelligence. At point Kawa, part of the factory was converted to making aircraft and the other dockyard was a probably a parts factory.

Nagoya— six or seven large barracks and several warehouses probably not of vital military     importance. Several Industrial plants for lubricating oils and Naphtha. Atsuta factory, manufacture of Aircraft parts, small arms and tanks. Mitsubishi Aircraft Works, one of the largest manufacture of planes in Japan. 17

On February 2, the first test of B-25s taking off from the carrier Hornet was a huge success. The planes were empty but it did not matter.  Duncan was very satisfied with the results. The 17th Bombardment group, the most experience fliers in the Air force with the B-25, were ordered to fly from Pendleton, Oregon, to Columbia air base, South Carolina. The men from the 17th consisted of 34th, the 37th, and the 95th Bomber Squadrons, and the 89th Reconnaissance Squadron. The men were asked to participate in a secret mission. They were not given specifics, only that it had “unusual elements of danger.”18

On February 3, twenty-four B-25s flew from Pendleton to Columbia Air base, South Carolina. After arrival the call went out for volunteers.19 Lt. Col. William C Mills, commanding officer of the 17th Bombardment Group, addressed the men. He informed the fighter squadrons and the 89th, that volunteers were needed for a “hazardous and dangerous mission”. He was only allowed to say that the “mission would require the greatest amount of skill and would be invaluable to the war effort.” Every man in the room raised his hand affirming their desire to be part of whatever was being planned.20 From Columbia Air base, the planes flew down to Eglin Field, Florida, where they would take their training for the mission.

For the next several weeks the crews went through their daily routines. Several areas of instruction were emphasized. The pilots and co-pilots practiced taking off from shorter and shorter distances.

Concentrated courses of instruction were given at Eglin field. The instruction included carrier take-off practice under the supervision of Lt. Henry miller of the U.S. Navy. This practice was carried out on one of the auxiliary fields near Eglin. White lines were drawn on two of the runways of this field. Take-off practice was carried out with light load, normal load, and overload up to 31,000 lbs. In all cases the shortest possible take-off was obtained with flaps full down, stabilizer set three-fourths, tail heavy, full power against the brakes and releasing the brakes simultaneously as the engine came up to revs. The control column was pulled back gradually and the airplane left the ground with the tailskid about one airplane took off almost in a stall. 21

Major changes were done to the fuel storage on each plane. They were almost able to double the amount of fuel capacity. Each plane would take off with a possible 1,141 gallons of fuel.

Three additional tanks were installed: (1) a steel gasoline tank of about 265 gallon capacity was installed, and later removed and replaced by a 225 gallon leak proof tank manufactured by the United States Rubber Company…(2) The crawl way above the bomb bay was lined and a rubber bag tank, manufactured by the United States Rubber Company, holding 160 gallons was installed…(3) A leak-proof 60-gallon tank, 2’ x 2’ x 2’, test cell with filler neck, outlet and vent provided, was installed in the place from which the lower turret was removed.22

They flew “consumption tests” over the Gulf of Mexico, checking to see how thin they could adjust their carburetors so as to conserve as much fuel as possible. “After we got airborne we were flying at a speed of about 150 miles per hour. With the throttle way back, and then every two hours we’d blow out the engine and then come back just over stalling speed.”23 This is how they were able to get the maximum out of the minimum amount of gasoline.

Flights were (also) made over the Gulf of Mexico in order to permit pilots and navigators to become accustomed to flying without visual or radio references or landmarks. 23a

They had exercises in low altitude bombing, rapid bombing and evasive action. They practiced bombing targets at 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 feet. They used both live and sand filled bombs. Machine gun practice was conducted both on the ground and in the air. 23b

Doolittle assessed his crews’ abilities this way:

The first pilots were all excellent. The co-pilots were all good for co-pilots. The bombardiers were fair but needed brushing up. The navigators had good training but very little practical experience. The gunners, almost without exception, had never fired a machine gun from an airplane at either a moving or a stationery target.24

Doolittle had the carburetors adjusted on each plane the way he wanted them. Because the mechanics were not told of the mission, there were some problems with the way they took care of the planes. Ted Lawson described it in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo:

The way they revved our motors made us wince. All of us were so afraid that they’d hurt the ships, the way they were handling them, yet we couldn’t tell them why we wanted them to be so careful. I guess we must have acted like the biggest bunch of soreheads those mechanics ever saw, but we kept beefing until Doolittle got on the long-distance phone, called Washington and had the work done the way we wanted it done.25

Other modifications were needed once the crew got to McClellan Field in Sacramento. The propellers were changed. The sixty-gallon rubber gas tanks that were to be mounted at the rear of the plane were installed. New hydraulic valves for the gun turrets were required because they had a tendency to jam, which prevented the gunner from maneuvering the gun into position. The standard parachutes were to be replaced by back type parachutes. The radios were taken out of every plane. Glass windows were put into replace the original Plexiglas.26

One of the most surprisingly productive changes came with the concern about the Norden bombsight. This bombsight, state of the art for that time, was wrong for this mission for two reasons. First, the military believed that it gave them an edge over the Japanese technology in their air campaign. Therefore, it was decided to remove it, lest it fall into enemy hands. Second, it was only accurate at high altitudes. “Since low level bombing was planned, the Norden sight was replaced by a simplified sight which, at 1,500 feet, showed a greater degree of accuracy.”27

This low level site, designed by Ross Greening in the machine shop at Eglin field, was a v-shaped light gage metal that was mounted on a wooden base with graduating degrees on it. Greening probably copied some of the other sights he was familiar with. The remarkable part about this sight was that it actually worked better than the high tech Norden sight at low altitudes and each one only cost around twenty cents to make.

On March 27th all the planes had arrived at Sacramento Air Depot. Four days later, on March 31, in a quiet San Francisco restaurant, a meeting ensued between Admiral William F. Halsey, Captain Miles Browning, Wu Duncan and Doolittle to discuss the particulars about Task Force 16. The plan was for Task Force 16.2, which included the carrier Hornet and the planes to leave San Francisco Harbor on April 2nd. Halsey would leave with Task Force 16.1 on April 7th from Pearl Harbor. They would rendezvous on April 12th at latitude 38 degrees north and 180 degrees longitude.28 The rendezvous took place one day late because Halsey’s plane was delayed returning him to Pearl from San Francisco because of bad weather.

