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The First Joint Action

A Historical Account of the Doolittle Tokyo Raid – April 18, 1942

By Charles R. Greening – Colonel, USAF




“The First Joint Action” is an account of the first bombing raid on Tokyo, Japan on April 18, 1942.  The Army Air Force complement was commanded by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle and the Naval complement was commanded by Vice Admiral William F. Halsey who was also the task force commander.


By proper interpretation of the title this report could not be righteously named “The First Joint Action.”  Joint action has taken place in nearly in nearly all battles of history where land, sea and air were involved.  It is hoped, however, that this report will illustrate a joint action in which the Army Air Forces and the Navy of the United States cooperated with each other under a concept of joint activities developed during World War Two to improve the efficiency of the American fighting team.


It is the purpose of this study to describe the events that occurred in order to carry out this mission and, perhaps, provide another record that will be of some use to those who are studying the history of joint operations.












Takeoff No. 1. 32

Takeoff No. 2. 35

Takeoff No. 3. 36

Takeoff No. 4. 38

Takeoff No. 5. 39

Takeoff No. 6. 40

Takeoff No. 7. 41

Takeoff No. 8. 42

Takeoff No. 9. 43

Takeoff No. 10. 44

Takeoff No. 11. 46

Takeoff No. 12. 48

Takeoff No. 13. 49

Takeoff No. 14. 50

Takeoff No. 15. 51

Takeoff No. 16. 52








In January 1942, the United States was in its second month of the war against Japan.  From the appearances in the Pacific, America was loosing the war, and if she ever hoped to achieve victory it would be a long time coming.  Pearl Harbor had been bombed with disastrous effects, Wake Island had fallen, Guam had been captured, the Philippines were taking a terrible beating and the Japanese were steam-rolling in their offensive with ever increasing speed.  War atrocity reports trickled back from these areas that chilled the blood of all who heard them.


America was tooling for war in full-scale operations with a frenzied effort but had a long way to go before the results could be seen.  Although progress was great, the average American, Civilian and soldier alike, was suffering the pangs of setbacks and defeat.  At the same time, the Japanese were enjoying the fruits of victory.  Although it was apparent to the military planners that the United States was capable of improving it's position and ultimately driving the enemy back, it was also apparent that American morale was low and something should be done to increase the morale in order to raise the spirit of the fighting troops as well as improve the efficiency and effort of the home front industrial effort.


Numerous offers of large sums of money and prizes were being posted by wealthy civilians and combines for a reward to the first individual or individuals who would bomb the Japanese heartland – Tokyo.  This was a strong indication of the effort that would contribute the greatest to the morale of the American people and undoubtedly do the most damage to the invincible spirit of the Japanese.  Such a blow, however, seemed entirely out of the question to the minds of the American people, even those men who were to participate in this effort, in view of the barriers of oceans and distances from any American bases.  This idea did not seem impossible to a few top military officers, however.


In January 1942, Admiral King and General Arnold, by joint examination of the problem, conceived of the idea of a retaliatory blow against the mainland of Japan by joint action of the Army Air Forces and the Navy.  The idea was to bomb the main industrial centers of Japan by using Army Air Force B-25 bombers, which were to be launched within striking distance of these targets by Naval Aircraft Carriers.


        “The joint Army-Navy bombing project was conceived in it's final form in January and accomplished in April, about three months later.  The object of the project was to bomb the industrial centers of Japan.  It was hoped that the damage done would be both material and psychological.  Material damage was to the destruction of specific targets with ensuing confusion and retardation of production.  The psychological results, it was hoped, would be the recalling of combat equipment from other theaters for home defense, thus effecting relief in those theaters, the development of a fear complex in Japan, improved relationships with our allies and a favorable reaction on the American people.” [1]


The idea of launching an attack from an aircraft carrier was prompted by the fact that the carrier “Hornet” commanded by captain Marc A. Mitscher, USN, was being sent to the South Pacific to re-enforce the United States Fleet in a very short time.  With little effort, bombing planes could be accommodated aboard the carrier for this mission.  The effort in carrying out the mission would be hazardous and require the utmost secrecy for success.


The decision was made to use Army Air Force bombers in view of the short range and low bomb carrying capacity of smaller aircraft usually more adaptable for carrier work.  A study of the various airplanes available for this project indicated that the B-25 was the best suited to the purpose.  The B-26, it was felt, could do the job as far as range and load carrying capacity was concerned, but it was felt the carrier take-off characteristics were questionable.  The B-23 could have done the job but due to the larger wingspan, fewer of them could be taken and clearance between the right wing tip and the carrier island would be extremely close.


Take-off and landing tests conducted with two B-25’s at and off Norfolk, Virginia, indicated that take-off from the carrier would be comparatively easy but landing back on again would be extremely difficult.


The original plan was to take-off and return to the carrier.  It was then decided that a carrier take-off would be made some place east of Tokyo and the flight would proceed in a generally westerly direction from there.  Fields near the East Coast of China and at Vladivostok as a terminus was that it was only about 600 miles from Tokyo as compared to 1200 miles to the China coast and range was critical.  Satisfactory negotiation could not, however, be consummated with the Russian Government and the idea of going to Vladivostok was therefore abandoned.  A cruise range of 2400 miles with a bomb load of 2000 Lbs. was set as the airplane requirement.


A commander was necessary for the Air Force element of this project.  Lt. Colonel J. H. Doolittle, who had recently returned to active duty with the Air Forces, was selected to do this job.  A high priority was given this project to insure the expedient preparation and training necessary for successful accomplishment.


Lt. Colonel Doolittle was called in and informed of the plans.  It then became his duty to co-ordinate the efforts for training and preparation.  Twenty-four airplanes for the Tokyo project were obtained from the 17th Bombardment Group, which had just been transferred from Pendleton, Oregon, to Columbia, South Carolina.  Inasmuch as the airplanes had been obtained from this group and there were, therefore, crews available without airplanes. Together with the fact that these crews were also experienced in the use of these particular airplanes, the crews were also obtained from this source.  It was explained to the Commanding Officer of the 17th Bombardment Group, Lt. Colonel W. C. Mills, that this was to be a mission that would be extremely hazardous and would require a high degree of skill and would be of great value to our defense effort.  Volunteers for this mission were requested.  More people than could be used immediately, volunteered.  Twenty-four crews were ordered to Eglin Field, Florida for training and preparation.  These crews together with ground maintenance men, armorers, etc., proceeded to Eglin Field as rapidly as the airplanes could be converted and made available.  The first of them arrived on the 27th of February and the rest shortly afterwards.  The nature of the mission was officially made known to them there, and those who did not feel that they should go were offered the chance to withdraw.  There were no takers on the withdrawal offer.




Twenty-four B-25 medium bombers built by the North American Aircraft Company were prepared for the mission.  Some of these airplanes had been issued in the Louisiana and Carolina maneuvers in 1941, and the remainder were relatively new.  All required special modifications and preparation for two reasons.  First, they were not equipped for normal combat and, second, they had to have special modifications to cover the requirements of this mission.



Preparation consisted of installing additional fuel capacity and removing unnecessary equipment.  Three additional gasoline tanks were installed.  First a steel gasoline tank of about 265 gallon capacity was manufactured by the McQuary Company and installed by the Mid-Continent Airlines in Minneapolis MN.  This tank was later removed and replaced by a 225 gallon bullet-proof tank manufactured by the United States Rubber Company in Mishawaka Indiana.  Considerable difficulty was experienced with this rubber bullet-proof tank, due to leaks in the connections and due to the fact that after having made one fairly satisfactory tank, the outer case was reduced in size in order to facilitate installation without reducing the size of the inner rubber container and consequently, wrinkles developed reducing the capacity and increasing the tendency for failure and leakage.  Putting air pressure on the tank increased the capacity about ten to fifteen gallons and new outer covers alleviated the trouble.  It was not possible, however, for the manufacturer to provide new covers for all of the tanks before take off time.  One serious tank failure occurred the day before take off.  The leak was caused by a failure of the inner liner, resulting from sharp wrinkles which in turn were caused by the inner liner being too large and the outer case too small.  Room remained in the bomb bay underneath this tank to permit carrying four 500 lb. demolition bombs or four 500 lb. incendiary clusters.  It was necessary, in order to carry the bomb load, to utilize extension shackles which were also provided by the McQuary company.  The crawl way above the bomb bay was lined and a rubber bag tank, manufactured by the U.S. Rubber Company, holding about 160 gallons was installed.  The vent for this tank, when turned forward, provided pressure and forced the gasoline out of the tank for consumption.  When turned aft the vent sucked the air and vapor out of the tank and permitted it to be collapsed (after the gasoline was used) and pushed to one side.  After this tank was moved, the plane was again completely operational as crew members could move forward or aft through the crawlway.  By collapsing this tank and sucking out the vapor the fire hazard was also minimized.


