Mission: Execute the first Air Attack on the Japan Mainland only 3.5 months after Pearl Harbor.
The attack on Japan, launched from the aircraft carrier Hornet and led by Lt. Col. Doolittle, was the most daring
operation undertaken yet by the U.S. in the Pacific War. Conceived as a diversion that would boost American and
allied morale, the raid generated strategic benefits that far outweighed its limited goals.
Quickly determined by short tests, it was possibe to launch twin-engined bombers from an aircraft carrier, making
feasible an early air attack on Japan. Fleet and Air Force Commanders greeted the idea with enthusiasm and assigned
technically-astute Doolittle to organize and lead a suitable air group. Selected was the B-25B Mitchell medium bomber
after the tests showed that it could fly off a carrier with a bomb load and enough fuel to hit Japan and continue on
to airfields in China. (As it was, they were not able to reach the Chinese Airfields and bail-out was necessary.)
Selecting crews for a dangerous mission, Doolittle embarked on a program of special training for his men and modifi-
cations to their planes. The new USS Hornet was sent to the Pacific for the Navy's part of the mission. So secret was
the operation that her Commanding Officer, Capt. Mitscher, had no idea of his ship's upcoming employment until shortly
before the 16 B-25s were loaded on her deck. On April 2, 1942 Hornet put to sea and headed west across the Pacific.
Joined in mid-ocean by Vice Admiral William Halsey's flagship Enterprise, which would provide air cover, Hornet steamed
toward a planned 18 April afternoon launching point some 400 miles from Japan. However, on 18 April, enemy picket boats
were encountered further east than expected. These were evaded or sunk, but got off radio warnings, forcing the planes
to take off around 8 AM, while still more than 600 miles out. Most of the sixteen B-25s, each with a five-man crew,
attacked the Tokyo area, with a few hitting Nagoya. Damage to the intended military targets was modest, and none of the
planes reached the Chinese airfield, all but a few members of the 80 man crew members survived.
However, the Japanese high command was deeply embarrassed. Three of the eight American airmen they had captured were
executed. Spurred by Japanese Fleet commander Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, they planned to eliminate the risk of any more
Raids by the early destruction of America's aircraft carriers, a decision resulting in a Japanese disaster at the
Battle of Midway a month and a half later.
Jimmy Doolittle and his raiders hit Tokyo, Kawasaki, Yokusuka, Nagoya, Yokkaichi and Kobe on 18 April. The psycho-
logical blow was a tremendous one. The Doolittle raidís impact led Yamamoto to move up the timetable of his planned
attack on Midway and quickly offered up forces for the Midway invasion.
Midway would become the battle that would destroy four of Japanís ten aircraft carriers and put the Japanese on the
defensive for the remainder of the war. After the defeat at Midway in an effort to hide the bad news and keep it from
the Japanese Nation, some of the survivors, officers and men, were confined to bases on Kyushu. Other lesser ranks
were sent to the South Pacific, and most would never see their families again.
Lt. Colonel Doolittle received the Medal Of Honor and was promoted to Lt. General.