Task Force 16.2 consisted of the Carrier Hornet, cruisers Nashville and Vincennes, the oiler Cimarron, and the destroyers Gwin, Meredith, Monssen and Grayson. The carrier Enterprise with the cruisers, Northhampton and Salt Lake City, and the oiler Sabine headed Task Force 16.1. Four destroyers were in the group, Balch, Benham, Ellet, and Fanning.29

The next eighteen days were spent in preparation on the ship. Training lectures were given in a number of subjects. Lt. Stephen Jurika Jr., who spent some time as a naval attaché there before the war, gave general information about Japan. While Lt. T.R. White gave lectures on first aid, some of the raiders talked on gunnery and meteorology. Doolittle gave a series of lectures on procedure. And, the Hornet navigating officer taught celestial navigation to the navigators.30

On April 18, only one half hour before launch, an enemy ship, the Nitu Maru, was spotted at about 15,000 yards. The Nashville was dispatched to engage her. The Raiders began taking off at 0821 hours. So, the Nashville was engaged in battle with the enemy while Doolittle’s Raiders were in the process of launch. The Nashville sunk the Nitto Maru. Its three-inch guns were no match for the Nashville’s firepower. After the launch the armada turned about and headed back. At 1405 hours two more enemy vessels were engaged. They were trawler type, similar to the Nitto Maru. They were painted with a special gray paint that made them particularly difficult to see. Once again the Nashville was ordered to destroy them, along with fighter planes launched from the Enterprise. Both ships were sunk in twenty minutes.31


The Take-off From the Hornet


The morning of the take off was dark and gloomy. The sky had a thick low ceiling emitting a fine mist. It was enough to make the deck of the carrier wet and slippery. It was chilly, with the wind blowing at twenty-seven knots. The Hornet used the wind by turning in its direction so the planes could take full advantage of its support in take-offs. In the misty wet the men boarded their planes. The aircraft were adorned with affectionate names painted on the side like “Whiskey Pete,” “The Ruptured Duck,” “the Whirling Dervish,” and “the Green Phantom.” The take-off was made at Latitude 35 degrees 43’ N. Longitude 153 degrees 25’ E. This position placed the armada approximately 824 statute miles east of the center of Tokyo.32

Doolittle took the lead in the first plane. All eyes were on him to see if he could make it. Doolittle himself had some doubts about getting the plane in the air.33 To give maximum lift, the takeoff was timed so that the plane would become airborne at the moment the deck was at its highest point above the waterline.  That, along with using the wind to their advantage, gave them the best possible chance of taking off safely. As previously noted, the B-25’s wingspan only allowed a seven foot six inch tolerance in clearing the width of the deck. A white line had been painted on the take-off run so the pilots could use it as a guide to keep the plane steady and avoid hitting the carrier island.

All eyes were on Doolittle. The raiders were down on the deck as they watched him crank his throttle and pick up speed. Between the wind, the misty weather and the propeller force, the men had to hang on for “dear life.”34 Once he was airborne the rest of the pilots became more at ease. With each successive take-off the remaining pilots felt more confident. 35

Most of the planes took off without trouble. However, there were three close calls. The plane after Doolittle, commanded by Lt. Travis Hoover, seemed for a split second that it might stall on take-off. Some quick thinking in the cockpit corrected it and they were off to Japan. The last two planes both had problems, one being more serious than the other. Donald G. Smith’s plane lurched forward because of a sudden heave on deck brought on by the rough seas. It tapped into the plane in front of him. The Plexiglas nose was cracked but Smith was not overly concerned about it. He took off in order.

The sixteenth, and final plane, experienced the most severe problem in the takeoff. Because it was the last plane in line, its tail section had protruded over the fantail of the ship. This made it more difficult for the crew to enter the plane. With the help of some of the ship’s sailors, the plane was held in place until ready. As the crew prepared for take-off the wind was blowing hard and the deck was wet and slippery. The pilot, Lt. Farrow gunned his engines. One of the sailors, Seaman Robert W. Wall, slipped, and was pitched into the spinning propeller. His arm was badly mangled and eventually he lost it. Given those problems, all sixteen planes did get airborne and were on their way to Japan.

The whole take-off took about an hour. The Hornet’s log recorded Doolittle’s departure at 0820 hours and the sixteenth plane, exactly one hour later. As soon as the last plane was in the air, Admiral Halsey immediately turned the Task Force around and streamed back toward Pearl Harbor.36

During the time they took to get to their destination point, there were no  encounters with the Japanese. Only search planes were engaged, and the Americans lost one plane in that engagement. All toll; they sunk three picket boats and took five prisoners. These were the first of the war.37


The Raid   


The planes had been practicing flying rooftop level for weeks. That is how they flew across the ocean to Japan. Because there was not enough fuel, there was no formation flying. Each plane flew its own route. From the Japanese perspective it could have only been a psychologically devastating experience. If I may be allowed to express a small drama in this work, the following might illustrate how it might have appeared to the typical Japanese citizen who witnessed the attack from the ground.

As they approached Japan it was a fine spring day. The Japanese people were casually enjoying the smell of flowers amidst the distant sounds of children laughing in a park. Suddenly, they heard the roar of a plane coming in low and loud. It streaked into the Japanese homeland, and within seconds, explosions, fire, heat and chaos. And then another plane right behind the first one. A different section of the city is rocked with powerful earth-shaking explosions and heat. The concussion of the blasts rattles windows blocks away from the point of impact.  And, then another, and another. Within minutes, reports are coming in from all over Japan of attacks on cities. There is confusion and fear among the people. Where are they coming from? How many of them are there? The planes keep coming. One by one they invaded, humiliated, frightened and left a destruction in their wake.  The Americans left a calling card on April 18. It said, “today you have lost the war.”

 According to Doolittle’s diary he was the first to arrive on the Japanese mainland at Inubo Shima. This was a little north of his desired course, but Doolittle decided to make it work for him. He dropped four incendiaries Northeast and Southwest of the armory.38 He noticed that there were many planes in the air north of Tokyo. Doolittle wrote later that he thought they were practice by-planes for training. However, they did encounter some fighter planes while in Japanese air space. There were three groups of three planes each. He does not explain how they got by them.39

Doolittle dropped the first bomb at 0130 hours, ship time. During his drop anti-aircraft fire was heavy. He claims he had one near miss. He flew low out over the sea met up with Hoover and his crew. The two flew together to China. They made the China coast somewhat north of where he intended.