Considerable trouble was encountered with this tank due to leaks developing in the seams.  This trouble was reduced through the use of a heaver material and more careful handling of the tank.


The third tank was a 60 gallon leak proof tank installed in the place from which the lower turret was removed.  This tank was a regular 2’ x 2’ x 2’ test cell with a filler neck, outlet and vent provided.  The filler neck of this rear tank was readily available in flight.


Ten 5 gallon cans of gasoline were carried in the rear compartment, where the radio operator usually sat, and were poured into this rear tank as the gasoline level went down.  These cans were later punctured with holes so they would sink in the ocean and thrown overboard.  The reason they were thrown overboard punctured was to prevent the planes leaving a tell tale trail from the direction of their departure point.


The total gasoline capacity on the average then amounted to the following:


Main Wing Tanks

646 Gallons

Bomb Bay Tank

225 Gallons

Crawl Way Tank

160 Gallons

Rear Turret Tank

60 Gallons

Ten 5 Gallon Cans

50 Gallons


1141 Gallons

(of this amount, 1,100 gallons were available)


Each tank was tested for actual capacity, which of course varied, and the largest tanks were assigned to those planes that had the longest distances to travel.  It might be pointed out that all of the gasoline could not be drained from the tanks due to tank construction.  In addition, while filling the tanks, extreme care had to be taken in order to assure that all air was out and they were completely full.  This could only be accomplished by filling, shaking down the airplane and topping off the tanks again.


The extra tanks and tank supports were designed by and installed under the supervision of the Material Division of the Army Air Forces.


De-icers and anti-icers were installed on all airplanes.  Although these had the effect of slightly reducing the speed of the airplanes they were considered necessary for insurance and in addition it had not been decided until shortly before leaving the United States whether Vladivostok or East China was to be the terminus.  Should East China be the terminus, no ice was to be expected at lower altitudes, but icing conditions did prevail along the northern route to Vladivostok.  (If ice forms on a wing it causes the shape of the wing to change and affects the handling of the aircraft)


Of all the necessary equipment to bring an airplane up to the status of combat ready, the armament is the most essential.  It follows logically that unless the airplane is ready to fight and cause damage to the enemy, there is no reason to send it.  The B-25’s to be used for this mission were woefully deficient in their armament set-up.  They were equipped with top and bottom turrets, neither of which were satisfactory.  The tail was unprotected and the nose contained one single 30 caliber flexible machine gun that had to be moved from port to port, depending on where it was most needed.


Two wooden 50 caliber dummy guns were stuck out of the extreme tip of the tail.  They wee painted black and were somewhat longer than the usual 50 caliber machine gun to make their presence more noticeable.  The effectiveness of this subterfuge was indicated by the fact that no airplane on the flight was attacked from directly behind.  The lateral attacks were more difficult for the attacker and gave the bomber gunners a better target.


In view of the newness of power turrets and the inexperience of the Air Force with the 50 caliber machine guns, considerable work had to be accomplished to make these units serviceable.  When the turret guns were fired aft, with the muzzles close to the fuselage, it was observed that the blast popped rivets and tore the skin loose from the plane.  This resulted in the necessity of installing blast plates on the fuselage in the critical areas.


Difficulty was experienced in getting the lower turret to function properly, if at all.  The main trouble was in the turret activating mechanism, and with the retracting and extending devices.  After these troubles were overcome in part, it was then found that the attitude of the gunner and the operation of the sight were so difficult that it would not be possible in the time available to train gunners to efficiently operate this turret.  As a consequence of this, and in order to save weight, and permit the installation of the additional gas tanks, the lower turret was removed and a plate riveted over the hole in the bottom of the fuselage.


With the lower turret removed it became necessary to consider some other form of protection from the lower part of the plane.  Aft of the upper turret were three ports, one was the floor camera port, and two more which were designed as observation windows for the photographer.  Gun ports were designed to accommodate one or two 30 caliber machine guns that could be installed in these places.  These designs wee sent to Sacramento for modification of the planes when they arrived, but were never installed in view of the additional weight and the intended low level approach, not warranting protection from below.


Inasmuch as it was decided that all bombing would be done from low altitudes and the Norden bomb sight did not particularly lend itself to extremely low altitude bombing, the bomb sight was removed and a simplified sight was designed and built by one of the pilots for all airplanes.  This sight worked on the principle of a gun sight.  Actual low altitude bombing tests carried out at 1500 feet showed a greater degree of accuracy with this simplified sight than was obtained with the Norden by the same bombardiers.  This not only permitted greater accuracy in bombing, but obviated the possibility of a Norden sight falling into enemy hands.



The 50 caliber machine guns themselves were almost entirely unsatisfactory.  Due to a shortage of 50 caliber ammunition, they had not been fired.  The best performance that could be obtained was short bursts, then the guns would jam and stripping became necessary.  Mr. W. C. Olson from Wright Field was largely responsible for overcoming these difficulties.  Many new guns were obtained and under the supervision of Mr. Olsen, faulty parts were replaced or repaired.  He gave valuable training to all of the gunners in the maintenance of their guns.


Pyrotechnics were removed from the airplanes in order to reduce the fire hazard and offer a slight savings in weight.  Two conventional landing flares were installed immediately forward of the rear armored bulkhead.  This gave maximum protection against their being ignited by enemy fire.  There was no dropping mechanism for the landing flares.  It was planned, if it became necessary to use them, that they be thrown out of the rear hatch by the gunner.  A static line attached to the parachute flare was installed for igniting it.


The security of the mission warranted complete radio silence.  In the interests of this security, and to save weight, the 230 pound liaison radio set was removed from each airplane.  In order to prevent unintentional broadcasts by improper use of the interphone, the transmitting coils were removed from the command transmitters and stowed within each airplane for future use.


To provide a firm record of the bombing, the lead ship and each flight leader’s ship was equipped with a small electrically operated automatic camera, which took 60 pictures at one-half intervals.  The camera could be turned on at any time by the pilot and was automatically started when the first bomb dropped.  The camera was located in the extreme tip of the tail near the wooden guns.  Lens angle was 35 degrees.  As they were pointed down 15 degrees the rearward field, in level flight, covered two and one half degrees above the horizon and 32 ½ degrees below.  In testing them they operated perfectly.  The remaining ten airplanes that were put aboard the carrier were equipped with 16mm movie cameras similarly mounted.




Personal and special equipment such as emergency rations, canteens, hatchets, knives, pistols, etc., were issued and stowed before the take off time.  A one pint bottle of whiskey was issued to each crew member to supplement this ration.


In view of the nature of the targets in Japan, special consideration was given to the selection of bombs to be used.  Special 500 pound demolition bombs were provided, through the cooperation of Colonel Max F. Schneider, A-4, by the Ordnance Department.  These bombs were loaded with an explosive mixture containing 50% TNT. and 50% Amatol.  They were all armed with a 1/10th of a second nose fuse and a 1/40th of a second specially prepared tail fuse.  The second fuse was provided in the event the other fuse failed.  Eleven second delay tail fuses were made available to replace the others in the event the weather conditions made extremely low bombing necessary.  In the event this became necessary, the tail fuse was to be changed just before take off and the other fuses would not be armed.


The Chemical Warfare Service provided special 500 pound incendiary clusters, each containing 128 incendiary bombs.  These clusters were developed at the Edgewood Arsenal and test-dropped for effect and ballistics by the Air Corps test group at Aberdeen.  The 50 caliber ammunition was loaded with special specifications.  They were grouped with one tracer, two armor piercing and 3 explosive bullets.


Special assistance was given to this project by the base personnel at Eglin Field, Florida, for labor and maintenance,


To prepare for navigational problems, all instruments were checked and calibrated at Eglin Field.  It was planned to use dead reckoning, pilotage and celestial navigation aids.


Maps, photographs, target charts, target folders and weather records were obtained from the War Department G-2 files in Washington D. C., by Captain D. M. Jones, one of the flight leaders.



