#MilitaryMonday

An overhead view of the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) firing all 15 of its guns (nine 16-inch and six 5-inch) during a target exercise near Vieques Island.  Careful observation of the three main turrets shows the barrels in various states of recoil. Photo: US Navy

An overhead view of the battleship USS IOWA (BB-61) firing all 15 of its guns (nine 16-inch and six 5-inch) during a target exercise near Vieques Island. Careful observation of the three main turrets shows the barrels in various states of recoil.
Photo: US Navy

A weekly feature honoring the armed forces of the United States and its Allies.

1898, the cruiser Charleston (C 2) captures the island of Guam, its Spanish colonial government unaware that their country is at war with the United States. The island was taken by the United States without incident and the Charleston went down in history as the ship that raised the American flag on Guam.

USS Charleston at Hong Kong, 1898. Credit: US Navy

USS Charleston at Hong Kong, 1898.
Credit: US Navy

An undated photo shows Sailors of USS Charleston (C 2) manning one of the ship's guns during the Spanish-American War.  U.S. Navy photo

An undated photo shows Sailors of USS Charleston (C 2) manning one of the ship’s guns during the Spanish-American War.
U.S. Navy photo

Charleston at Manila. US Navy photo

Charleston at Manila.
US Navy photo

The US Navy’s Last Ships

I talk a lot about US Navy’s firsts and there have been A LOT, but with the TNT premiere of The Last Ship on Sunday night, I thought I’d pay homage to Navy’s “lasts!”

  • The LAST SHIP in commission from the War of 1812: USS Constitution. Currently, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat is undergoing restoration, but it’s still open for visitors.
BOSTON (Aug. 29, 2014) USS Constitution sets sail in Boston Harbor during the ship's second and final chief petty officer heritage week underway demonstration of 2014. More than 150 chief petty officer selects and mentors assisted the crew of Constitution with setting the ship's three topsails during the underway to conclude a week of sail training aboard Old Ironsides. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Kinney)

BOSTON (Aug. 29, 2014) USS Constitution sets sail in Boston Harbor during the ship’s second and final chief petty officer heritage week underway demonstration of 2014. More than 150 chief petty officer selects and mentors assisted the crew of Constitution with setting the ship’s three topsails during the underway to conclude a week of sail training aboard Old Ironsides. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Kinney)

  • The LAST SHIP commissioned as a battleship: USS Wisconsin (BB 64). While it’s true USS Missouri (BB 63) was the last battleship in commission, Wisconsin, was not only the last of the four commissioned Iowa-class battlewagons to be commissioned when they were first built, she was the last of the four to be recommissioned for service in the late 80s and early 90s.  She was decommissioned for the final time in 1991 after serving in Desert Storm.
USS Wisconsin (BB-64)  Firing a broadside to port with her 16/50 and 5/38 guns, circa 1988-91.  Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

USS Wisconsin (BB-64) Firing a broadside to port with her 16/50 and 5/38 guns, circa 1988-91. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

  • The LAST SHIP to sink at the Battle of Midway: USS Yorktown (CV 5). It might be said that by the time Yorktown participated in the Battle of Midway, she was already on borrowed time having fought so valiantly at Coral Sea only three weeks earlier where she sustained significant damage.  But her crew and shipyard workers at Pearl Harbor returned the ship to sea in time for the pivotal Battle of Midway. Yorktown played a key role in the victory that spelled the beginning of the end of Japanese aggression in the Pacific, but as she was repairing damage from the second battle a Japanese sub launched a salvo of torpedoes at her and the accompanying destroyer USS Hamman, which quickly sank.  Yorktown, struck twice by the subs torpedoes and further damaged as the sinking Hamman’s depth charges ignited, remained stubbornly afloat for another 18 hours before finally rolling over and sinking. Yorktown earned three battle stars for her World War II service; two of them being for the significant part she had played in stopping Japanese expansion and turning the tide of the war at Coral Sea and at Midway.
Anchored in Hampton Roads, Virginia, 30 October 1937.  U.S. Navy Photograph.

Anchored in Hampton Roads, Virginia, 30 October 1937. U.S. Navy Photograph.