Travis Hoover in plane number 2292 piloted the second plane. He flew close enough that he had Doolittle’s aircraft in sight the whole way to Tokyo. Coming right after Doolittle’s plane he dropped his bombs on the army arsenal. Hoover was lower than Doolittle dropping his payload at an altitude of 900 feet. He told interviewers later that there wasn’t time to climb to a comfortable altitude level. Since they were flying so low when the bombs exploded, they witnessed the debris flying up past the cockpit windows, rising above them in the sky. In the distance as Hoover’s crew left the Tokyo area, he could see enemy planes but none made pursuit. After their attack they resumed treetop height and went zigzagging across the western portions of Tokyo and Yokahama and back out to sea. With Doolittle’s plane still in sight, he followed his leader to China. The two American bombers gracefully moved across the sky toward an ominous wall of gray. There was bad weather ahead. 40

Lt. Gray commanded plane number 2270 and took off third. All the way across the ocean the crew maintained relatively good spirits. They were smoking cigars and talking although the foul odor of gasoline was coming from the rubber gas tank in the bomb bay. There was concern that since they were the third plane in, the Japanese ack-ack gunners would be waiting for them as they bore down on their targets. When they reached Tokyo, Lt. Gray flew right by a burning oil tank, a little present left by Doolittle to act as a guidance marker coming into the city. He bombed Tokyo at an altitude of 1,450 feet. He had four bombs for four different targets. The first target could not be identified as it exploded. The second hit a gas works. The third hit a chemical plant and the fourth was also not observed. Gray also flew in closer and machine-gunned a barracks containing soldiers. On their way out they picked-up six Japanese fighters and the two gunners, Faktor and Jones fired away on their .30 caliber machine guns. They out ran them and headed south in the direction of the Philippines. After fifteen minutes they laid in a course for China. 41

Number four, Lt. Holstrom’s plane, number 2282, approached Tokyo from the south. This was a tactical move on Holstrom’s part. He figured that the first three planes all coming from the north would have aroused enemy “interceptors” in that part of the city. This strategy did not help. Holstrom ran into some trouble as he picked-up some pursuit planes who fired on him cutting across his bow. With no guns to fire back he was forced to jettison his bomb load. Later he regretted doing it. He attributed the hasty decision to inexperience in combat.42

David Jones piloting plane number 2283 was the fifth B-25 to take-off from the carrier Hornet. They had a short, uneventful encounter with a Japanese “twin engine land plane” while out at sea. However, the Japanese pilot had no desire to engage the American bomber. This was the only incident in which the Japanese came in contact with any of the raiders before they hit the mainland. Capt. Jones settled on secondary targets. At 1200 feet his bombs hit a power plant, a foundry and a large factory spaced about one quarter to one-half mile apart. Starting with the first one about two blocks from the waterfront, Capt. Jones flew inland from there. The foundry was completely destroyed. Jones reported, “intense anti-aircraft fire started from the release of the first bomb.” A lot of it came from the hills southwest of the city. Traveling at a speed of about 270 MPH, he passed through the fire and debris of his target and turned around to go back out to sea.43

Nicknamed “Jungle Jim” by his friends, Dean Hallmark, a tall,  aggressive individual with a driving personality flew the sixth plane, number 2298. Hallmark and his crew flew all the way to Japan 200 feet above the water. There were two other raider planes in full view as he crossed the ocean. He saw a Japanese patrol plane and several fighters as he approached the mainland, however, none made pursuit. Hallmark’s targets were the Mitsubishi Machine Tool plant, the Shibaura Machine Tool Company, and Nippon Electric, all in Tokyo. All targets were hit. On the way out of Japan they strafed a crowded railroad station.44

Ted Lawson of plane number 2261, was the seventh of the sixteen planes to take off from the carrier Hornet. As Lawson and his crew approached Tokyo from the southwest they saw six pursuit planes flying between 11,000 and 12,000 feet. Moving in the opposite direction, Lawson recorded in his memoir that he didn’t think they had seen him. While dropping their bombs on their factory targets, they received anti-aircraft fire from the waterfront area. None of the targets were observed empirically except for the first one. They saw,” smoke and debris flying into the air. To escape they went down to as low an elevation as possible…all the principle Islands were skirted…a landfall was made on the southeast tip of Kyushu Island” and then proceeded to China.45

Capt. Edward “Ski” York commanded plane number 2242 and was the eighth crew to take off form the carrier Hornet. Problems with the left engine created unwanted fuel consumption, which turned the fate of York’s crew from one of a possible death mission into the safest run and escape of any of the sixteen planes. For some reason York missed his targets and was forced to look for a secondary objective.

Checking his fuel consumption he knew he was not going to make it to China. He notified Nolan Herndon, his bombardier who also doubled as the navigator, to plot a course to Russia. Herndon yelled back incredulously over the drone of the engines. “What? We have to bomb our target. I can’t just stop and plot a course to Russia. The only thing I can do is that after we hit our target, give me a little time and fly straight north and I’ll pick you up and give you a course to get there.” 45a

York picked out an arbitrary target that looked like a factory and dropped his load. He turned the plane around and headed north while Herndon switched his position and began to plot the necessary course to Russia. The co-pilot, Robert Emmens, helped Herndon hurry the course. “We picked out a little Island on the west coast of Japan as a starting point. Then I plotted a course into Vladivostok” It was the only plane out of sixteen to do so. 46

Lt. Harold “Doc” Watson piloted the ninth plane, number 2303. After take-off, Watson steered his plane at an altitude of 500 feet in an appreciative uneventful trip to the Japanese coast. Upon arrival their plane affectionately called, “The Whirling Dervish,” climbed to about 4000 feet. Tom Griffin, the navigator explained to the author how their target was selected.