Most important was the consideration of plans for method of conducting the attack.  Three possible plans were considered:


1.    Take off would be accomplished three hours before dawn to arrive over Tokyo at first light, withdraw towards sea for 40 miles, parallel to the Japanese coast south and then land in China just before dark.


A.    Carrier approach in the dark

B.    Greatest surprise as well as accuracy over targets.


A.    The Navy would not agree to this plan because of a difficult night take off and a show reference lights for Army pilots

2.    Take off at dawn, bomb in daylight and proceed to destination by dusk

Advantage: Easy navigation, good bombing effect.

Disadvantage: Probable high losses due to enemy actions.


3.    Take off just before dark, bomb at night and arrive at destination by early dawn.  To improve bombing, one plane would take off ahead of the others, and fire bomb inflammable parts of the city to guide other planes to targets.  (This third plan was the plan agreed upon as the best.)


It was agreed with the Navy that take-off would be affected if contacted by the enemy at any time.




The twenty four crews who had volunteered for the Tokyo raid went to Eglin Field, Florida, in the later part of February and the first of March, 1942.  Lt. Henry H. A. Miller, USN, was ordered from Pensacola Florida to familiarize the Army personnel with Naval customs and carrier techniques.


At the time the crew volunteered for the mission at Columbia, South Carolina, several of the suspected the nature of the mission.  It was not until all crew had arrived at Eglin, however, that Lt. Col. Doolittle made the formal announcement to the group just what the nature of the mission would be.  Targets and target information would be made available when all crews were aboard the aircraft carrier Hornet.


At the time the mission was announced the training program was also announced.  The group was brought up to date on how and why certain decisions had been made such as the selection of the type of airplanes used, the objective of the raid, and how the airplanes were to be carried within reach of the targets and where they would go.  These were factors affecting the training program.  The utmost of stress was placed on the security and secrecy involved in making this mission a success.  It was clearly understood that all crews would go aboard the Hornet primarily for security reasons and secondarily to have extra crew members available for those who might become ill or suddenly decided they did not want to go the full way.


The greatest percent of the time originally set up for training had to be consumed in modifications of the airplanes as many unforeseen difficulties arose that required this time in getting the planes in perfect shape for this mission.


Certain preliminary tests had been accomplished with the B-25 prior to the time personnel had been ordered to Eglin.  Take off’s had been accomplished from a carrier in the Norfolk area, reasonably short take off runs had been made to insure the airplane short take off characteristics, and preliminary gas tests had been made to determine how far the airplane could travel with a given amount of gasoline and still allow for a reasonable weight of bombs.


Joyce, NO cigarettes on the flight line...


In view of China being the most likely landing area for the flights, computations had been made determining the distance each airplane would have to travel in order to complete the flight.  This distance was determined to be 1900 miles which figured the greatest distance the carrier could be from Tokyo for launching the planes would be 400 miles.  The goal set for each airplane was 2200 miles which would give a margin of differences on either end of the flight.


Lt. Col. Doolittle expressed clearly the obstacles the project would have to overcome in order to insure success.  There were five main obstacles – they were:


1.  Satisfactory training and preparation.

2.  The take off from the carrier.

3.  Surprise approach for bombing.

4.  Safe withdrawal to destination.

5.  Dangerous refueling in China and delivery of the planes to the Chinese government.


The organization Lt. Col. Doolittle set up for this project was as follows:


Project Commander

Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle

Executive Officer

Major J. A. Hilger

Operations Officer

Captain E. J. York

Navigation and Intelligence

Captain D. M. Jones

Gunnery and Bombing

Captain C. R. Greening

Engineering Officer

1st. Lt. W. M. Bower

Supply Officer

1st Lt. Travis Hoover

1st Flight Commander

1st Lt. Travis Hoover

2nd Flight Commander

Captain E. J. York

3rd Flight Commander

Captain D. M. Jones

4th Flight Commander

Captain C. R. Greening

5th Flight Commander

Major J. A. Hilger

Navy Liaison Officer

Lt. Henry Miller


The exact number of airplanes that would go aboard the carrier would be designated at a later date when a conference could be held with the commanding officer of the carrier.  Each crew was to train and prepare his plane with the idea that all airplanes would be used.


The first part of the training program was set up to train all pilots in carrier take off characteristics.  Lt. Miller had charge of the work.  Several outlying satellite fields near Eglin were earmarked for this training.  White lines approximating the width and length of a carrier were painted on the runways.  Flags were spotted along the runways at every 100 feet and all pilots were sent out to conduct extensive practice under varying conditions to determine the best techniques that could be adopted for the B-25 to satisfy the requirements for carrier take off.


The first take off runs were made with the airplane light.  The distance used amounted to 800 feet but as new tricks were learned the distance decreased and the shortest take off run was that made by Lt. Don Smith in a measured 287 feet.  A close observation was made on take off speeds and the lowest indicated air speed observed was 68 miles per hour.  This is considered extremely slow as the normal take off speed of the B-25, at that time, was between 105 and 110 miles per hour.  Normal take off was considered far less hazardous in view of the critical stall danger point during the short take off.  Only one airplane was damaged during this practice and that occurred when 2nd Lt. Bates, a pilot who did not go on the raid, allowed his plane to slide back to the runway just after the take off as his wheels were being retracted.


Full load take offs were practiced by all pilots.  This load included 2000 pounds of bombs, a full gasoline load, full crew of five with combat equipment, and full armament.  All pilots qualified with full load take offs of approximately five to six hundred feet with a maximum ground wind of 12 miles per hour.


The procedure adopted for best operation efficiency for take off was as follows:

1.    Line up nose wheel with the white line and airplane in take off direction.

2.    Wing flaps in the full down position.

3.    Elevator trim tabs set ¾ tail heavy.

4.    Wheel brakes set.

5.    Full power – Throttles full forward and propellers in maximum RPM.

6.    Release brakes on signal from flag man.

7.    Allow airplane to roll then almost immediately ease control yoke to full back position until tail skid was about 6 inches from the deck

8.    As soon as airplane left the deck, ease the stick forward to gain flying speed, milk flaps up and reduce power to desired settings.


It is well to point out that the unusual attitude of the airplane during the short take off practice was uncomfortable and awkward.  The position that the airplane left the ground was critical and dangerous in the event of any loss of power whatsoever.  The conclusions drawn, after practice, were that the full load take off from a carrier could be accomplished with minimum difficulty.  It was even concluded that, with a tail hook, the B-25 could be landed on a large carrier but that there would be a problem in stowing them after they had landed.  (Carrier landings have been made with the B-25 since the end of the war.)


The plans for all airplanes to fly a distance of a minimum of 1900 miles from take off to destination non-stop introduced several problems.  The first was the problem of gasoline capacity which was overcome, within limits, by the installation of the special gas tanks in the bomb bay, over the bomb bay and in the bottom turret position.  Preliminary tests found that there was considerable variance in the gasoline consumption of different airplanes.  Carburetor experts were flown in and all carburetors were checked for maximum efficiency.  More important was the development of a new cruise control chart which disclosed a greater number of miles per gallon of gas could be obtained by using high manifold pressures and low RPM propeller settings.  With full load at sea level the manifold pressure was approximately 30 inches of mercury and the RPM was 1500.  The manifold pressure was to remain constant but as the load of gasoline and bombs decreased the RPM could be reduced to a minimum of 1275.  With these settings a calibrated airspeed could be maintained at 165 miles per hour.  These cruise control charts were devised by the North American Aircraft Company.  Navigation and fuel consumption tests and practice were conducted by every pilot and crew under conditions that best simulated those to be encountered on the mission.  Night navigation was conducted by each crew under night and instrument conditions over the route Eglin Field, Fort Myers, Houston and return to Eglin.  Navigation was accomplished at minimum safe altitude using the maximum range power settings previously described.  The average consumption was determined to be from 78 gallons per hour with full load down to 65 gallons per hour with light load.  One airplane was damaged during this phase when it collapsed a nose wheel at Houston, Texas.




Prior to any practice flights all engine and flight instruments had to be accurately calibrated.  A speed course was established on the bay near Eglin Field to properly calibrate the airspeed indicators.  During these speed runs it was found that the propellers had been reduced in efficiency through being marred and scratched during the pervious year.  All propellers, therefore, were replaced at Sacramento California.  The efficiency increase can be illustrated by the fact that one airplane could make no more than 220 miles per hour (calibrated) with the old propellers but after the new ones had been installed could make a speed of 275 (calibrated) with the same power settings.


