18 April 2012

Anniversary: The Doolittle Raid

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Doolittle's Raid

The Army pilots at the controls of the B-25s had practiced short takeoffs from the comfortably dry land of a Florida airstrip but had never once tried it at sea. No one else ever had, either. Landing a B-25 on a carrier was impossible. Flying a B-25 off a carrier was, by comparison, merely insane. But the medium-weight bombers were the only aircraft in the American arsenal with a prayer of completing the daredevil mission. If all went according to plan, they would fly five hundred miles to Japan, drop their load, then continue another eleven hundred miles to a safe landing in unoccupied China.

Leading the attack was an unflappable test pilot, Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle; his was the first of the lumbering bombers to catapult down the heaving deck. Over the next hour fifteen others followed. One pilot hung on the verge of a stall for so long as he struggled to get airborne that, Halsey later recalled, "we nearly catalogued his effects." Thirteen of the planes headed for Tokyo, roared in over the rooftops from different directions, and dropped their four bombs apiece. The three others hit Nagoya and Osaka. Ever since the attack on Pearl Harbor four months earlier, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had been pressing for just such a morale-boosting coup to bolster some of America's wounded pride. The Doolittle raid had been his pet project, and he was exultant with the news. Asked by reporters where the planes had come from, FDR grinned and said, "Shangri-La."

And they did it all with just 16 aircraft.

Image from Wikimedia

By: Brant

1 comment:

besilarius said...

This was a great adventure and had a wonderful effect on morale.
Having said that, Joe Rochefort, who led the codebreakers at Pearl Harbor and broke the plan of the Japanese to invade Midway, felt that a great opportunity was lost with this raid.
His team had a glimmer of the Japanese plans that resulted in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Two American carriers versus two big and one small Japanese.
He argued that putting all four American carriers at Coral Sea would have been a great victory. The Doolittle raid could have been done afterwards.