  • The LAST SHIP of the Oliver Hazard Perry Class to deploy: USS Kauffman (FFG 59).  She was commissioned in February 1987 and left Norfolk for her last deployment in January 2015. After she returns home from serving and protecting her country, she will become the last of the Oliver Hazard Perry class of ships to retire.
NEW YORK (May 25, 2011) The guided-missile frigate USS Kauffman (FFG 59) transits the Hudson River during Fleet Week 2011 parade of ships. Fleet Week has been New York City's celebration of the sea services since 1984. It is an opportunity for citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see first-hand, the latest capabilities of today's maritime services. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric S. Garst)

NEW YORK (May 25, 2011) The guided-missile frigate USS Kauffman (FFG 59) transits the Hudson River during Fleet Week 2011 parade of ships. Fleet Week has been New York City’s celebration of the sea services since 1984. It is an opportunity for citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see first-hand, the latest capabilities of today’s maritime services. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eric S. Garst)

  • The LAST SHIP to be named for a Medal of Honor recipient: USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112). Named to honor Lt. Michael Murphy’s heroic actions during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan, the ship recently returned home from its maiden deployment. The ship and crew of more than 300 Sailors conducted goodwill activities with partner nations and various presence operations such as Oceania Maritime Security Initiative in the Pacific Ocean during its seven month deployment.
  • The LAST SHIP to be commissioned in memory of the sacrifice and loss of 9/11: USS Somerset (LPD 25). Joining her sister ships, USS New York (LPD 21) and USS Arlington (LPD 24), Somerset joined the fleet on March 1, 2014.  Her mission is to embark, transport, and land elements of a landing force for a variety of expeditionary warfare missions.
GULF OF MEXICO (Aug. 19, 2013) The Ingalls-built amphibious transport dock ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Somerset (LPD 25) transits the Gulf of Mexico during builder's sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. by Steve Blount)

GULF OF MEXICO (Aug. 19, 2013) The Ingalls-built amphibious transport dock ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Somerset (LPD 25) transits the Gulf of Mexico during builder’s sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. by Steve Blount)

  • The LAST SHIP to test the Navy’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D): USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). In August 2014, the X-47B unmanned aircraft conducted its first night time deck handling and taxi tests and completed a series of tests demonstrating its ability to take off, land and fly in the carrier pattern with manned aircraft while maintaining normal flight deck operations.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 17, 2014) The Navy's unmanned X-47B launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The aircraft completed a series of tests demonstrating its ability to operate safely and seamlessly with manned aircraft. (U.S. Navy photo by  Liz Wolter)

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 17, 2014) The Navy’s unmanned X-47B launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The aircraft completed a series of tests demonstrating its ability to operate safely and seamlessly with manned aircraft. (U.S. Navy photo by Liz Wolter)

  • The LAST SHIP to have Admiral Chester Nimitz as its Commanding Officer: USS Augusta (CA31). In 1933, long before he became Chief of Naval Operations in 1945, he commanded USS Augusta, the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet.
(CA-31)  Anchored in the Hudson River, off New York City, at the time of the Navy Day Fleet Review, circa late October 1945.  Collection of Warren Beltramini, donated by Beryl Beltramini, 2007.  U.S. Navy Historical Collections Photo.

(CA-31) Anchored in the Hudson River, off New York City, at the time of the Navy Day Fleet Review, circa late October 1945. Collection of Warren Beltramini, donated by Beryl Beltramini, 2007. U.S. Navy Historical Collections Photo.

  • The LAST SHIP to launch U.S. Army bombers: USS Hornet (CV 8). Conceived in January 1942 in the wake of the devastating Japanese surprise attack on Oahu, the Doolittle Raid or the “joint Army-Navy bombing project” was to bomb Japanese industrial centers, to inflict both “material and psychological” damage upon the enemy. In the joint operation, 16 Army B-25 Mitchell Bombers launched April 18, 1942 from the deck of Hornet to conductair raids on Tokyo, Yokosuka, Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagoya, against negligible opposition.
“The Tokyo Raid By US Army B-25 Bombers,” April 1942 by John Charles Roach, Oil Painting on Canvas, WWII. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Gallery 2012-12-8)