Most of the gunners had never fired the 50 caliber guns nor operated a power turret.  There being no ground targets available for practice, sea slicks were used.  Several slicks were dropped at intervals of one half mile and the pilot would fly the airplane in half turns from a firing position 100 to 200 feet from the water and at the same time circle one slick in a left bank then proceed to the next in a right bank which allowed the gunners to fire from one side to the other in order to become proficient in accuracy of firing as well as operating the turret.


Temporary targets were set up on one of the auxiliary fields near Eglin.  Sand bags and weights were placed in the tail of the plane to weight it to the ground in order for the top turret guns to be brought to bear on the ground targets.  In this manner much was learned about the guns and turrets.  The lower turrets proved to be ineffective and were removed to be replaced with an additional gas tank of 60 gallon capacity.


A certain amount of training was devoted to the firing of the 30 caliber nose gun.  It was realized that this gun would be ineffective but the installation of 50 caliber guns in the nose did not seem possible in the time allowed.  Practice strafing runs were made over sea slicks with the nose guns but it was found the mounts provided would not hold the gun firmly.  This gun was mounted in such a fashion that it could be removed from one mount and placed in another but the change could not be effected fast enough to warrant an attempt to change from one mount to another on any one pass at a target.


Formation flying was practiced primarily to afford the turret gunners to practice tracking fighter planes attacking the formations.  These fighter planes were P-36’s and P-40’s from Eglin Field.  In view of the fact that the attack would be made by single ships over Japan during the hours of darkness this practice in formation anticipated only the possibility of such daylight flights that might be imposed by force of circumstances and the formations that would be employed after refueling in China.


The refueling operation in China indicated the planes would be subject to attacks while on the ground either from the ground or from the air or both.  It was therefore planned to refuel the planes in groups of three by parking them with the tails pointing outwards from a circle and the engines left running in order to operate the turrets and resist attack.  In addition bi-pod mounts for the 30 caliber nose guns were devised to enable the gunners to remove the nose guns from the airplanes and use them on the ground for protection.  Only limited time was available for practice of this defense and actually only a few of these bi-pod mounts were completed in time for installations.  In every case the engineers were trained as turret gunners and the bombardiers trained as nose gunners.  All machine gun belts were loaded with groups of 1 tracer, 2 armor piercing and 3 explosive (incendiary) bullets.


The exact method to be employed for bombing had not been determined but several methods were practiced.  In the event of night operations the bombing plan included a low approach (within the limits of safety) of about 1500 feet above the water or terrain.  Bombs were to be dropped from 1500 feet which was the altitude considered minimum for safety from bomb fragments.


In the event of daylight bombing it was planned to approach at minimum level to avoid detection by radar, enemy spotters, or ground observers.  On approach to the target the planes were to be flown at maximum speed and sharply pulled up to 1500 feet just before reaching the bomb release line.  After the bombs were dropped the planes were to dive back to deck level and withdraw.  Fifteen-hundred feet was considered the minimum altitude the 500 pound incendiary cluster could be dropped to obtain maximum dispersion of the individual four pound incendiary bombs which made up the cluster.


Practice was conducted for these two approaches on ground targets in the range areas at Eglin Field.  At first the Norden bomb sights were used but at that altitude found relatively ineffective.  An inexpensive substitute sight was devised by Captain Greening and experiments conducted with it.


“Actual low altitude bombing tests carried out at 1500 feet showed a greater degree of accuracy with this simplified sight than we were able to obtain with the Norden.  This not only permitted greater bombing accuracy but obviated the possibility of the Norden sight falling into enemy hands.” [2]


Practice bombs were used almost extensively although one practice mission with 100 pound live bombs was permitted for each crew.  Considerable time was spent in practicing bomb runs over water at minimum altitude using water slicks as targets.  Many Florida coast towns were subjected to vigorous low altitude dry run attacks.  The numerous complaining telephone calls to the commander at Eglin Field gave evidence to the enthusiasm displayed by the pilots during this particular practice.


All crews, especially bombardiers, were given indoctrination training in the loading and handling of bombs although the type of bombs to be used on the raid were not available until the planes were placed aboard the carrier.


In spite of a large amount of fog and bad weather which made flying impossible for days at a time and the considerable amount of time required to complete installations on the airplanes the training proceeded rapidly at Eglin Field under the direction of the Operations Officer, Captain York.


        “The first pilots were all excellent.  The co-pilots were all good for co-pilots.  The bombardiers were fair but needed brushing up.  The navigators had good training but very little practical experience.  The gunners, almost without exception, had never fired a machine gun from an airplane at either a moving or stationary target.” [3]


The training period was not concluded at Eglin Field.  On March 25, 1942 all airplanes and crews departed for Sacramento, California.  Final consumption tests and navigation training were incorporated into this flight.  It was intended to fly non-stop to Sacramento but weather prevented the successful accomplishment of the non-stop flight and all but one airplane stopped at Kelly Field to await the weather.  The other plane, Colonel Doolittle’s stopped at Biggs field.


At Sacramento the airplanes were given a final check and the propellers were replaced with new ones.  As they became flyable additional flight training was accomplished up and down the Sacramento valley.


On March 31 and April 1 of 1942 sixteen airplanes were loaded aboard the carrier Hornet at Alameda.  Training was continued as soon as the task forced moved out to sea.  (The crew of the Hornet knew nothing of the mission of the bombers until the first day out when security could not possibly be endangered).  At that time appropriate members of the Hornet assisted in every way possible to help the training program.  Numerous lectures on Japan and the Japanese people were given by Lt. Stephen Jurika, Jr. U.S.N., who had a great amount of experience in Japan.  Additional information was given to all crews on the Chinese people and what could be expected of them.  Certain phases concerning identification and destination were taught to crew members in the event aid would have to be requested of the Chinese.  Dr. T. R. White, the flight surgeon, gave lectures on hygiene and sanitation measures to be adopted in China.  Instructions on first aid for almost any emergency was included in this lecture.  Members from the crew of the Hornet assisted the navigators in navigational methods and practice in celestial navigation was carried out on the deck of the carrier.  The Naval weather section gave instructions on meteorology and weather forecasts enroute.  Lt. Col. Doolittle passed on the final instructions on what targets were to be hit and how they were to be approached.


Numerous alternate plans were devised for almost any eventuality and crews briefed on how they were to be carried out.  It was understood that if take off was forced by enemy action before Tokyo could be reached the bombers would fly to either Hawaii or Midway Island, whichever would be the nearest under the circumstances.  Inasmuch as the bombing was planned for night time it was planned to have all pilots and navigators located in the ready rooms to get flight information for a period of one to two hours before take off.


Gunnery practice was carried out on deck by attaching an auxiliary power plant to the gun turrets and kites and balloons were used as targets.  Many turret motors were found to be faulty but were repaired in the shops of the Hornet.  The left engine of the airplane flown by Lt. Don Smith had to be removed and taken below for repairs to the blower section three days prior to take off.  Had it not been repaired in time the airplane would have been pushed overboard to make the carrier operational against air attack.


Although it had no bearing on training for the raid on Japan instructional tours were made available to the Army Air Force personnel by the Naval personnel, to show how the carrier operated, throughout the ship.  Torpedo shops were visited and the workings of torpedoes shown and explained.  The airplane complement of the Hornet was thoroughly shown in detail on the hangar deck where all of the ships regular planes were stored and useless until the Army planes above could be moved from the flight deck.  The Army personnel were given opportunities to observe anti-aircraft practice of the ships variety of guns and as much evasive information as might be of aid was imparted to them.



After target information had been given all pilots and crews were allowed to make selections for those they would like to hit.  Insofar as it was possible those targets were assigned according to choice.  Many hours were spent studying target information and looking at pictures to become as familiar as possible with the method, individual attacks were to be carried out.  Many landmarks were studied for possible aids to navigation and marked on maps and charts.


Every morning at dawn and every evening at dusk the carrier commander called all personnel to battle stations.  At this time the Army pilots manned their airplanes and during the repeated drill evolved the most expeditious method of getting to their planes which, if emergency arose, would contribute the most to hasty departure from the carrier.


After all planes and crews had been completely briefed and equipped Lt. Col. Doolittle personally inspected the planes and cross questioned the crews to insure they were all thoroughly familiar with the plan of action and the airplanes were in top shape.




