Seventy years ago today, 16 U.S. Army B29 Mitchell bombers under the command of Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle took off from the deck of the USS Hornet on a mission to bomb Tokyo. This would be the first American strike against the Japanese just 4 months after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. It was essentially a suicide mission as the bombers didn’t have the fuel capacity to complete a round trip back to the carrier. The plan was to complete the bombing run, make it into China and bailout out over territory not yet held by the Japanese.
The raid went generally as planned and all 16 planes were able to drop their bomb loads over Tokyo in broad daylight. Of the 80 crew members, all but 6 survived. One was killed on bailout; 2 drowned when their plane ditched off the coast of China; 8 were captured by the Japanese and 3 of those were executed by the Japanese.
There was no strategic or tactical goal to Doolittle’s Raid. However, it was a great moral booster for Americans civillians and troops. The raid had a devastating effect on the Japanese. The horrors of war that they had inflicted upon others had now come home to them and was a foreshadowing of the greater horrors yet to be visited up on the nation of Japan and the Japanese people.
There are but five remaining survivors of the Doolittle Raiders. Here is a New York Times tribute to those survivors and all of the Doolittle Raiders which includes a brief video presentation by each of the 5 survivors.