“The Tokyo Raid By US Army B-25 Bombers,” April 1942 by John Charles Roach, Oil Painting on Canvas, WWII. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Gallery 2012-12-8)

  • The LAST SHIP to have a treaty signed on its decks: USS Missouri (BB63). Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, signed the Instrument of Surrender as United States Representative, on board USS Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945 thus marking the formal end of World War II.
General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945. Watching from across the table are Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Representatives of the Allied powers are behind General MacArthur. Photographed from atop Missouri's 16-inch gun turret # 2.  Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, on board USS Missouri (BB-63), 2 September 1945. Watching from across the table are Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Representatives of the Allied powers are behind General MacArthur. Photographed from atop Missouri’s 16-inch gun turret # 2. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

  • The LAST SHIP to fight in the American Revolution: USS Alliance. On March 10, 1783, more than a month after the Treaty of Paris officially ended the American Revolution, the 36-gun Continental frigate Alliance, commanded by Capt. John Barry, departs Havana with companion ship Due de Lauzun carrying money for Congress. South of Cape Canaveral, Fla., she sights three enemy warships closing in. To protect Due de Lauzen, Barry places Alliance between the vessel and HMS Sybil. After being damaged in battle, Sybil disengages.
USS Alliance

USS Alliance

Crash

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#MilitaryMonday: 73rd Anniversary of Doolittle Raid on Tokyo

Less than 300 feet. Could this really work? It had barely succeeded in practice runs (and those were from the comforts of Eglin Airfield's endless runway.) Now here they were, aboard the seemingly inadequate deck of the USS Hornet - pitching and heaving in the swells of the Pacific.

Less than 300 feet. Could this really work? It had barely succeeded in practice runs (and those were from the comforts of Eglin Airfield’s endless runway.) Now here they were, aboard the seemingly inadequate deck of the USS Hornet – pitching and heaving in the swells of the Pacific.

It’s April 1942 and in the first attack of the Japanese mainland during World War II, the Doolittle Raid begins with 16 Army Air Force B-25 bombers launching from USS Hornet‬ (CV 8), approximately 650 miles off Japan due to being discovered by a Japanese guardboat. U.S. Pacific Fleet

Embarrassed by the attack, the Japanese high command resolves to eliminate the risk of any more raids by destroying America’s aircraft carriers, moving up a decision that leads them to disaster at the Battle of Midway six weeks later in June 1942.

Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle, USAAF. Courtesy of US National Archives

Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle, USAAF.
Courtesy of US National Archives

Nobody spoke. The B-25’s engines droned on. Co-pilot Lt. Rich Cole’s dogtags clinked and vibrated as the engines grew louder. One last look at the sweetheart – a small photo wedged into the instrument panel.

“God, I hope we covered the checklist,” he silently thought to himself. “Boss will be mad if we didn’t.”

Daring was too weak a description for what these raiders were attempting to pull off. This would alter history … If it were to work.

Failure was not an option.

Cole took a deep breath and pushed the throttle forward.

Less than 19 weeks after the U.S. Navy was attacked at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the American military struck back. On April 18, 1942 – 72 years ago this month – sixteen Army Air Force bombers launched from a Navy aircraft carrier to attack the enemy’s homeland.

Led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, the raid was launched from USS Hornet, commanded by Capt. Marc Mitscher and escorted by ships under the command of Vice Adm. “Bull” Halsey aboard his flagship, USS Enterprise.

The extraordinary joint Doolittle Raid showed Imperial Japan’s military leaders their vulnerability and America’s resolve.

The raid also demonstrated innovation, courage and resilience.

The five-man B-25 crews trained relentlessly prior to their mission, with specialized training led by Navy flight instructor Lt. Henry F. Miller. The Army Air Force made ingenious modifications so the bombers could have extra fuel but less weight.

Pilots, all volunteers, needed to be extremely fearless, taking off in their huge planes from a short flight deck. On rough seas they launched in bitter cold, 75-knot winds and foam-flecked spray, as Sailors aboard recalled.

Doolittle, as his team’s leader, took off first. His success inspired the other pilots just as their entire mission would inspire the nation – putting action to the nationwide words of resolve heard throughout the world: “Remember Pearl Harbor!”