On December 25, 1941, the newly commissioned U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier, Hornet, landed her complement of fighting planes for the first time in the Atlantic Ocean, just off Norfolk, Virginia.  This was the beginning of her shakedown cruise.  Captain Marc Andrew Mitscher, the Skipper, had the task of training the compliment of men and Officers to the highest possible degree of efficiency in a short period of time.  Some of the key members of the command included Commander Pat Creehan, Chief Engineer;  Commander George Raymond Henderson, executive officer;  Commander Akers, ship navigator;  Commander Stanhope Cotton Ring, the commander of the Hornet air group;  Commander James W. Smith, ship’s gunnery officer;  Lt. Commander John Charles Waldron, commanding officer of Torpedo Squadron Eight;  Lt. Commander William J. Widhelm, commanding officer of Scout Bomber Squadron Eight;  and Lt. Commander Alfred B. Tucker, commanding officer of Bombing Squadron Eight.


The shakedown cruise took place in the Caribbean.  In less than five weeks the Hornet returned to it’s base at Norfolk.  Many of the crew, especially those who had just completed their first cruise, expected shore leave when the ship was docked at Norfolk but instead two Army B-25 bombers were loaded aboard by crane and the Hornet moved out to sea again.  Most of the crew figured this was merely another Navy experiment.


The Hornet was scarcely out of sight of land when the B-25s were pushed to the end of the carrier deck to give maximum runway distance for take off and Navy pilots boarded the planes.  Before the experiment could be started, a submarine alarm was sounded.  The location of the suspected submarine was depth charged and bombed until the “tell tale” oil slick appeared.  Closer examination of the bombed submarine proved the enemy to be nothing more than a sunken tanker with a few feet of one mast appearing above the surface of the sea.


After the decks had been cleared the B-25s were again prepared for take off.  Both took off successfully and headed for land as the carrier returned to it's berth at Norfolk.  Immediately after landing supplies and ammunition were loaded aboard the carrier.


The Hornet remained in dock for three-weeks making minor adjustments to her mechanical equipment after which time she was made part of a convoy to the Panama Canal.  After leaving the Canal she was sailed alone with destroyer escort up the Pacific coast where she operated for three weeks training flying crews for other carriers.  On the last of March she was berthed at Alameda, California.  She had hardly been warped to the dock when the Army Air Force B-25s began arriving at the airfield adjacent to the dock.  They were towed from the airfield to the dock then hoisted aboard the carrier by use of ship cranes.  By evening of April 1, sixteen planes had been hoisted aboard and lashed to the deck.  At dusk the ship was moved to the bay and anchored for the night.


The usual atmosphere between the Army and Navy was evident before the Naval crews were notified of the nature of the mission.  This atmosphere could be described as slightly strained and defensive.  The Army fliers refused to give any information to the curious Navy men which further strained the relationship between the two services.  There were no evidences of open dislikes – only a defensive aloofness.  It was only natural the Navy men would think the Army was overdoing it's part and the Army was in no mood to jeopardize it's security until it was completely safe for the Navy to know the nature of the mission.


On April 2, the Hornet, with it's escorting vessels, moved out to sea and the word was spread to all personnel on what was to take place.  Relationships improved in a matter of seconds and immediately all hands, Army Air Force and Navy alike, joined together to accomplish all that was necessary to satisfactorily complete the mission.




On April 7, six days after the Hornet was at sea, the naval operation plan, No. 20-42 was issued.  The task force was to be known as Task Force 16 under the command of Vice Admiral Halsey.  The organization of the task force was as follows:


Task Group 16.1 Vice Admiral Halsey

Task Group 16.2 Captain Mitscher

Aircraft Carrier Enterprise CV-6 (Flagship)

Aircraft Carrier Hornet CV-8

Cruiser North Hampton CC-1

Cruiser Vincennes CA-44

Cruiser Salt Lake City CA-25

Cruiser Nashville CL-43

Destroyer Balch DD-363

Destroyer Gwin DD-433

Destroyer Benham DD-397

Destroyer Grayson DD-435

Destroyer Fanning DD-385

Destroyer Meredith DD-434

Destroyer Ellet DD-398

Destroyer Monssen DD-436

Tanker Sabine AO-25

Tanker Cimmaron AO-22


Task Force 16 orders were to:

1.    Proceed after join up to carry out attack.

2.    On completion return to Pearl harbor.

3.    Seize any favorable opportunity to destroy important enemy forces which does not jeopardize accomplishment of task.

4.    Plan effective at 0530 GCT, April 8, 1942.


The rendezvous of 16.1 and 16.2 to take place at Lat. 38 degrees North and 180 degrees East at 0600 Y (Zone) April 13, 1942.


At rendezvous Task Force 16 was to proceed to a point 500 miles East of Tokyo, Japan, where bombers would be launched for attack.





        Task Group 16.1 departed from Pearl Harbor and Task Group 16.2 departed from San Francisco.  On April 2, 1942, at 1000 hours, Task Group 16.2 departed San Francisco bay with 16 Army Air Force planes aboard.  The weather was foggy with visibility reduced to 1000 yards.  Air coverage was provided by the Western Sea Frontier until late afternoon.  A United States Navy blimp L-6 delivered 2 boxes of navigators domes for B-25s.  Late in the afternoon notice of the mission was given.


“Vessels of the task force were notified of the mission by semaphore message late in the afternoon, and the crew of this vessel were informed by loud speaker.  Cheers from every section of the ship greeted the announcement and morale reached a new high, there to remain until after the attack was launched and the ship well clear of combat areas.” [4]


Enroute Japanese radio stations were continuously monitored to determine whether or not the Japanese might be suspicious or would reflect attitudes that might be useful in carrying out the mission.  Speeds had to be reduced because of heavy seas and high winds.


On April 9, instructions were received to delay rendezvous by one day.  Original instructions established rendezvous for April 12.  Delay was accomplished by reversing course and slowing speed.


Task Group 16.1 departed Pearl Harbor at 1330 hours on April 8, 1942.  It steered on a zig zag course generally west to north west to rendezvous with Task Group 16.2.  Air patrols were maintained whenever weather would allow.  These patrols extended out to 200 miles 60 degrees on each bow.


Surface warning submarines, the Trout and the Thresher, occupied patrol stations in areas bounded by 31 degrees North Latitude and 31 degrees and 30 minutes North Latitude by 142 degrees and 30 minutes and 144 degrees and 30 minutes East Longitude (Trout) and 34 degrees and 30 minutes and 34 degrees and 50 minutes North Latitude by 142 degrees and 30 minutes and 144 degrees and 40 minutes East Longitude. (Thresher)  These submarines were to report any enemy information that might threaten Task Force 16.


Refueling of the combat vessels was attempted on April 16, but heavy seas forced abandonment of operation until the next day when it was accomplished successfully.  Refueling was barely completed when wind arose to gale force.  One man was washed overboard from the tanker Cimmaron during this operation.  He was recovered by one of the escorting destroyers a short time later.


At 1439 (2:39pm), April 17, the two carriers and four cruisers proceeded independent of destroyers and tenders on a westerly course averaging approximately 20 knots per hour.  The wind was at gale force of 36 knots.  At 0312 (3:12am), April 18, two enemy vessels were picked up on radar and a light was seen in the same direction a short while later.  General Quarters was not sounded but the course changed to 350 degrees true to avoid contact.  At 0341 (3:41am), the two vessels went off the screen, apparently without noticing the task force.


At 0715 (7:15am), a search plane from the Enterprise reported sighting enemy patrol vessel.  Later developments indicated this vessel made original contact report to Japan.  At 0744 (7:44am) this vessel was sighted by the task force bearing 221 degrees at a distance of 10,000 yards.  The cruiser Nashville was ordered to sink this vessel by gunfire.



The carriers turned to a course of 320 degrees true which was into the wind and commenced launching the bombers.  The first bomber was launched at 0820 (8:20am) and the last at 0919 (9:19am).  The average interval for the bomber take offs was 3.9 minutes.  At 0927 (9:27am) the task force commenced retirement on a course of 90 degrees true and a speed of 25 knots.