Our (target) was a factory right on Tokyo bay in the southern part of the city called the Kawasaki district. It was a factory that air force intelligence said had been making tractors. They believed at the time we were to bomb it,  it was making tanks. We missed it. Our bombardier saw the plant immediately next to that tank factory and he flattened this thing right next to our factory. It was Tokyo Gas and Electric. We put it out of business (Griffin interview). 46a

At a speed of 220 to 230 MPH they dropped their bombs. Fires were observed raging in several areas from previous successful raider targets. After dropping their payload one fighter made pursuit and took one pass at “The Whirling Dervish.” The gunner opened fire and the plane peeled out and was not seen again.47

Number 2250, the tenth plane to take off was commanded by Richard O. Joyce. They were successful bombing both their primary and secondary targets. One was the Japan Steel Co. located on the Haneda River, the other a precision instruments factory. Joyce flew into Japan, when his target was in sight, “he dived and ordered bombs away.” They took some ack-ack fire, which Joyce successfully out ran. He then headed out towards China like the other planes before him.48

Charles R. Greening, the inventor of the “Mark Twain” Bombsight, piloted number 2249, the eleventh raider plane to take off from the Hornet. They made landfall northeast of Tokyo and proceeded in a southerly direction. Four fighters attacked them. Two were shot down. While being chased they identified their target, a large oil refinery east of Tokyo. They dropped their bombs. A huge explosion and an even bigger column of smoke could be seen fifty miles out at sea. Greening finished his work in Japan and took the proper evasive maneuver to avoid enemy contact. He set the plane on a course to China.49

William Bowers the captain of plane number 2278 was the twelfth plane in line. When they hit the Japanese mainland they were a little off course so they had to take some time to orientate themselves. As they flew in a southerly direction they came upon a huge fire, which was the result of Capt. Greening’s attack. They witnessed the fighter planes in pursuit of Greening’s plane, however it was observed that the enemy never came closer than 1000 feet. Primary targets were not feasible so secondary targets were selected. Factories and warehouses west of Ogura were hit along with the Ogura Oil Refinery. Machine gunning was also employed on a power station southwest of the target.50

Edgar McElroy took off in the thirteenth position piloting plane number 2247. McElroy flew across the ocean at about 250 feet above sea level. Like earlier planes they were met with anti-aircraft fire coming from the waterfront area. They located their target however, and dropped two bombs and then quickly dropped the other two. Explosions were everywhere. A ship-loading crane flew into the air and broke into many pieces. Another floating dry dock where a merchant ship was being converted into an aircraft carrier, turned over on its side after being hit. McElroy, having done his job, then followed the escape route to China.51

John Hilger, Doolittle’s second in command piloted the fourteenth plane, number 2297. This plane’s targets were all in Nagoya. There were four, the barracks of the 3rd Division, the Matsuhigecho Oil Storage, the Atsuta Factory Arsenal, and, the Mitsubishi Aircraft Works. All targets were hit and reported burning when the plane made its getaway. The fires burned for almost two days before the Japanese were able to put them out. Finished with Japan, Hilger moved on to China.52

Plane number 2267 piloted by Donald G. Smith, was the second to the last plane to take off. He and his crew followed the same course into Japan as Major Hilger. He entered the island and followed a westerly course to the tip of Osaka. From Osaka they made their way into Kobe as their first three targets were Uyenoshita Steel Works, Kawasaki Dockyard Co. at Point Kawa and Electric Machinery Works. The fourth bomb was also dropped on a secondary aircraft company. To escape out of Kobe they flew due south over the bay. When the ocean was reached they changed course slightly to a southwest direction, the way to China.53

Lt. William Farrow in the final take-off slot was in plane number 2268. It seemed he was in for bad luck from the start. The freak accident with the seaman 1st class Robert Wall where he ended up losing his arm was a bad omen. Farrow’s targets were also in Nagoya. He “hedge hopped” into the city when one of the crew spotted some enemy fighters. By this time there was an over cast at about 2200-2500 feet. Farrow quickly pulled his plane up into the mist so he would not be so easily seen. They found their targets and were successful in dropping their payload and then stole their way out to sea and set a course for China.54


In China


A sad fact that has never been dealt with previously by the navy or the army air forces is that Halsey was supposed to have sent a signal to Washington that was to be relayed to Chungking. The message was to report the time that Doolittle and his sixteen planes had departed the carrier and were en route to China via their targets. Arnold and Marshall in Washington were then to notify Stilwell, Chennault, and Chaing Kai Shek that the “special project” planes were expected to arrive soon so that the air defense net could be notified and the airfields’ homing beacons turned on. This message was especially vital to Doolittle’s men because their departure from the carrier was a day earlier than originally planned. For reasons the navy had never explained, the message was not sent.55

This obvious misfortunate turn of events changed the whole course of the escape phase of the attack. Doolittle and his men fully expected the Chinese to be ready for them when they arrived. It was not to be. General Doolittle told C.V. Glines, the author of this quote, that he thought it was not sent to maintain radio silence while streaming back into more friendly waters. Doolittle did indeed confirm this opinion in his summary of the raid on June 5, 1942. He wrote:

We appreciated the desirability of advising Chungking of our premature take-off but due to the necessity of strict radio silence, this could not be done prior to our actual take-off. 56

This was not the worst of their problems as what followed was a comedy of errors. Since no message was sent of their arrival, it can be assumed that no one knew they were coming. In fact, Doolittle states in the same report that Chunking did know they were coming, probably from Japanese radio announcing the raid. However, they had no forewarning. By the time the Chinese authorities realized the Americans were coming they were already there. Participants in the affair surmised at the time, that due to the extremely bad weather, the message never arrived to Chuchow, the raiders intended initial landing point. Consequently, when they heard planes overhead at Chuchow, they thought they were Japanese.  Air raid warning sirens went off and all lights were extinguished. Between that and the bad weather it made it impossible to land safely.57

The skies went from sunny and clear to gray and dark as the raiders flew out of Japan and into another unknown. Fifteen planes were now headed to the China coast. By the time of their arrival it was cold, dark and wet. They arrived in China approximately in the same order they had taken off from the ship and attacked Japan. Doolittle was the first to arrive. Since he could not see the ground, he elected to bail out and let the plane crash. He did not make contact with his crew until the next day. Having no idea of the success of the raid he felt at that point it had been a total failure.

Several problems faced the fliers as they approached the Chinese mainland. Fuel consumption was obviously the most troublesome. This was the last leg of the trip and it was determined from the beginning stages at Eglin Field that fuel would be a deciding factor in the mission as to success or failure.

Although the vast majority of the Raiders survived both the raid and the experience in China, and went on to fight again, a few met with tragic circumstances. The sixth plane, commanded by Dean Hallmark crashed offshore inside occupied Japanese territory. Hallmark was thrown through the windshield smashing into the water. He was hurt bad but still able to get to the shoreline. Two members of the crew, Sgt. William Deiter and Sgt. Donald E. Fitzmaurice, suffered fatal injuries. Their bodies washed up on shore the next day. The co-pilot, Robert J. Meder, had also made it to shore but was badly injured.  Chase Nielson  was the only one who had relatively light injuries. The three survivors were turned over by the collaborating Chinese to the Japanese. They were made a spectacle of by their captors. A mock trial found them guilty of war crimes and Hallmark was summarily executed. Meder died in prison, as a result from torture and mistreatment. Nielson survived until the end of the war and was released.58

One other ended in tragedy as well. The sixteenth plane commanded by William Farrow also crashed inside enemy territory. Farrow and Spatz were executed with Hallmark. The other three, Hite, DeShazer and Barr, spent the rest of the war, incarcerated by the Japanese along with Nielson and were released when Japan surrendered.

