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If you were unaware today (18 Apr 2019) is the 77th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid on Japan, one of the most daring feats of aviation ever accomplished by Americans
In the days after Pearl Harbor, America was reeling. The heroic defenders of Wake Island were wiped out or in captivity within days of the attack, and it was readily apparent that the best we could hope for in the Philippines was a delaying action

Something bold was called for
2 weeks after the attack FDR stated that he wanted a retaliatory attack on the Japanese home islands as soon as possible. For a military on its heels across the Pacific, this may have seemed a tall order

Fortunately this guy had an idea
That's Francis Low, who eventually rose to the rank of Admiral. In 1941 he was working in the CNO's office and came up with the idea to launch USAAF twin-engined bombers off of a carrier to conduct the strike
(He was awarded a Comm for his efforts, btw...I know someone who was awarded (not their idea) a Comm for work on the Air Force Ball)
After convincing Admiral King, the CNO, of the validity of the idea, King went to Hap Arnold, head of the USAAF, who immediately bought off on it. Hap even had the perfect officer in mind to lead it
Jimmy Doolittle was one of the preeminent aviators in America in the interwar period. He saw his first airplane in 1910 when he was 14 and was bitten with the aviation bug. He enlisted as an aviation cadet in 1917 and never looked back
While he didn't see service in WWI, he stayed in the Army after the war, seeing action on the Mexican border and then making a pioneering cross country flight
The Army felt his aptitude demonstrated he could master advanced aeronautical concepts (despite only finishing his undergrad after commissioning) and sent him to the percursor to AFIT and then MIT to get his Masters

Since he did that in 1 year, he got a Sc.D while he was at it
Next stop was flying in the Schneider Cup, winning it in 1925 and earning the Mackay Trophy for 1926
His most significant accomplishment (even higher than the Raid I'd reckon) was conquering instrument flight. A subject for a different thread, Doolitte conducted the first flight completely under instrument conditions in 1929
(The next time you're on an airliner and you take off in complete muck followed by landing in complete muck, without any concern, spare a thought for Jimmy, among other aviation pioneers)
So needless to say Jimmy was the perfect guy to volunteer for the job. He set about selecting an aircraft for the mission. There were 4 under consideration: the B-18 Bolo, the B-23 Dragon, the B-25 Mitchell, and the B-26 Marauder
The B-26 had "undesirable" handling characteristics (approach speed of 150 mph with a stall speed not much below, and a tendency to crash at the slightest hint of a stall) and the B-18 and -23 had too wide a wingspan. The B-25 it was
(As you'll recall I did a thread not too long ago in part featuring the Mitchell)

He had the machine (proving it by flying 2 off the Hornet in Feb 42), now to find the men. The 17th Bomb Group was offered the opportunity to volunteer for the mission
While its lineage is currently inactive, the four component squadrons who took part in the raid are still proudly operational: the 34th BS, the 37th BS (both now flying Bones at Ellsworth), the 89th RS (now the 89th ATKS, flying Reapers at Ellsworth) and the 95th BS...
...now the 95th RS, a key conponent of Offutt's 55th Wing and their global ISR mission, flying RC-135s
Before they could start training, the aircraft had to receive modifications for the mission: removal of most guns (mockups were left in the tail fixture), installation of additional fuel tanks, and replacement of the Norden sight with this device:
(Low altitude bombing didn't exactly require a lot of sophistication, and certainly wanted to avoid the possibility of the vaunted Norden falling into enemy hands this early in the war)
The mods took place at Mid-Continent Airline's depot facility at Wold-Chamberlain Field in Minneapolis...better known today as Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

Spare a thought for the Raiders the next time you pass through MSP
Next stop after MSP was sunnier climes in Florida, near Eglin AFB; specifically Aux Field #1. This is where the Raiders were taught by a Navy LT (Henry Miller, a flight instructor from Pensacola and an honorary Raider) in how to take off in a carrier distance
I know someone who got to go out to Aux Field 1 (now on the Eglin Range) and I am insanely jealous

The movie Pearl Harbor, for all its many faults, actually has a not bad scene of the Raiders practicing takeoffs at Aux 1 (melodrama notwithstanding)
So after the Raiders were ready to go, they flew their planes cross country to California, for a final check at the depot before going to San Francisco to be loaded on the Hornet for their mission
It's worth noting that they completed their training in less than a month

The whole mission's timeframe, from conception (10 Jan 42) to execution (18 Apr 42), was barely 3 months

Something to keep in mind these days
The Hornet departed San Francisco on 2 April, with 16 bombers and crew safely aboard

In a feat of true joint logistics, the next day the Navy blimp L-8 lowered the necessary parts to the Hornet to complete some further mods that hadn't been knocked out in the compressed timeline
A few days later the Hornet met up with her escorts, Bull Halsey's Carrier Battle Group, centered on the Big E (for those of you unfamiliar with the most decorated US Navy vessel in WWII, that's CV-6, the USS Enterprise)

CC @BDHerzinger
The group traversed the Pacific, finding time to attach some Japanese 'Peace Medals' presented a few years previous to their load of high-explosive and incindiary bombs
The morning of 18 Apr, the Battle Group encountered a Japanese picket vessel. Despite quickly being sunk, she transmitted a warning message. Doolittle conferred with Marc Mitscher, the Hornet's skipper, and decided to launch immediately
This was despite being 170 nm away than planned