During retirement an enemy patrol vessel was picked up by the radar at 1214 (12:14pm) at a distance of 64,000 yards, but passed off the screen before contact was made.  At 1400 (2:00pm) two enemy patrol vessels were attacked by Enterprise planes.  One was sunk and one was damaged.  At 1413 (2:13pm), one was still afloat and the Nashville was ordered to attack.  The patrol vessel broke out a white flag and five prisoners were taken, then the vessel was sunk by gunfire.  These were apparently the ones that were first sighted by radar earlier in the morning.  During these operations one naval plane, apparently damaged by AA fire from the patrol vessels during the attack, landed in the water due to engine failure.  The crew of this plane was recovered without injury.


No further contacts were made during the return trip to Pearl harbor.  Another patrol plane was lost during patrol operations enroute.  Both plane and crew were lost.


After the war with Japan was over, records revealed the message sent by the patrol boat that forced the early take off, had been received and confirmation requested.  By the time confirmation was requested, the patrol boat had been sunk.  The Japanese government, therefore, chose to ignore the message until the bombs started hitting their targets.  By that time it was too late.



On the 17th of April in the Officer’s dining room Lt. Col. Doolittle had his last briefing before take off.  The final instructions were brief and to the point.  The last offer was made for those who might wish to withdraw but found no takers.  The instructions included three warnings:

1.    Under no conditions would anyone go to Vladivostok.

2.    No non-military targets including the Temple of Heaven would be bombed.

3.    This was to be the last briefing before take off – take off was understood to be on the evening of the 19th of April unless previously intercepted at which take off would be as soon as possible.


When radar interception with unknown surface craft was made at 0312 (3:12am) on the morning of April 18th, none of the crews were notified.  Battle stations were maintained as usual at dawn after which most of the crews were at breakfast.  A second radar intercept had been made and a third contact was made when it was decided to launch the Army planes.  The warning to the crews came over the loudspeaker systems of the Hornet, “Army pilots man your battle stations for take off!”  At the same time the cruiser batteries opened fire on the enemy craft three and one half miles to the left front of the task force.  The cruiser Nashville obliterated it and then dashed off in the direction of the kill.


Every man took his battle station, packed and ready to go, although many still thought it was a dry run in spite of the gun firing.  When it was definite that take off was really to take place, the excitement increased.  The Hornet had shut off the gas supply as many of the B-25s were being topped off.  The carrier Enterprise could be heard shouting instructions over her powerful loud speaker on deck.  The instructions were directed to the Hornet to launch the bombers immediately.  It was discovered that the bombs within the B-25 bomb bays had not been armed and a slight delay was encountered while this was accomplished in view of the fact that arming could not be accomplished in the air.  The incendiary bombs to be used for plane destruction had to be distributed at the last minute as well.  During the delay the navigators visited the ship navigation room to get the latest weather, the position of the carrier and the wind information.  The position of the carrier was found to be 823 miles from Tokyo – over 400 miles further than original estimates for safe take off distance from destination with the available fuel.  The weather was bad in the vicinity of the carrier and most disturbing was the fact that a headwind of 24 knots could be expected all of the way to the target area.  The airplane to be flown by Captain David M. Jones had developed a last minute gas leak in the bomb bay tank of serious proportions.  Five gallon cans were commandeered from other planes to supplement this loss with the hope these cans could be replaced before those planes were to take off.  Captain Jones was the fifth to take off.  These last minute delays took only a part of an hour.


The first take off took place at exactly 0820 (8:20am) ship time, and was the airplane piloted by Lt. Col. Doolittle.  The atmosphere was extremely tense for this first take off.  The only other time a B-25 had taken off from a carrier deck was from the Hornet by other pilots off Norfolk, Virginia, in January and then it was with a minimum load.  This day the weather was very rough, the visibility good but the ceiling only 1000 feet.  The Hornet was running into the wind at 27 knots.  With the speed of the carrier, the speed of the wind and the blast of the first few B-25s running up, the propellers of the remaining ships were wind milling with the force of the combined wind.  It normally requires two men to turn the propellers.  Personnel moving about the deck had to do so on their hands and knees and had to clutch the deck plates to keep from being blown overboard.


Two sets of wheel markers had been placed on the deck.  One set was at 400 feet from the bow of the carrier and the second set 450 feet from the bow.  The first were intended for the first planes and when adequate space became available the second set was to be used.  These wheel markers were composed of cork and sand which were to serve the purpose of preventing the wheels of the bombers from slipping on the wet deck during the engine run up.  As it happened, only the first set were needed as the distance proved to be sufficient.  Navy deck men were to follow each bomber with a set of wheel chocks, each of which had two long handles attached in order to prevent backslide that might be caused by the pitch of the ship.


The Hornet came up to the fastest speed attained during the trip.  Chief Engineer Creehan held the speed as high as possible in order to gain as much distance towards Tokyo as possible and to give the bombers as much speed as possible to aid in taking off.  The signal man at the chocks gauged the waves to put Doolittle’s plane at the bow of the carrier just as it surged op on the crest.  Doolittle pushed his throttles to full power and held his brakes with the flaps full down and awaited the flag.  On the signal from the flag man he released his brakes and rolled forward for take off.  When his plane left the deck, the cheers of the crew members aboard the Hornet could be heard above the roar of the motors.  The nose high attitude practice for this take off proved excessive and the angle of the Colonel’s plane was critical when it caught the blast of wind off the bow.  He climbed sharply, then quickly leveled off and assumed a normal take off attitude.





The second plane off the deck was flown by Lt. Travis Hoover.  His take off time was 0825 (8:25am).  The nose high attitude of his plane was more critical than that of Lt. Colonel Doolittle’s plane, but he was able to correct it before he stalled.  Lt. Hank Miller decided to warn the other pilots to take off in a normal position.  His warning was written on a large black board and shown to each succeeding pilot.


The launching order and times of all B-25’s is shown below:



Lt. Col. Doolittle

0820 – 8:20am


1st Lt. Hoover

0825 – 8:25am


1st Lt. Gray

0830 – 8:30am


1st Lt. Holstrom

0833 – 8:33am


Captain Jones

0837 – 8:37am


2nd Lt. Hallmark

0840 – 8:40am


1st Lt. Lawson

0843 – 8:43am


Captain York

0846 – 8:46am


1st Lt. Watson

0850 – 8:50am


1st Lt. Joyce

0853 – 8:53am


Captain Greening

0856 – 8:56am


1st Lt. Bower

0859 – 8:59am


1st Lt. McElroy

0901 – 9:01am


Major Hilger

0907 – 9:07am


1st Lt. Smith

0915 – 9:15am


1st Lt. Farrow

0919 – 9:19am


The only other difficulties encountered were by Lts. Lawson and Farrow.  Lt. Lawson took off without putting down his flaps but was able to make a successful take off even though his plane dipped very low to the water.  Lt. Farrow’s plane slid backwards on the deck while taxiing to position and hit a sailor who lost his arm as a result.


Each plane, except number sixteen, circled the carrier and flew directly over the deck to read the course of the carrier displayed on a large card on the island.  By lining the drift sight on the white line painted the length of the deck, compasses and drift could be checked.


All pilots had been given selected objectives, consisting of steel works, oil refineries, oil tank farms, ammunition dumps and factories, dock yards, airplane factories and supply areas.  They were also given secondary targets in case it was impossible to reach the primary targets.  In almost every case, the primary target was bombed.  The damage done was believed to far exceed the most optimistic expectations.  The high degree of damage resulted from the highly inflammable nature of the Japanese construction, the daylight bombing, the low altitude from which the bombing was done, the perfectly clear weather over the targets, and the careful and continuous study of charts and target areas.


In addition to each airplane having selected targets assigned to it, each flight was assigned a specific course and coverage.  Lt. Colonel Doolittle was to proceed alone and the first flight of three airplanes led by Lt. Hoover covered the Northern part of Tokyo.  The second flight, led by Captain Jones, covered the central part of Tokyo.  The third Flight, led by Captain York, covered the Southern part of Tokyo and the North central part of the Tokyo bay area.  The fourth flight, led by Captain Greening, covered the Southern part of Kanagewa, the city of Yokohama and the Yokosuka Navy yard.  The flight was spread over a 50 mile front in order to provide the greatest possible coverage, to create the impression that there was a large number of airplanes and to dilute enemy ground fire as well as air opposition.  It also prohibited the possibility of more than one plane passing any one given spot on the ground and assured the element of surprise.