The most famous of these “not so lucky” stories was Ted Lawson and his crew. Lawson, who was piloting plane number seven, immortalized his journey through his own account, which was written and published in 1943. A subsequent Hollywood movie popularized the story and imbedded it into American folklore. Like Lt. Hallmark’s plane, Lawson and his crew ran out of gas while still over the water and crashed his plane into the ocean off shore. The impact threw four of the crew through the windshield at the nose of the aircraft, severely injuring the four men. The fifth man in the crew, Sgt David Thatcher, remarkably received only minor injuries and he was left to care for the other four. There were some harrowing moments eluding the Japanese. Lawson gives a graphic description of those events in his book 30 Seconds Over Tokyo.

Most of the planes’ crews experienced their own harrowing adventure once on the ground in China. The majority of them came out of the whole affair relatively unscathed and lived to fight another day. Thanks to the great courage of the Chinese people, to say nothing of their gracious hospitality, the lives of many of the raiders were saved. The Chinese however, paid a heavy price for this help.

The word had been passed by the friendly Chinese that there were American airmen in the area and to bring them into a specified rendezvous point. They did this by the runner system. They had no radio. They (the Japanese) had completely depleted all of china and they (the Chinese) were pretty darn kind to us. The Japanese came in and just ruthlessly bombed all the different areas and killed 200,000 Chinese. If it hadn’t been for their kindness we would had never gotten out of there. But they had been at war with the Japanese for seven years and were so appreciative they couldn’t do enough for us.59

The ninth plane, commanded by Lt. Harold Watson met some resistance during his bombing run before he headed towards China. Watson’s crew made it the furthest of any of the Raider planes into the Chinese interior. This might have been due to the fact that they picked up a tail wind in the China Sea.

And we had always calculated that we were going to face about five hours of a head wind across the China Sea. That was a prevailing head wind about that time of the year in that part of the world. But that storm was actually a mixed blessing. We took a wind drift and found out we had a real good tail wind and that’s what got our planes to China. If we hadn’t gotten that tail wind a lot of our planes would have never made the China coast.60

It was the middle of the night Chinese time.  There was a storm bearing down on the countryside that made visibility impossible. Watson made the decision to bail out and crash the plane. After the rest of the crew jumped, Watson put the plane on autopilot and jumped out himself. His arm became entangled in the shrouds of the chute when he pulled the cord. The sudden jerk dislocated his shoulder. In excruciating pain he came down in the middle of a creek and laid there unconscious in two or three inches of water for twenty-four hours.

For all of the men who bailed out, it was a little unsettling jumping into nothingness, the rain coming down, and not being able to see even a few feet in front of you. Tom Griffin described it this way:

(There were) violent vertical currents. I could barely see my chute and I was going back and forth…a tremendous swaying back and forth. I couldn’t see anything. I knew I was near the ground when the branch of a tree hit my face and my shroud lines. I could just barely touch the ground. I couldn’t get the chute out of the trees so I just unbuckled the harness and walked away.61

All fifteen planes going to China were lost. All either crashed or the crew bailed out and intentionally crashed the plane. Doolittle and Hoover were first to make landfall at 8:45 pm. Coming in behind them for the next several hours was the other thirteen planes. “Well you know it was midnight locally when we bailed out. There was a big storm and you couldn’t see a thing.” 62  They were “spread (out) over a large area of China.”63

However, the men were interned and the plane was seized. York’s crew spent a year in several different locations. Finally bribing a Russian guard, they stole their way into Iran and turned themselves into the British Consulate. Their ordeal ended when they were finally returned to the United States a year later.The one plane that did not go to China was Capt. Edwin York’s, which went to Russia instead. Someone had changed the carburetors on York’s plane contrary to Doolittle’s orders. No one discovered the infraction until they were in the aircraft ready to take-off from the carrier Hornet. York eager to hit Japan, decided to go ahead with his part in the mission. The crew’s targets were quite simple and were executed without flack and only one attempt at interception by a Japanese fighter. York knew that with the over use of fuel they would be forced to land no closer than 300 miles from the China coast. After his bombing run, he wisely turned his plane around and headed north towards Russia. He landed at Vladisvostok hoping to refuel and then take off again for China.63a

What began as a simple request from allies, ended in the internment of the crew as the guests of the Soviet Union. Russia did not want to upset its neutral status with the Japanese. It is inconceivable how they could have avoided the logic that they were allied with the U.S. fighting Germany, their common enemy, the same time the U.S. was fighting the Japanese in the Pacific. It made no sense to keep American soldiers out of the fight, but the Russians thought different.

When they landed in Vladisvostok, York and his crew fully expected to be able to refuel and leave promptly. “When we went to bed that night we were fully confident we were going to leave the next morning.”64 What happened was the beginning of an odyssey that would finally culminate in a desperate escape, not so much from the harsh realities of prison life, but from the boredom and the depressing state of the war torn Soviet people.

They knew they could be more useful doing what they had been trained to do, to be soldiers. They were anxious to be released, or at least be put to work in some capacity. The talk of escape began in January 1943. They decided to write Stalin a letter. Lt. Robert Emmens recalls the draft:

First we congratulated the Red Army on its great feats in its struggle with the Germans. Then we told of our “wonderful” treatment, but wished to point out that we were a liability to them, doing ourselves no good, and would like very much to be allowed to join American forces and continue the struggle against our common enemy.65

They had asked the Soviet officials for three possible solutions to their predicament. First, of course, was release. Barring that, they asked to be removed to a warmer climate as the fifty below temperatures were starting to wear thin. And third, they might be given some work to do while they are living in Russia.

The Soviets granted them the last two requests.  They were sent to Ashkhabad, close to the Persian border. There, they were set to work in an “aircraft overhaul shop.” So, at least they were now in a warmer climate and they had something to do. It was a stroke of luck being sent to Ashkhabad. As soon as they arrived they all noticed something that lifted their spirits. Freedom seemed only a short distance away as the mountains plainly visible from their quarters were in Iranian territory.

