Doolittle Raid

Template:Battlebox The Doolittle Raid was a bomber raid launched by the United States on the Japanese mainland on April 18, 1942.

The raid was planned and led by then Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, a famous pre-war civilian aviator.

The raid was made possible by a technical observation of Captain Francis Low that twin-engined bombers could be launched from an aircraft carrier. Subsequent tests appeared to prove that a B-25 Mitchell could be launched with a reasonable bomb load, hit targets in Japan and then fly on to land in China.



Sixteen North American Aviation B-25Bs were loaded onto USS Hornet, with 500 lb (230 kg) bombs and extra fuel tanks but with reduced guns. The planes were arranged on the flight deck in the order of launch and secured. The Hornet left port on April 2 and met with USS Enterprise in mid-ocean. The two carriers proceeded together with a fourteen vessel escort towards the launch point.

The bombers, however, were launched while the task force was still 800 miles (1,500 km) from Japan rather than the desired 450 to 650 miles. The task force had spotted an enemy patrol boat, and although the patrol boat was sunk by U.S. gunfire, it was decided to launch the planes at once in case the patrol boat had radioed a warning message. All the B-25s reached the Japanese islands, dropped their bombs on oil stores, factory areas, and military installations in Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya, and then headed out across the East China Sea.

The raiders, however, were facing numerous challenges: night was approaching, the planes began running low on fuel, and the weather was getting bad rapidly. The crews realized they could not reach the Chinese airfields and had the choice of either bailing out, ditching at sea, or crash-landing. One plane landed at Vladivostok where its crew was interned by the Russians.

The Effect of the Raid

In comparison to the B-29 attacks against Japan two years later, the raid was a token effort. Nevertheless, when the news of the raid was released, American morale soared from the depths to which it had plunged following Japan's successes. Conversely, it caused the Japanese to transfer back to the home islands fighter units which could otherwise have been used against the Allies at the Battle of Midway and beyond.


Following the Tokyo Raid, the crews of two planes were missing. On August 15, 1942, it was learned from the Swiss Consulate General in Shanghai that eight American flyers were prisoners of the Japanese at Police Headquarters in that city. On October 19, 1942, the Japanese broadcast that they had tried two crews of the Tokyo Raid and had sentenced them to death, but that a number of them had received commutation of their sentences to life imprisonment and a lesser number had been executed. No names or facts were given.

After the war, the facts were uncovered in a War Crimes Trial held at Shanghai which opened in February 1946 to try four Japanese officers for mistreatment of the eight POWs of the Tokyo Raid. Two of the original ten men, Dieter and Fitzmaurice, had died when their B-25 ditched off the coast of China. The other eight, Hallmark, Meder, Nielsen, Farrow, Hite, Barr, Spatz, and DeShazer were captured. In addition to being tortured, they contracted dysentery and beriberi as a result of the poor conditions under which they were confined. On August 28, 1942, Hallmark, Farrow, and Spatz were given a "trial" by Japanese officers, although they were never told the charges against them. On October 14, 1942, Hallmark, Farrow, and Spatz were advised they were to be executed the next day. At 16:30 on October 15, 1942 the three Americans were brought by truck to Public Cemetery No. 1 outside Shanghai. In accordance with proper ceremonial procedures of the Japanese military, they were then shot.

The other five men remained in military confinement on a starvation diet, their health rapidly deteriorating. In April 1943, they were moved to Nanking and on December 1, 1943, Meder died. The other four men began to receive a slight improvement in their treatment, even being allowed to keep a copy of the Bible, and survived to August 1945 when they were freed. The four Japanese officers tried for their war crimes against the eight Tokyo Raiders were found guilty. Three were sentenced to hard labor for five years and the fourth to a nine year sentence.

For three months after the raid, the Japanese conducted a search for the remaining airmen who escaped to the Zhejiang area. Approximately twenty-five thousand Chinese civilians were killed in retaliation for harboring the American airmen, during Battle of Zhejiang-Jiangxi in Chinese-Japanese conflict in the Pacific War.

Doolittle had expected a court martial, but instead, the raid still bolstered the American spirit and earned him a Medal of Honor.

In November 1944, Japan began launching as many as 9,000 balloon bombs in partial retaliation for the Doolittle Raid.

The raid was depicted in a feature movie Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, featuring Spencer Tracy as Doolittle, and in the final portion of the 2001 feature movie Pearl Harbor, in which Doolittle was played by Alec Baldwin.

External links

fr:Raid de Doolittle ja:東京初空襲 pl:Nalot na Tokio (1942) pt:Ataque Doolittle zh:空袭东京


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