The fifth flight, led by Major Hilger, went around to the South of Tokyo and proceeded to the vicinity of Nagoya where it broke up and proceeded to bomb Nagoya with two planes, Osaka with one plane, and Kobe with the other.


The best information available from Army and Navy intelligence indicated there were to be some 500 combat planes in Japan and that most of them were concentrated in the Tokyo bay area.  The comparatively few fighters encountered indicated that the home defense had been reduced in the interest of making the maximum of planes available in active theaters.  The pilots of such planes as remained appeared inexperienced.  In some cases they actually did not attack, and in may cases failed to drive the attack home to the maximum extent possible.  In no case was there any indication that a Japanese pilot might run into one of the B-25’s even though the economics of such a course would appear sound.  It would entail trading a $40,000 fighter for a $200,000 bomber and one man, who could probably arrange to collide in such a way as to save himself, against five who even though they escaped would be interned and thus loose their military utility.


The fire of the pilots that actually attacked was very inaccurate.  In some cases the machine gun bullets bounced off the wings without penetrating them.  To bear this out, the same effect was observed when a train, upon which some of the crew members were riding in China, was machine gunned by a Japanese attack plane.  One of the projectiles, which had bounced off the top of the train without penetrating was recovered.  It had no rifling marks and was apparently fired from a smooth bore gun.


The anti-aircraft defense over Japan was active but inaccurate.  Al anti-aircraft bursts observed were black and small, apparently fired from light caliber guns.  Inaccuracies observed led the pilots to believe the inaccuracy was even greater than it really was.  It was later apparent the bursts observed were of those light caliber shells destroying themselves before striking the ground.  It was presumed that the high speed and low altitude at which the airplanes were flying made it impossible for the Japanese gunners to train their larger caliber guns if such existed.  Several of the airplanes were struck by anti-aircraft fragments but none of them were damaged to an extent that impaired their utility or impeded their progress.  Although it was to be presumed that machine gun fire from the ground was active, none of the crew members saw any such action, nor was there evidence of machine gun fire holes in any of the airplanes.


A few barrage balloons were seen.  One cluster of five or six were observed near Tokyo bay to the Southeast and another just North of the northern most part of the bay.  These balloons were flying at about 3000 feet and were not in sufficient numbers to impede the bombing.  Japanese anti-aircraft fire, when shooting at the bombers in the vicinity of the barrage balloons, was observed to shoot down some of their own balloons.


It was anticipated that some difficulty might be experienced due to the targets being camouflaged.  Little or no effective camouflage was observed in the Tokyo area other than that seen by Captain Greening.


It could only be inferred that as a result of an unwarranted feeling of security and an over-all shortage of aircraft pilots that home defense had been made secondary to efficient operation in other theaters.


In spite of the fact that at least one radio message was sent prior to the take off (later confirmed) the Japanese were apparently entirely unprepared for the attack.  It was later learned that when the message was received by the Japanese warning net, they were unable to confirm it (due to the destruction of the warning craft), and chose to ignore it.


According to events as they actually happened, the take off occurred almost ten hours early, due to contact being made with the enemy surface craft.  In addition to this, the take off was made on the 18th of April, instead of the 19th as originally planned and agreed, due to the Navy getting one day ahead of schedule and the undesirability of remaining longer than necessary in dangerous waters.  In view of the premature take off, it was desired that Chunking be notified, but , due to the necessity for strict radio silence, this could not be done prior to the actual take off.  It was requested that Chunking be advised shortly after take off had been made, if possible.  If not, it was felt that Chunking would learn of the bombing from the Japanese radio and establish the ground assistance asked for proceeding the departure from San Francisco.  Actually Chunking did learn of the coming bombers, but the airplane sent to the landing field areas crashed enroute, killing all aboard.  As a result of this, no radio homing facilities were provided in the Chuchow area, nor were light beacons or landing flares provided.  To the contrary, when the bombers were heard over the China coast, an air raid warning alarm was sounded and all lights were turned off.  This, together with the very unfavorable flying weather over the China coast, made safe landing at destination impossible.  As a result, all planes either landed in the water near the coast or the crews bailed out.


The following account of individual experiences has been extracted from the report by General Doolittle titled “Report on Japanese Raid” dated July 9, 1942.

Takeoff No. 1

Airplane #40-2344 Take off at 0820 (8:20am) Ship Time


Lt. Col. J.H. Doolittle



Lt. R.E. Cole



Lt. H.A. Potter



S/Sgt. F.A. Braemer



S/Sgt. P.J. Leonard



Ø     Take off was easy.  Night take off would have been possible and practicable.

Ø     About half hour after take off was joined by A.C. 40-2292, Lt. Hoover, pilot, the second plane to take off.

Ø     About an hour out passed a Japanese camouflaged naval surface vessel of about 6,000 tons.  Took it to be a light cruiser.

Ø     About two hours out passed a multi-motored land plane headed directly for our flotilla and flying at about 3,000 feet two miles away.

Ø     Passed and endeavored to avoid civil and naval craft until landfall was made north of Inubo Shuma

Ø     Was somewhat north of desired course but decided to take advantage of error and approach from a northerly direction, thus avoiding anticipated strong opposition to the west.

Ø     Many flying fields and the air full of planes north of Tokyo.  Mostly small biplanes apparently primary or basic trainers

Ø     Encountered nine fighters in three flights of three.  This was about ten miles north of the outskirts of Tokyo proper.

Ø    All this time had been flying as low as the terrain would permit.

Ø     Continued low flying due south over the outskirts of and towards the east center of Tokyo.

Ø     Pulled up to 1200 feet, changed course to the southwest and incendiary bombed highly inflammable section.  Dropped first bomb at 1330 (1:30pm) Ship Time.

Ø     Anti aircraft fire very active but only one near hit.

Ø     Lowered away to housetops and slid over western outskirts into low haze and smoke.

Ø     Turned south out to sea.

Ø     Passed over small aircraft factory with a dozen or more newly completed planes on the line.  No bombs left.  Decided not to machine gun for reasons of personal security.

Ø     Had seen five barrage balloons over east central Tokyo and what appeared to be more in the distance.

Ø     Passed out to sea flying low.

Ø     Was soon followed again by Hoover who followed us to the Chinese coast.

Ø     Navigator plotted perfect course to pass north of Yaki Shima.

Ø     Saw three large naval vessels just before passing west end of Japan.  One was flatter than the others and may have been a converted carrier.

Ø     Passed innumerable fishing and small patrol boats.

Ø     Made landfall somewhat north of course on China coast.

Ø     Tried to radio Chuchow on 4495 kc. But couldn’t raise.

Ø     Weather had been clear over Tokyo but became overcast before reaching Yaki Shima.

Ø     Ceiling lowered on coast until low islands and hills were in it at about 600 feet.  Just getting dark and couldn’t live under overcast so pulled up to 6,000 feet and then 8,000 feet in it.  On instruments from then on though occasionally saw dim lights on ground through almost solid overcast.  These lights seemed more often on our right and pulled us still further off course.

Ø     Directed rear gunner to go aft and secure films from camera (unfortunately they were jerked out of his shirt front where he had put them, when his chute opened).

Ø     Decided to abandon ship.  Sgt. Braemer, Lt. Potter, Sgt. Leonard and Lt. Cole jumped in order.  Left ship on A.F.C.E., shut off both gas cocks and I left.  Should have put flaps down.  This would have slowed down landing speed, reduced impact and shortened glide.

Ø     All hands collected and ship located by late afternoon of the 19th.

Ø     Requested General Ho Yang Ling, Director of the Branch Government of Western Chekiang Province to have a lookout kept along the seacoast from Hang Chow Bay to Wen Chow Bay and also have all sampans and junks along the coast keep a lookout for planes that went down at sea, or just reached shore.

Ø     Early morning of 20th, four planes and crews, in addition to ours, had been located and I wired General Arnold, through the embassy at Chunking, “Tokyo successfully bombed.  Due to bad weather on China Coast believe all airplanes wrecked.  Five crews found safe in China so far.”

Ø     Wired again on the 27th giving more details.

Ø     Discussed possibility of purchasing three prisoners on the seacoast from Puppet Government and endeavoring to take out the three in the lake area by force.  Believe this desire was made clear to General Ku-Cho-tung (who spoke little English) and know it was made clear to English speaking members of his staff.  This was at Shangjao.  They agreed to try purchase of three but recommended against use of force due to large Japanese concentration.