After a short time they began to press a friend they felt they could trust with help in escaping. By bribing a common smuggler they rode into Persia, now Iran, under a tarpaulin in the back of a pick-up truck. Thirteen months after they bombed Japan, they were once again free. They were sent back to the United States, in May of 1943. After debriefing and a short rest they were reassigned to new areas of the military.65a

Being interned by the Russians was a far cry compared to what awaited eight of their companions who were caught by the Japanese in China after the raid. The eight, Hallmark, Meder, Nielson, Farrow, Hite, Barr, DeShazer, and Spatz, were beaten, tortured, forced to sign false confessions, and made to stand in a mock trial that found them guilty of war crimes against the Japanese people. All eight were sentenced to death. Some would realize this fate and give the ultimate sacrifice for their country. For the rest, the reasons for which remain unclear, their death sentences were commuted to life in prison. They were to spend the rest of the war incarcerated by the Japanese.

They were mistreated, starved, refused necessary medical care, and forced to live in appalling conditions. Bob Meder died from this abuse twenty months after he had been captured. The other four survived but were, “suffering from malnutrition and dysentery” by the end of the war. George Barr had severe emotional problems, to go along with his physical deterioration, which required a long hospitalization to recover. The raiders themselves described the barbarity of their incarceration.

On eating:

 We received three meals daily. For breakfast we received about one-half pint of wormy, watery rice. For lunch and dinner we were generally given some bread, which usually amounted to about five ounces. We were given one-half cup of water per man per day.6

On torture:

They pushed me over to a wall and raised my arms above my head. There was a stout wooden peg in the wall…they boosted me up and hung me on the peg by the chain of the handcuffs. When they let go my toes just barely touched the floor but not enough to ease the strain on my arms.

In a few minutes, the pain in my wrists was so intense that I was almost sick to my stomach. Then stabs of pain began to shoot in my chest and shoulders and my left arm that had been injured in the airplane crash was swollen and looked like it was getting blood poison in it. I don’t know how long I hung there before I passed out.67

 On general mistreatment:

We were bothered by bugs, rats, and lice, which bit us continually until finally our faces and hands swelled out of proportion from the bites. We slept on the floor with one blanket to each man. Our only sanitary facility was a small bucket in the corner of the cell…which was emptied periodically, usually only after we complained because it was overflowing.68

However immoral their treatment was, it did not equal the cold blooded, cruel execution of Hallmark, Farrow, and Spatz. These were the only three death sentences to be carried out. The gut-wrenching story leading up to their execution was described in certain detail. Their final letters to loved ones were expectedly emotional and courageous.

Hallmark wrote to his mother and sister to “try to stand up under this and pray.” Spatz after telling his widower father that he loved him, proclaimed in defiance of his enemy captors,” I want you to know that I died fighting for my country like a soldier.” And, Bill Farrow, the twenty-three year old pilot of plane number sixteen, simply wrote to his widowed mother,” Don’t let this get you down. Remember that God will make everything right, and that I will see you again in the hereafter.” 69

On Oct 15, 1942 the three were taken to a place that held some kind of religious significance to the Japanese. The men were made to kneel and were tied to a cross with their hands outstretched.70 The Japanese had promised to send their ashes through the Red Cross to their loved ones back home. However, this was not done until after the surrender in 1945. 71

Meanwhile back in the states, people were ecstatic that Japan had been bombed. For the safety of the crews and the unwillingness to pass on any useful information to the enemy, the details of the raid were kept secret. In the ensuing days and weeks the Roosevelt government would not admit to the raid. Because some of the men were still hiding out from the Japanese, the president only hinted at American involvement on April 22. It was reported in the Times that:

A dinner guest at the White House wanted to know where the bombing planes came from and where they went…He said (the president) he told her they came from Shangri la.72

It was not revealed that American aviators had carried it out but it was a foregone conclusion that our own forces had done it.  When the Los Angeles Times’ headline ran on April 19th that Tokyo had been bombed, the Japanese reaction showed them confused, stunned, and their self perceived invincibility had been shaken. The headline read, “Japs Fear Bombing of Four cities—Start of Huge U.S. Air Offensive.”73

They did not really know how the raid was carried out and this fueled much speculation from the military. One Japanese newspaper correctly labeled the attack emanating from carriers out at sea.

The Tokyo newspaper Yomiuri intimated to its readers today that the planes which bombed Tokyo and other Japanese cities came from United States aircraft carriers, asserting that Japan must be prepared for more raids “as long as the United States possess aircraft carriers.”74

It seems the Japanese were obsessed in not allowing another attack on their home Islands. Within two weeks of the raid Yamamoto approved the Midway operation. As a result of the raid, they had put into their war plans the removal of any possibility of an attack like what they had experienced on April 18. In an interrogation of Capt. Y. Watanabe, commander-in-chief of the Second Fleet at the Battle of Midway, revealed their long range plans to remove this threat.

Question: What were the plans leading up to the attack (on Midway)?

Answer: We intended to capture Midway because on 18 April we were attacked in Tokyo for the first time. We thought the planes came from Midway.

Q: Did you believe that by taking Midway there would be no more raids on Tokyo?

A: Yes 75

Historians agree that the Doolittle Raid, and the subsequent rearrangement of military men and equipment to provide for “homeland defense” in the Japanese Islands, had lasting effects on their ability to defeat the Americans. Because Midway Island was believed to be the only possible source of a land based attack, it caused them to take a massive stand, which turned into an enormous defeat of their forces.76  The Battle of Midway changed the course of the war and the Doolittle Raid was the impetus for that battle. Therefore, it can be argued that the Doolittle Raid was an integral part in the defeat of Japan.

Weeks of speculation and hints from the Whitehouse finally ended when it was revealed officially that the Americans had indeed attacked Japan on April 18, 1942. On May 11, 1942 the Los Angeles Times ran the story admitting to the attack.

Headline: Army Confirms Tokyo Raid.

United States Army bombers made that sensational raid on Japan April 18, the War Department disclosed tonight confirming at long last what millions of Americans ardently hope was true. 77




In my opinion, their flight was one of the most courageous deeds in military history. 

               —Admiral William F. Halsey78


The Doolittle raid provided an unknown glimpse to our enemies, both in the Pacific and in Europe, of American determination not to allow imperialistic, fascist aggression to run unchecked during the middle of the twentieth century. That determination showed genius and courage to try bold new methods in its efforts to be victorious. It is clear that the Japanese were psychologically thrown off balance by the raid. They had one report that showed the attack being carrier based and another revealed after the war that it might have originated from the island of Midway. In other words, they just did not know. They also feared that the attack could signal more of the same. 79 This has great value in terms of morale and taking the enemy off the offensive and on to the defensive.