The innovation, courage and resilience demonstrated by Halsey and Doolittle and countless others carried over into the weeks and months that followed – first in the Battle of the Coral Sea and then, in the big turning point of the War in the Pacific – the Battle of Midway.

Historians tell us that the Doolittle Raid contributed strategically to our victory at Midway, as the enemy felt humiliated and overextended to try to prevent another attack on their homeland.

The Doolittle Raid is also an early example of the evolution of “air sea battle,” integrating air and naval capabilities across domains, where collaboration and cooperation helped win the day – and eventually win the war. We remember the heroes of the Doolittle Raid.

This strategically important event is particularly meaningful to our joint team today. This uniquely shared accomplishment is a reminder of what we have the potential to accomplish when we mutually support each other.

The Doolittle Raiders – The Mission

On April 18, 1942, it was a “nice sun-shiny day overcast with anti-aircraft fire,” according to Army Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eldred V. Scott.

Over Tokyo, anyway.

Scott’s weather quip signaled the near completion of the Doolittle Raiders’ mission on that day 72 years ago today. But it was just the beginning of the unknown for the 80 men and their 16 planes.

Seven of those airmen would never return home. None of the planes did. While the bombing mission itself was relatively minor in terms of damage inflicted, the raid set into motion what would become a pivotal naval victory for the U. S. at the Battle of Midway.

The Doolittle Raid featured Army Air Force pilots and planes, but it was a joint effort with the Navy. The raid itself was concocted by Navy Capt. Francis Lowe. Another Navy officer, Lt. Henry L. Miller, is one of two men named as “Honorary Tokyo Raiders.” Miller supervised the take-off training the pilots received at Eglin Field, Fla., and was there for the raid launch. The other was Tung Sheng Liu, a Chinese engineer who helped several Tokyo Raiders escape to safety.

And it was the Navy that provided the transportation – via USS Hornet (CV 8) and her escorts – to the launch point.

The Navy wasn’t without its losses for the Tokyo Raid. One patrol plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire, landing in the water, but the crew was recovered uninjured. Another patrol plane was lost during patrol operations, with both the plane and crew lost. And during the hour-long launch, a Sailor lost his arm after being hit by the final B-25 when it rolled backward out of position, striking him with its propeller.

Doolittle Raid on Japan, April 1942. Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, USAAF (front), leader of the raiding force, wires a Japanese medal to a 500-pound bomb, during ceremonies on the flight deck of USS Hornet (CV 8), shortly before his force of sixteen B-25B bombers took off for Japan. The planes were launched on 18 April 1942. The wartime censor has obscured unit patches of the Air Force flight crew members in the background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-41191

Doolittle Raid on Japan, April 1942. Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, USAAF (front), leader of the raiding force, wires a Japanese medal to a 500-pound bomb, during ceremonies on the flight deck of USS Hornet (CV 8), shortly before his force of sixteen B-25B bombers took off for Japan. The planes were launched on 18 April 1942. The wartime censor has obscured unit patches of the Air Force flight crew members in the background. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-41191

From Conception to Launch

After Pearl Harbor, there was pressure from the commander-in-chief to strike back at Japan. Using carrier-capable aircraft to strike the enemy’s homeland would put a carrier task force into harm’s way for a counterattack, since the lighter Navy planes didn’t have the range of land-based bomb-delivering aircraft. And with only three aircraft carriers left in the Pacific fleet after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. needed to protect every asset.

Navy Capt. Francis Lowe, assigned to U.S. Fleet Commander Adm. Ernest J. King, had seen B-25s taking off from Norfolk, Va., using airstrips shaped a little like a carrier deck, minus the rolling waves. The Mitchell medium bombers, which had never been used in combat before, had the range and the wing-span that would allow for carrier takeoff. Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, an air racer who had helped develop instrument flying, was brought in to investigate the feasibility of such a mission, along with Adm. King’s Air Ops officer, Capt. Donald B. “Wu” Duncan.

