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Posted by Tim Bryce on April 18, 2014


– 72 years ago, American flyers dropped bombs on Japan as retribution for Pearl Harbor.


To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

April 18th represents the anniversary of many key events in history; in 1906 it marked the destructive San Francisco earthquake and fire, Yankee Stadium opened in 1923 (“The House that Ruth Built”), in 1943 Japanese Admiral Yamamoto was shot down by American flyers over Bougainville, and in 1983 a suicide bomber destroyed the American embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people. To me though, April 18th primarily means one thing, the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Japan.

72 years ago today, Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle of the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF, the precursor to the U.S. Air Force), led an attack on industrial targets in Japan as retribution for the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, just over four months earlier. Considering the state of our military at the time, it is amazing America was able to pull together this response in such a short period of time. Make no mistake though, this was done more for rallying the spirit of America as opposed to making a strategic knockout punch.

My fascination with the raid began as a young man, when I purchased the book, “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” by Captain Ted W. Lawson (1943). This is the first book I purchased at my grammar school book fair. Like a lot of youths of the period, the early 1960’s, I wrote a book report on it. In 1944, the book was followed by a movie of the same name, starring Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson.

From the book, I developed a fascination with the B-25 “Mitchell” representing the sixteen aircraft used in the raid. It remains my favorite medium bomber from that era. Interestingly, it was named after General Billy Mitchell, a hero of mine who was an early pioneer of “air power.” As an aside, it was Mitchell who predicted the attack on Hawaii a full 17 years before it happened. Mitchell also foresaw the need for medium and heavy bombers.

I will not try to explain the story of the raid herein as it has already been well told in both print and film. Suffice it to say it was an imaginative and courageous effort to strike back at the Japanese war machine. The raiders were escorted to Japan aboard the USS Hornet, which they launched from when they got within range of Japan, a daring feat as bombers had never before flown off an aircraft carrier. The raiders carried out their bombing run on various targets in and around Tokyo, before making their escape to China (one group made it to the USSR where they were imprisoned for a year). Two groups were captured by the Japanese, with three men being tried for military crimes and executed, the others were imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp for over three years. A few perished as they tried to land in China, but most made their escape thanks to the Chinese. Because of this, the Japanese killed approximately 250,000 Chinese for assisting the Americans.

Of the 80 men participating in the raid, only four survive to date, one of which is approaching 99 years of age (Richard “Dick” Cole). Over the years, the raiders held many reunions. Following the war, the citizens of Tucson, Arizona made a presentation of 80 sterling goblets to the group so the raiders could toast each other, both living and passed. A bottle of cognac accompanies the goblets for the last two remaining raiders to open and enjoy. The raiders no longer hold reunions as they have become old and frail, and the goblets are now maintained at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

As an aside, there is now an effort underway to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the raiders before the last few pass away. For information, see “The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders.” The group needs your support.

Following Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt was looking for a way to lift the morale of the American people. He also wanted to send a message to the Japanese people that they were not as invulnerable as their government would have them believe. Navy Captain Francis Low, the Assistant Chief of Staff for anti-submarine warfare, was credited with the idea for launching bombers off of aircraft carriers. The plan was developed and implemented by Colonel Doolittle, a well known and respected aviator prior to the war.

The mission was bold, imaginative, inspirational, and achieved its goals. The raid caused nominal material destruction on Japan, nothing like the extensive daylight and evening bombings of Europe. However, it achieved the psychological objectives Roosevelt was hoping for, such as lifting the spirits of Americans while planting the seeds of doubt in the Japanese.

I write about the Doolittle Raid for two reasons: as a history lesson for our youth, and to remind us that we could use such ingenuity and courage today.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2014 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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  1. Tim Bryce said

    A C.M. of Sharpsburg, Maryland wrote…

    “My mother attended a reception in 1945 at the Chinese embassy in DC for Doolittle and his raiders. A dollar bill, called a ‘short snorter’,was passed around in which Doolittle,his boys,Chinese officers, all signed it and presented it to my mom. One of a kind goodie!! We keep it in the dark and under glass now as the ink wants to fade.”


  2. Tim Bryce said

    A B.H. of Boulder, Colorado wrote…

    “I still have a copy of that Landmark book edition from when I was a boy. I have a few other books from them as well as the entire Black Stallion series by Walter Farley and also the entire Tom Corbett-Space Cadet series.”


  3. At their last gathering, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, in Dayton, Ohio, the remaining Raiders went ahead and opened the bottle (referred to as a ‘tontine’) and toasted their departed comrades. There was a long video of the ceremony at the time (which I cannot locate now), but this clip catches the gist of that day. The link will actually take you to a more general NMUSAF page, where you’ll have to scroll down in the video links to find the right clip. The Museum also has a page on the Doolittle Raid, but, unfortunately, the link to the ceremony there doesn’t seem to work.

    It was an emotional gathering and ceremony that included comments from family members and officials, who spoke to the importance of the raid to American morale at that time in the war. The mission really defies simple description (audacious? insane?), and the Raiders deserved, in spades, the accolades they received during the decades that followed. The survivors, to a man, always insisted that the heroes were not themselves but, rather, those who did not return.

    If there is a single symbol of The Greatest Generation, as defined by its signature accomplishment (our unity and resolve in that worldwide conflict), The Doolittle Raid would get my vote.


  4. said

    Love it !!!


  5. Tim Bryce said

    A D.S. of Cincinnati, Ohio wrote…

    “Tim, our Tri State Warbirds held a ceremony tonight to honor the raiders. They even had a B25 there and several family members of some of the raiders. Even got a shot of Hennessy! it was well done and let’s hope we never forget all of our heroes!”


  6. Tim Bryce said

    A B.J. of Fort Wayne, Indiana wrote…

    “I might add, the raid was launched prematurely. The original plan was to move the planes to China so they could attack Japanese targets from there. Attacking Japan “on the way over” turned out to be a bonus.

    The Hornet’s task group was trying to sneak up close to Japan, but thought it had been detected while well out to sea. The raiders were launched at the farthest straight-line distance their planes could cover, measured to the intended landing airfields in China. There was never any question that they could reach Tokyo and accomplish that part of their mission. But it was very open to question if they could get all the way to China, and complete their strategic mission.

    Video footage of Doolittle’s planes stored on Hornet, and taking off, should be required viewing in U.S. History classes: these fliers were going to do something that was thought impossible, but by putting together the very limits of their equipment’s technical capabilities, it became possible.

    The Japanese Navy commanders were stunned at Doolittle’s feat – in part because they had not been told of sighting the Hornet task force. Their embarrassment propelled them into adopting the disastrous plan for the Battle of Midway.”


  7. Tim Bryce said

    A C.F. of Indiana wrote…

    “In 1992, we had a fly-off of B-25s from USS Ranger (CV-61) to commemorate the Doolittle Raid’s 50th anniversary. It was impressive to meet and observe the WWII veterans who attended, even going out to sea for the day on RANGER for the fly-off. The B-25s launched out in the SoCal OPAREA, overflew San Diego, and then landed at NAS North Island (on Coronado, across the bay from San Diego). I wish I could paste the photo here–it was quite an afternoon, with veterans and distinguished guests sitting in bleachers alongside the carrier’s superstructure to watch the fly-off.”




  9. Tim Bryce said

    An M.I. of Cincinnati, Ohio wrote…

    “I thoroughly enjoyed your article on Doolittle’s raid. Being an aviation fan, I have seen all the movies and newsreels relating to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the following movies relating to WWII.Thank you for your post.”


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