The actual damage to Japan’s war effort was minimal, as they had impressed this fact to their people and to the world. But, it did affect so many other factors that are needed to defeat an enemy in time of war. I would argue that from those factors Japan never really recovered.

As the war carried on in the months and years ahead, the Raid, like the unsung heroes who carried it out, waned in the thoughts of American thinking. There were more famous battles, truly many more heroes who came to light to finish what Doolittle and his boys had started. There were literally thousands of harrowing stories of violence, loss and victory. When the war was over, the Doolittle Raid took a secondary place in the annals of World War II. It took a back seat to the Enola Gay, D-day and the battle of Midway. And, maybe it is right that it belongs there.

But for the raiders, for the ones who lived it, they have forever become connected to each other. Due to the initial efforts of General Doolittle, a yearly reunion has continued to this day. It has attached to it some very fitting rituals. Each year they come together to drink a toast out of a special goblet inscribed with their names, to themselves, to their victory and to the country and ideals for which they risked their lives. These goblets have become somewhat of a famous historical sidebar in Air Force history. They are kept on display at the Air Force Academy Museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Each year the goblets are sent to wherever the raiders are holding their reunion. A toast is made to those who died during that particular year. And, when returned to their site in Colorado Springs, the goblets of the deceased are turned over to signify their passing. There is a special bottle of brandy that sits in the middle of the display case. The last two raiders will open it and drink one final toast. It is a touching and emotional display of camaraderie.

I can only end this report one way, that is to give a personal salute. To all of Doolittle’s Raiders, from the men who planned it, to the ones who carried it out, to those who died as a result, to those who stood in defiance even under the cruel thumb of the enemy, and to those who continued in service to their country until this scourge was defeated, thank you. You have made it possible so that people like me could grow up in a world of freedom, a freedom that has never been so vast in scope, so completely diverse in every section of life at any time in human history. It is that same freedom that so often is taken for granted, that it causes some who read a story like this to realize that it doesn’t come without a price, not then, not now, not ever.


Larry Hart



[1] It should be noted that the U.S. bases in the Philippines were attacked on the same day as Pearl Harbor. Since those Islands are across the international dateline the attack was recorded on December 8.

[2] Lowell Thomas and Edward Jablonski, Doolittle, a Biography  (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Co., 1976) p.157; and C.V. Glines, The Doolittle Raid: America’s Daring First Strike Against Japan  (New York: Orion Books, 1988) p.12

3 Thomas, Doolittle, p. 158; and Glines, The Raid, p. 13

4 Thomas, Doolittle, p. 157

5 Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., The Army Air Forces in World War II (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1948) Vol. I, Plans and Early Operations: January 1939 to August 1942, 438-444

6  National Archives: Informational Intelligence Summary, October 5, 1942: The Tokyo Raid,  RG 407 Army Ag Classified Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 543: 370.091to 370.2 Folder 370.2,  p. 2

7 Thomas, Doolittle, p. 156, Although the Carrier Hornet was not yet selected, it was the most likely choice to carry the planes to their destination.  It should be noted that Craven and Cate said that the choice of the plane was really between the B-26 and the B-25. p.439

8 Glines, The Raid, pp. 24-27

9 Ibid. Note 10, p. 234

10 Ibid. p. 25

11 Glines, Doolittle, p.25

12 Royden Stork, interview with author, tape recording, October 22, 2001

12a Tom Griffin said there were only twenty planes that went to Columbia South Carolina and twenty that went  to Alameda air station to board onto the Hornet. Roy Stork maintains that there were twenty-one when they reached Alameda and one was eliminated before Doolittle had to cut the numbers down to sixteen.

12b The “Cowling” of the airplane is the cover for the engine, much the same way a hood covers

an automobile engine. Roy Stork interview with author.

13 Stork interview

14 Thomas C. Griffin, interview with author, October 17, 2001; and Glines, The Raid, from the unpublished

manuscript of Rear Adm. Henry Miller, forwarded by letter to C.V. Glines dated January 7, 1963

15 Glines, The Raid, p. 26

16 Ibid. p. 27

16a Glines, The Raid, p. 36

17 National Archives: Summary of Targets and Memoranda of Personal Interviews with Major J.F. Pinkney,  RG18 Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942 (bulkies), Box 525: 370.091 to 370.2, Folder 370.2 (8/1/42 – 12/31/42) pp.2-3

18 Griffin interview

19 I received several different answers as to when exactly the men were asked to volunteer. When I interviewed Roy Stork, he told me it was around “the first part of February,” when they were still in Pendleton Oregon and  Doolittle was the one who asked for the volunteers. However, Tom Griffin maintains it wasn’t until they arrived at Columbia South Carolina that they were asked by some other ranking officers if they would like to participate. Griffin said he really couldn’t remember seeing Doolittle until after they landed at Eglin Field, Florida. But he does state that he could be wrong about that.

20 Glines, The Raid, p.28; and National Archives: “Doolittle Raid” in possession of World War II archivist,; also present in RG 407 Army Ag Classified Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 543, p. 9.

21 National Archives: “Doolittle Raid”, June 5, 1942, ibid.

22 Army envelope Entitled, “Raid on Tokyo, Doolittle Report:” RG 18 (Army Air Forces) Central Decimal Files, 1939-1942 (Bulkies) Box 188 384.5 raids to 385 order of battle, Japanese (no page number, listed under A. Aircraft and Accessories )

23 Stork interview

23a National Archives: Doolittle Raid, June 5, 1942, RG 407, Army Ag Classified Decimal File,

1940-1942, Box 543 p.10

23b Ibid. p. 11

24 National Archives: Doolittle Raid, June 5, 1942, RG 407, Army Ag Classified Decimal File, 1940-

1942, Box 543, p.11,

25 Glines, The Raid, quoting Ted Lawson from his biographical account of the raid entitled Thirty Seconds

    over Tokyo, p.41

26 Ibid.

27 National Archives: RG 407 Army-AG Classified Decimal file, 1940-1942 box 525: 370.091 to 370.2 p.3 Also see, “Doolittle Raid”, June 5, 1942RG 407 Army Ag Classified Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 543, p.5

28 Glines, The Raid, p.43

29 Ibid.

30 Doolittle Raid, June 5, 1942, RG 407 Army Ag Classified Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 543, p. 13.