The newly-commissioned aircraft carrier Hornet left Norfolk under the command of Capt. MarcMitscher to join a convoy to the Panama Canal. Meanwhile Doolittle had chosen his raiders, 5-man crews for the 16 planes, and was training for 500-foot takeoffs at Eglin Field, Fla., under the guidance of Lt. Miller. At the end of March, Hornet docked at Alameda, Calif. Using cranes, 16 B-25s were loaded onto the ship’s deck. With all of the planes loaded and lashed to the deck, the Hornet moored in the bay for the night. It was April 1.

The following morning, Hornet’s crew was made aware of their mission.

Army B-25’s onboard the USS Hornet while en route to their launching point April 18, 1942. (NH 53426 Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

Army B-25’s onboard the USS Hornet while en route to their launching point April 18, 1942. (NH 53426 Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

On April 7, naval operation plan No. 20-42 was issued, creating Task Force 16, with Task Group 16.1 under Vice Adm. William “Bull” Halsey with flagship carrier Enterprise (CV 6) and her escorts. Task Group 16.2 was headed by Capt. Mitscher with his carrier Hornet (CV 8) and her escorts.

The instructions were simple. Proceed after joining up to carry out the attack; upon completion return to Pearl Harbor; destroy enemy forces as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the attack. The two task groups met up April 13 and proceeded to steam toward a point 500 miles east of Tokyo, where they would launch the attack.

To prepare each B-25, loaded with a one-ton bomb, for its mission and flight to a safe zone in China, engineers removed the tail gunner section, painting broomsticks to look like machine guns. A rubber fuel tank was installed in the tail section, along with 10 5-gallon gas cans for manual fuel addition during the flight to a tank installed where the lower gun turret was, and a larger tank located in the bomb bay. The total fuel payload was 1,141 gallons for a 2,000-mile range.

An Army Air Forces B-25B bomber awaits the takeoff signal on the flight deck of USS Hornet (CV-8), as the raid is launched, 18 April 1942. Note Flight Deck Officer holding launch flag at right, and white stripes painted on the flight deck to guide the pilot's alignment of his plane's nose and port side wheels. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives (photo # 80-G-41194).

An Army Air Forces B-25B bomber awaits the takeoff signal on the flight deck of USS Hornet (CV-8), as the raid is launched, 18 April 1942. Note Flight Deck Officer holding launch flag at right, and white stripes painted on the flight deck to guide the pilot’s alignment of his plane’s nose and port side wheels.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives (photo # 80-G-41194).

Air patrols scouted the sea looking for enemy ships that could relay their location back to Japan, and submarines Trout and Thresher kept a steady surveillance.

After plowing through gale-force winds of 36 knots during the afternoon of April 17, enemy vessels were picked up on radar at 3:12 a.m. April 18. A light on the horizon confirmed their presence. The task group changed direction by 350 degrees and 30 minutes later, the vessels left the radar screen.

At 7:15 a.m., an Enterprise search plane reported an enemy patrol vessel and the task force sighted it at 7:44 a.m. Nashville dispatched the vessel with gunfire. Over concern the vessel had alerted the Japanese of their presence, Doolittle decided to launch the planes immediately, still 400 miles from their original launch destination.

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF, (center) with members of his flight crew and Chinese officials in China after the 18 April 1942 attack on Japan. Those present are (from left to right): Staff Sergeant Fred A. Braemer, Bombardier; Staff Sergeant Paul J. Leonard, Flight Engineer/Gunner; General Ho, director of the Branch Government of Western Chekiang Province; Lieutenant Richard E. Cole, Copilot; Lt.Col. Doolittle, Pilot and mission commander; Henry H. Shen, bank manager; Lieutenant Henry A. Potter, Navigator; Chao Foo Ki, secretary of the Western Chekiang Province Branch Government. Official U.S. Army Air Forces Photograph, from the collections of the US Navy Museum (# 97502).

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, USAAF, (center) with members of his flight crew and Chinese officials in China after the 18 April 1942 attack on Japan.
Those present are (from left to right): Staff Sergeant Fred A. Braemer, Bombardier; Staff Sergeant Paul J. Leonard, Flight Engineer/Gunner; General Ho, director of the Branch Government of Western Chekiang Province; Lieutenant Richard E. Cole, Copilot; Lt.Col. Doolittle, Pilot and mission commander; Henry H. Shen, bank manager; Lieutenant Henry A. Potter, Navigator; Chao Foo Ki, secretary of the Western Chekiang Province Branch Government.
Official U.S. Army Air Forces Photograph, from the collections of the US Navy Museum (# 97502).