The crews manned their planes and immediately began launch procedures. Doolittle's plane, the first off, had 467' to get airborne

(That's his getting airborne)
The Navy shooters willed every single plane into the air
Once airborne, the Raiders headed for the Japanese main islands at wavetop level. After 6 hours, they reached their targets (video shamelessly stolen from 30 Seconds Over Tokyo)
There were no losses over the target, with the Raiders achieving complete surprise. Most of the crews headed for their planned landing bases in China, while one headed for Vladivostok due to low fuel (they would be held by the Soviets for a couple years)
The Raiders were extremely fortunate that they hit a favorable tailwind for several hours, otherwise they may have never made friendly territory in China

As it stood, Halsey had never sent the planned radio message due to EMSEC concerns, so none of the airfields were emitting
Most of the Raiders likely would not have had the fuel to reach the planned field regardless, so they began to assess their options: bail out over (largely Japanese controlled) Eastern China or crash land along the coast
Corporal Leland Fektor (killed while bailing out), S/Sgt William Dieter, and Sgt Donald Fitzmaurice (both drowned after ditching) were the only individuals to die as a result of incidents while bailing out or ditching
While most of the Raiders were successfully spirited to safety, 8 were not so lucky: 1st Lt Dean Hallmark, 1st William Farrow, 1st Robert Meder, 1st Lt Chase Nielsen, 1st Lt Robert Hite, 2nd Lt George Barr, Cpl Harold Spatz, and Cpl Jacob DeShazer were all captured
Hallmark, Farrow, and Spatz all faced a trial for war crimes, alleged to have a strafed civilians (an especially rich claim coming from the Japanese government at the time)

They were found guilty in a show trial and executed by firing squad
The remainder of those captured were treated poorly; Meder died in 1943

The Chinese civilians and missionaries who sheltered the Raiders fared little better. Patrick Cleary, the bishop of Nancheng, sheltered the Raiders. In retaliation the Japanese burned the entire city
At this point Jimmy Doolittle was aware that he had lost all of his aircraft and several of his crews were still unaccounted for. He was convinced he was going to be court-martialed

(The short guy in the middle is Doolittle in China, a faint smile belying his concern)
Instead as we all know he was fêted as a hero for striking back just months after Pearl Harbor. He was promoted from Lt Col to Brig Gen (yes you read that right) while still in China, and when he got back FDR personally presented him with the MOH
All 80 Raiders were awarded DFCs. Cpl David Thatcher and 1st Lt Thomas White were awarded the Silver Star for actions taken to help crew members evade Japanese capture
Of the Raiders who survived and escaped captivity, 28 remained in the CBI flying combat; 5 were KIA. 19 went to the Med, where 4 were KIA and 4 were POWs. 9 went to the ETO, where 1 was KIA and 1, then Capt Davy Jones, was a POW and took part in the Great Escape
The Raid's impact on the Japanese was significant. They had perceived the Home Islands as impervious to attack, and the Raid burst that bubble, causing considerable angst and embarrassment, despite the limited damage
When asked where the strike came from, FDR answered the base of "Shangri-La," a reference to a mythical Himalayan utopia from a novel

In 1944 that utopia became a reality with the commissioning of the USS Shangri-La
After the war the Raiders started holding reunions. In 1959 they were presented silver goblets by the citizens of Tuscon. They started a tradition of toasting their lost comrades every year with 1896 Hennessy VS Cognac (Doolittle's birthyear)
The goblets eventually were on display at USAFA, and as Raiders passed the goblets were inverted (their names were engaved both right side up and upside down to accommodate this practice)
As a postscript, Jimmy Doolittle was eventually promoted to four-star general, 89 years young in 1986 That's Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater pinning his rank
Eventually enough of the Raiders had passed that in 2006 the goblets were transferred to the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright-Pat (site of McCook Field where Doolittle did his flight test efforts)
In 2013 there were 4 Raiders left among us, and they had a special "final toast" at the NMUSAF, with 3 of the 4 in attendance (as well as numerous AF brass)
I forgot to mention, in 1992 to honor the 50th anniversary some warbird B-25s took off from the USS Ranger
By 2017 (the 75th anniversary) Dick Cole, Doolittle's copilot, was the only Raider still among us. He held a toast at the NMUSAF to his fallen comrades, and toppled the second to last goblet

(Incidentally, he was the Raider who had constructed the case for the goblets)
He was given the honor of being present at the AFA Convention when the B-21 was named the Raider in honor of Doolittle's team
Unfortunately, Dick Cole passed just a few days ago (9 April) and now all the goblets are flipped upside down
So what did we learn from the Raiders? Global Strike is the provenance of every Airman, although we may depend on our joint partners to accomplish it. No spot on the Earth's surface should be considered immune to American airpower
Incidentally this thread is so late (pressing over until the next day) because I was off at work crafting some documents to better enable future Global Precision Attack missions
This is a part of our Air Force heritage, we should be sure to remember it
Oh, and I just realized I never posted this picture elsewhere in the thread, and it's an appropriate note to end on...Doolittle's crew. Doolittle is second from the left, Dick Cole is second from the right

RIP all of them
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