31 National Archives: deck logs, Aircraft Carrier Hornet, RG 24 (CV-8), Oct. 20, 1941 June 30, 1942, p.985

32 “Doolittle Raid”, June 5, 1942, RG 407, Army Ag Classified Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box

543 p.14.

33 Thomas, Doolittle, p.181

34 Griffin interview. He describe conditions on the deck that day as being “hazardous.”

35 Ibid. I asked Tom Griffin, who was the navigator on Doc Watson’s plane, if he was nervous about taking off. He answered,” We were number nine, and we saw eight planes takeoff successfully, that helped a lot.”

36 Thomas, Doolittle, p.184 also see National Archives: RG 24, deck logs, Aircraft Carrier Hornet (CV-8) Oct. 20, 1941 to June 30, 1942, p.985,  the deck log actually has Doolittle taking off at 0821 and the last plane leaving at 0920.

37 Thomas, Doolittle, p. 183

38 Thomas, Doolittle p. 184-186, Taken from Jimmy Doolittle’s narrative about the raid. There was no citation for it. RG 407 classified decimal file 1940-42 Box 525: 370.091 to 370.2 folder 370.2, 8-1-42 to 12-31-42,  p.7

39 Ibid.

40 Glines, The Raid, p.87. National Archives: RG18, Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 525, Folder 370.2.p.6,

41 National Archives: RG18 Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 525, Folder 370.2. p.5; and  Glines, The Raid, p. 90

42 National Archives: RG18 Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 525, Folder 370.2.p.5-6

43 National Archives: RG18 Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 525, Folder 370.2.p.6; and Glines, The Raid, p. 98

44 National Archives: RG18, Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 525, Folder 370.2., Tokyo 90.17 Shinagawa Note: Since Hallmark’s crew crashed and two died and the others were captured, there was no one to take the statements for this interview. These notes were compiled by Major J.F. Pinkney, the interviewer for this document on the Doolittle Raid, and from other corroborating sources.

45 National Archives: RG18, Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 525, Folder 370.2., p.4

45a Nolan Herndon,  interview with the author, November 28, 2001

46 Glines, The Raid, p. 112; and National Archives: RG18, Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 525, Folder 370.2.  Most of the information I received came from the Classified Decimal file 1940-1942. However, there was only a partial entry for Captain York’s crew because during the time these interviews were taken the Russians were interning the men. They did not return to the United States until 1943. However, the quotes are from the personal interview between the author and Nolan Herndon.

46a Griffin interview

47 National Archives: RG18, Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 525, Folder 370.2.Note: In the interview I did with Tom Griffin, he insisted on two occasions that the primary target was the tractor/tank factory and that Tokyo Gas and Electric was really a secondary target. Both the report from Major Pinkney and the C. V. Glines’ The Doolittle Raiders Says that their primary target was Tokyo Gas and Electric.

48 Glines, The Raid, P.118-119; and the Stork interview

49 National Archives: RG18, Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 525, Folder 370.2.Glines,The Raid, P. 120)

50 National Archives: RG18, Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 525, Folder 370.2.; and  Glines, The Raid,  p. 121)

51 Glines, The Raid, p. 126.

52 National Archives: (RG18 Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 525, Folder 370.2.,)

53 National Archives: RG18, Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 525, Folder 370.2

54 Glines, The Raid, p. 139.

55 Ibid. p. 74

56 National Archives: RG18, Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 525, Folder 370.2. p.20

57 National Archives: RG18 Army Air Forces: Central Decimal File, 1940-1942, Box 525, Folder 370.2. p. 20).

58 Thomas, Doolittle, p.190

59 Stork interview

60 Griffin interview

61 Griffin interview

62 Ibid. Since Griffin was in Watson’s ninth plane, the others must have been coming in for at least a couple of hours after that.

63 Glines, The Raid, p. 85

63a Herndon indicated to me during our interview that he felt very strongly that York’s decision to fly to Russia was not a snap decision. He and others had determined after many years of “looking into it” that York had been ordered by intelligence officers to fly to Russia on purpose. When I asked him if he felt this was true or not, he answered, “Well, I absolutely say that it was true.” Herndon went on to say, “there are no papers to prove it, but others who looked at it, (thought) this country was very, very anxious to find out what Russia would do.”

64 Glines, The Raid., p. 159 as quoted from an interview York gave to intelligence upon his return, June 3, 1943

65 Glines, The Raid, p. 163-164; taken from Emmens’ book, Guests of the Kremlin, New York: The Macmillan co., 1949, p. 212

65a Nolan Herndon told the author that being interned in Russia was not such an uncommon thing during World War II. There were over 250 fliers who for one reason or another landed in Russia and spent the rest of the war there courtesy of the Soviets. Many were those who had bombed Japan from the Aleutian Islands. As far as he knew all were released after the war. They have an organization today called “Home From Siberia.”

66 Glines, The Raid, p. 175, taken from the deposition of Bob Hite when he returned after the war. The date is unknown.

67 Ibid. p. 172, from the unpublished Manuscript of Chase Nielson.

68 Glines, the Raid, p.175, also from Bob Hite’s deposition.

69 Glines, The Raid,   p179-180

70 Glines, The Raid,  p. 181, note: This was not unlike the method of crucifixion practiced by the Romans. It was not mentioned but I am not sure if the Japanese were purposely making some referance to Christ or not. Maybe out of respect for the men whose lives they were about to take from them and whose religion it was.

71 Discovery of the urns containing the airmen’s ashes were found to be tampered with. Someone, it was never revealed who, changed the names in a veiled attempt to hide the crime that was committed.

72 Los Angeles Times, April 22, 1942, front page. Shangri la was a referance to a mythical place popularized by a Hollywood movie of the time in which people lived in a secret paradise.

73 Los Angeles Times, April 19, 1942, headline, front page

74 Ibid.

75 Glines, The Raid, p. 218

76 Ibid.

77 Los Angeles Times, AP, May 11 1942, front page and headline

78 Glines, The Raid, p.74; as quoted from William F. and Bryan J. Halsey, Admiral Halsey’s Story, New York:

The Macmillan Co. , 1972, p.105

79 The Los Angeles Times reported as its headline on April 19, 1942, “Japs Fear Bombing of Four Cities

Start of Huge U.S. Air Offensive.”  Refer to footnote 74 for the first paragraph where the Japanese

warned that as long as the U.S. has aircraft carriers, their homeland was in danger of being bombed.

This indicates for the first time they were flustered. They were not sure what the significance of the

bombing was. They were so overly confident before the raid but after April 18, they were truly set off


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