The first B-25, flown by Lt. Col. Doolittle, launched at 8:20 a.m. The take-offs were timed for when the ship’s bow pitched highest to give the Mitchell more loft. The average time between takeoffs was less than four minutes. The last B-25 left at 9:19 a.m.

Around 2 p.m., aircraft from Enterprise picked up two more enemy vessels, sinking one and damaging the other.

It wasn’t until after the war the Navy was able to confirm crew on the patrol boat had alerted the Japanese of their location. But when they requested confirmation, there was no answer since the vessel had already been sunk. Getting no response, the Japanese government chose to ignore the message.

The Doolittle Raiders faced some resistance from antiaircraft fire, but most were able to hit their 10 civilian and military targets in Japan. The repercussions of the U.S. hitting the Japanese homeland set in motion a tsunami-like strategic response that would ultimately change the tides of war to an American victory.

Nose of one of the raiding force's B-25B bombers, which is tied down on the flight deck of USS Hornet (CV-8) while en route to the takeoff point. This aircraft is mission plane # 11 (USAAF serial # 40-2249), nicknamed "Hari Carrier" and decorated accordingly. The plane's pilot was Capt. C. Ross Greening. It attacked targets in Yokohama. Note slippage mark on the nosewheel and tire, and inscription on the wheel cover: "Inflating instructions inside — check tire pressure daily". USNHHC photograph (#NH 53287).

Nose of one of the raiding force’s B-25B bombers, which is tied down on the flight deck of USS Hornet (CV-8) while en route to the takeoff point. This aircraft is mission plane # 11 (USAAF serial # 40-2249), nicknamed “Hari Carrier” and decorated accordingly. The plane’s pilot was Capt. C. Ross Greening. It attacked targets in Yokohama. Note slippage mark on the nosewheel and tire, and inscription on the wheel cover: “Inflating instructions inside — check tire pressure daily”.
USNHHC photograph (#NH 53287).

Army Air Force Raid That Set Up Naval Victory

After Doolittle’s Raiders dropped bombs on Tokyo, the Japanese military reaction was swift and vengeful. Japanese Combined Fleet commander Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto decided to strike the United States’ mid-Pacific base at Midway atoll and turn it into a Japanese air field. Yamamoto knew the U.S. had insufficient strength to defeat his Royal Imperial Navy, which could generally choose where and when to attack.

The Americans, however, had deduced Yamamoto’s attack through communications intelligence. Adm. Chester Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, established an ambush and was waiting for the Imperial Navy. The second of the Pacific War’s great carrier battles began June 4, 1942, and by the end, Yamamoto’s forces lost four fleet carriers compared to just one for the United States.

The Battle of Midway had leveled the naval playing field for the American naval force. The base at Midway, though damaged by Japanese air attack, remained operational and later became a vital component in the American trans-Pacific offensive, which soon had the Japanese Imperial Navy on the ropes.

An Army Air Force B25B bomber takes off from USS Hornet (CV 8) at the start of the raid, April 18, 1942. Note men watching from the signal lamp platform at right. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives – Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

An Army Air Force B25B bomber takes off from USS Hornet (CV 8) at the start of the raid, April 18, 1942. Note men watching from the signal lamp platform at right. (Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the U.S. National Archives – Courtesy of the NHHC Photo archives)

Best Laid Plans…

After completing their bombing mission, finding safe haven would be the Raiders’ toughest task. Taking off 400 miles sooner than planned had the planes nearly empty on fuel as they headed toward China. Of the 16 planes, 15 either crash-landed or crew bailed out. Only one plane landed – in Russia – where the crew was held as prisoners with liberal privileges. They escaped 13 months after the raid to a British consulate in Iran.

Seven Doolittle Raiders were killed in the mission: Two drowned and a third was killed by the fall after bailing out; eight were captured by the Japanese. Three of the eight POWs were executed Oct. 15, 1942, and another died of malnutrition Dec. 1, 1943. The surviving four POWs were released in August 1945.

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle (left front), leader of the attacking force, and Captain Marc A. Mitscher, Commanding Officer of USS Hornet (CV-8), pose with a 500-pound bomb and USAAF aircrew members during ceremonies on Hornet's flight deck, while the raid task force was en route to the launching point. NHHC photo (# NH 64472).

Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle (left front), leader of the attacking force, and Captain Marc A. Mitscher, Commanding Officer of USS Hornet (CV-8), pose with a 500-pound bomb and USAAF aircrew members during ceremonies on Hornet’s flight deck, while the raid task force was en route to the launching point.
NHHC photo (# NH 64472).

The Raiders who landed in China were assisted by American missionary Rev. John M. Birch, whose contacts within Japanese-occupied China helped the Raiders to escape. Afterward, Birch was commissioned a lieutenant in the Army Air Force, continuing his work as a missionary while gathering intelligence on the Japanese. He was killed Aug. 25, 1945, at the age of 27, during a confrontation with Chinese Communists. The John Birch Society honors Birch, a recipient of both the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Service Medal.

Even though the Doolittle Raiders bombed Tokyo, it was the Chinese who suffered the most from the raid. Furious the Chinese nationalists were protecting the Americans, the Japanese retaliated against several coastal cities suspected of harboring the Americans, killing an estimated 250,000 Chinese citizens.

Brig. Gen James Doolittl poses beside an Air Corps recruiting poster that alluded to his bombing raid on Japan in April 1942. c. 1943.

Brig. Gen James Doolittl poses beside an Air Corps recruiting poster that alluded to his bombing raid on Japan in April 1942. c. 1943.

Doolittle was so convinced his mission had been a failure, he was convinced he would face a court-martial upon his return to the United States. Instead, he was promoted to general, skipping the rank of colonel. He and all of his Raiders were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Mitscher served in a variety of command leadership positions for the rest of World War II, earning the rank of admiral and title as Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Capt. Lowe, a submariner, was promoted to rear admiral and as Chief of Staff of the 10th Fleet, guided the Atlantic anti-submarine effort. He was also commander of the Cruiser Division 16, which supported the Okinawa invasion and participated in several strikes against the Japanese. After the war, he supervised the surrender and neutralization of Japanese installations in the Pacific. By his retirement in 1956, Lowe had achieved the rank of admiral due to his leadership and combat actions.

Photo # 80-G-41197  USS Hornet launches B-25 bombers on the Doolittle Raid.

Photo # 80-G-41197
USS Hornet launches B-25 bombers on the Doolittle Raid.

Flight instructor Miller earned a Legion of Merit for his duties in training the Doolittle Raider pilots. He served with distinction throughout his career in the Navy, serving in Vietnam and launching the first aircraft carrier strikes on North Vietnam from the decks of Ranger (CV 61), Coral Sea (CV 43) and Hancock (CV 19). On Dec. 2, 1965, he engaged the first nuclear powered Task Force Enterprise (CVN 65) and Bainbridge (DLGN 25) against Vietnam. Miller retired as a Rear Admiral in 1971.

Just weeks after Doolittle’s Raiders flew off her deck, Hornet fought gallantly in the Battle of Midway, where her aircraft shared in the sinking of a Japanese cruiser. During the fight for Guadalcanal, Hornet was the only remaining operational carrier to oppose the enemy.

It was during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, while Hornet’s aircraft attacked and damaged a Japanese carrier, the carrier suffered irreparable damage from torpedoes and kamikazes. After her crew was forced to abandon ship and American attempts to scuttle her failed, Hornet remained afloat until she was torpedoed and sunk by Japanese ships Oct. 27, 1942.

Of the more than 260 American deaths during the battle, 118 came from Hornet, the last U.S. fleet carrier ever sunk by enemy fire.

Hornet was awarded four service stars for her World War II action and Torpedo Squadron 8 earned a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism during the Battle of Midway.

Medal to commemorate Doolittle's Raid on Tokyo, April 18, 1942 (obverse and reverse). CMU War Collection

Medal to commemorate Doolittle’s Raid on Tokyo, April 18, 1942 (obverse and reverse).
CMU War Collection

As for Tech. Sgt. Scott, he successfully bailed out over Chun King, China. Upon his return to the U.S. in Aug. 1942, Scott entered officer candidate school, and then served overseas as an aircraft maintenance officer for the rest of World War II, and through both the Korean and Cold wars, retiring from active duty in 1959 as a lieutenant colonel. He died in 1978 at the age of 71.

On the Web:

Doolittle Raid, 18 April 1942 – download the PowerPoint plans of the raid

Official Doolittle Raiders site

Other Official Doolittle Raiders site

Navy’s Role In Doolittle Raid Honored

James Harold “Jimmy” Doolittle

USS Hornet (CV-8)

USS Enterprise (CV-6)

Crash

Sources:

  • Chang, Iris. The Rape of Nanking. New York: Basic Books, 1997. ISBN 0-465-06835-9.
  • Chun, Clayton K.S. The Doolittle Raid 1942: America’s First Strike Back at Japan (Campaign: 16). Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2006. ISBN 1-84176-918-5.
  • Coletta, Paolo. “Launching the Doolittle Raid on Japan, April 18, 1942”. The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 63, No. 1, February 1993.
  • Craig, John S. Peculiar Liaisons: In War, Espionage, and Terrorism in the Twentieth Century. New York: Algora Publishing, 2004. ISBN 978-0-87586-331-3.
  • Craven, Wesley Frank and James Lea Cate, series editors. “Chapter 12: Drawing the Battle Line in the Pacific”. Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. I: Plans and Early Operations, January 1939 to August 1942 . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948. (Air Force Historical Studies Office internet edition.)
  • Culbertson, Charles. Forgotten Hero: The Story of Jack Manch, 30 Seconds Over Tokyo and the Self-Sacrifice of An American Warrior. Staunton, Virginia: Clarion Publishing, 2013. ISBN 978-1493501847.
  • Doolittle, James H. and Carroll V. Glines. I Could Never Be So Lucky Again: An Autobiography. New York: Bantam Books, 1991. ISBN 0-553-58464-2.
  • Emmens, Robert G. Guests of the Kremlin. San Rafael, California: Ishi Press International, 2007. ISBN 0-923891-81-1.
  • Gill, G. Hermon. “Volume II – Royal Australian Navy, 1942–1945.” Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1968.
  • Glines, Carroll V. The Doolittle Raid: America’s Daring First Strike Against Japan. New York: Orion Books, 1988. ISBN 0-88740-347-6
  • Doolittle’s Tokyo Raiders. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1981, First edition 1968. ISBN 978-0-44202-726-1.
  • Four Came Home: The Gripping Story of the Survivors of Jimmy Doolittle’s Two Lost Crews . New York: Van Nostrad Reinhold, 1981, First edition 1966. ISBN 978-1-57510-007-4.
  • Glover, Charles E. “Jimmy Doolittle’s One Moment in Time.” The Palm Beach Post, 18 April 1992.
  • Lawson, Ted W. and Robert Considine, ed.Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. New York: Random House, Inc., 1943.
  • Martin, Adrian R., and Larry W. Stephenson. Operation Plum: The Ill-fated 27th Bombardment Group and the Fight For the Western Pacific. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 2008. ISBN 1-60344-019-4.
  • Nelson, Craig. The First Heroes: The Extraordinary Story of the Doolittle Raid—America’s First World War II Victory. London: Penguin Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0-14-200341-1.
  • Oxford, Edward. “Against All Odds: B-25 Bombers Strike Japan in 1942.” American History Illustrated, March–April 1992.
  • Prange, Gordon W., Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon. Miracle at Midway. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982. ISBN 0-07-050672-8.
  • Tillman, Barrett. Enterprise: America’s Fightingest Ship and the Men Who Helped win World War II. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4391-9087-6.
  • Watson, Charles Hoyt. DeShazer: The Doolittle Raider Who Turned Missionary. Winona Lake, Indiana: The Light and Life Press, 1950.
  • Yamamoto, Masahiro. Nanking: Anatomy of an Atrocity. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2000. ISBN 978-0-2759-6904-2.