Ø     Left airplane about 2120 (9:20pm) ship time after 13 hours in the air.  Still had enough gas for half hour flight but right front tank had been showing empty.  Had transferred once as right engine used more fuel.  Had covered about 2,250 miles, mostly at low speed, cruising but about an hour at moderate high speed which more than doubled the consumption for this time.

Ø     Bad Luck:

o       Early take off due to naval contact with surface vessel.

o       Clear weather over Tokyo.

o       Foul weather over China.

Ø     Good Luck:

o       A 25 Mph tail wind over most of the last 1,200 miles.

o       Take off should have been made three hours before daylight but we didn’t know how easy it would be and the Navy didn’t want to light up.

o       Dawn take off, closer in, would have been better as things turned out.  However, due to the bad weather it is questionable if even daylight landing could have been made at Chuchow without radio aid.

o       Still feel that original plan of having one plane take off three hours before dusk and others just at dusk was best all around plan for average conditions.

o       Should have kept accurate chronological record.

o       Should have all crew members instructed in exact method of leaving ship under various conditions.


Signed:  J.H. Doolittle


Report of Navigator attached to Col. Doolittle’s report:


1.    Take off 35 degrees 40 minutes North – 153 degrees 40 minutes East.

2.    Landfall 36 degrees 20 minutes North – 140 degrees 40 minutes East.  Altitude 200 feet.

3.    Passed Yaki Shima 30 degrees 30 minutes North – 130 degrees East, time 1700 (5:00pm), altitude 500 feet.

4.    Landfall China coast 29 degrees 40 minutes North – 122 degrees 20 minutes East.  Time was 2010 (8:10pm).

5.    Left airplane time 2115 – 2120 (9:15 – 9:20pm).  Position 30 degrees 15 minutes North – 119 degrees East, altitude 8,000 feet.

Takeoff No. 2

Airplane #40-2292 Take off at 0825 (8:25am) Ship Time


Lt. T. Hoover



Lt. Wm N. Fitzhugh



Lt. Carl N. Wildner



Lt. Richard E. Miller



S/Sgt. Douglas V. Radney



Ø     This airplane experienced the most difficulty in taking off.  The sea was extremely rough – Water was being taken over the bow of the carrier.  The plane was thrown into the air and the pilot pulled back on the stick too sharply.  For a moment it seemed the airplane might stall but pilot corrected the condition in time.

Ø     Followed Col. Doolittle to Tokyo and bombed powder factories and magazines near the river North of the main railroad station and Imperial Palace with three demolition bombs and one incendiary cluster bomb.

Ø     Bombing done from 900 feet and the debris flew to a height higher than that of the airplane.

Ø     Proceeded seaward and joined Col. Doolittle.

Ø     Made a wheels up landing in a rice paddy on the China coast near Ningpo.  Destroyed airplane by fire.

Ø     Returned to United States after being helped out of China by military forces.


Takeoff No. 3

Airplane #40-2270 Take off at 0830 (8:30am) Ship Time


1st Lt. Robert Gray



2nd Lt. Jacob E. Manch



2nd Lt. Charles J. Ozuk



Sgt. A.E. Jones



Cpl. Leland D. Faktor



Ø     Take off from Hornet normal.  Navigation accomplished at minimum altitude to Tokyo.

Ø     Bombed target at 1,450 feet with three 500 lb. demolition bombs and one 500 lb. incendiary cluster bomb.  Target was a steel works, a gas company chemical works and a thickly populated small factories district.  The incendiary bomb cluster was dropped on the last target for fire effect.  All targets were considered hit.  The chemical works was seen to burst into flames.  Military barracks were machine gunned during the withdrawal.

Ø     Contacted heavy AA fire but range was inaccurate.

Ø     On arrival in China encountered bad weather which made it impossible to land.  Orders to prepare for bail out were given 30 minutes prior to estimated jump time.  Order was repeated 15 minutes prior to jump time to insure all preparations were made.  All personnel jumped at 6,200 feet.

Ø     Pilot landed on summit of a mountain where he remained all night.  The following morning he searched for other members of his crew and walked all day.  Remained overnight in an unidentified village and the following day walked in a circle to end up where he had started that morning.  Sgt. Jones, Lt. Manch and Lt. Gray were joined within three days then proceeded to Chuchow where others were waiting to withdraw towards Chunking.

Ø     Cpl. L.D. Faktor was found dead.  The cause of his death was unknown as his parachute apparently functioned properly.  It was suspected that he landed on extremely rough terrain and was killed in the secondary fall.

Ø     Lt. Ozuk suffered a severe cut on his leg due to landing on a sharp rock.  He landed in his parachute on the side of a cliff and was hung suspended in his harness for over24 hours before being rescued by the Chinese.


Takeoff No. 4

Airplane #40-2282 Take off at 0833 (8:33am) Ship Time


1st Lt. Everett W. Holstrom



2nd Lt. Lucian N. Youngblood



2nd Lt. Harry C. McCool



Sgt. Robert J. Stephens



Cpl Bert M. Jordan



Ø     Take off from the Hornet normal.

Ø     Proceeded towards Tokyo at a minimum altitude.

Ø     Encountered severe fighter opposition southeast of Tokyo Bay.  Endeavored to get around fighters but were attacked and bombardier salvoed bombs into the water.

Ø     Proceeded South along the coast of Japan to China where bad weather was encountered.

Ø     Proceeded on instruments to a point over China where all crew members bailed out safely.

Ø     With the aid of the Chinese Guerrilla forces were able to reach Chuchow.


Takeoff No. 5

Airplane #40-2283 Take off at 0837 (8:37am) Ship Time


Captain David M. Jones



2nd Lt. Rodney R. Wilder



2nd Lt. Eugene F. McGurl



2nd Lt. Denver N. Truelove



Sgt. Joseph W. Manske



Ø     Take off from the carrier Hornet not difficult.  Bomb bay gas tank sprung a leak but sufficient gas was aboard to make up the loss.

Ø     Proceeded to Tokyo at minimum altitude.

Ø     Bombing done at 1,200 feet.  Direct hits made on powder station, oil tanks, a large manufacturing plant and the congested area southeast of the Imperial Palace with three 500 lb. demolition bombs and one 500 lb. incendiary cluster bomb.

Ø     Flew to China and encountered bad weather.  Continued on instruments until estimated position over Chuchow, China.

Ø     All crew members bailed out safely.

Ø     Was the first crew to arrive at Chuchow.


Takeoff No. 6

Airplane #40-2298 Take off at 0840 (8:40am) Ship Time


2nd Lt. Dean E. Hallmark



2nd Lt. Robert J. Meder



2nd Lt. Chase J. Neilson



Sgt. William J. Dieter



Cpl Donald E. Fitzmaurice



Ø     No difficulty encountered during take off from Hornet.

Ø     This airplane landed in the Nangchang Area near Poyang Lake, China.  Reports on bombing are not available nor are they on record in view of the capture of the crew by the Japanese.

Ø     Lt. Dean Hallmark was executed by the Japanese after his capture.

Ø     Lt. Robert Meder died of mistreatment and malnutrition as a Japanese prisoner of war.

Ø     Sgt. Dieter and Cpl Fitzmaurice were believed to have been drowned after landing in Poyang Lake.

Ø     Lt. Nielson was the only survivor who spent the rest of the war in a Japanese prison camp, most of which was in solitary confinement.


Takeoff No. 7

Airplane #40-2261 Take off at 0843 (8:43am) Ship Time


1st Lt. Ted W. Lawson



2nd Lt. Dean Davenport



2nd Lt. Charles E. McClure



2nd Lt. Robert S. Clever



Sgt. David J. Thatcher



Ø     During the engine run-up on the carrier Hornet the flaps were checked for operation.  After the check had been made the flaps were retracted and through the excitement of the situation, were not extended before take off.  Take off was made without flaps resulting in the bomber running off the end of the deck and sagging dangerously low to the water.  Flying speed was attained, however, and the run in made without difficulty.

Ø     A formation of Zero fighters intercepted the bomber but did not attack.

Ø     Industrial section of Tokyo bombed with three 500 lb. demolition bombs and one 500 lb. incendiary cluster bomb.

Ø     Proceeded down the coast of Japan to the coast of China where an attempted landing was made on the beach in the rain and fog.  The wheels of the plane hit the water and wrecked the plane.  Sgt. Thatcher was the only crew member not seriously hurt.

Ø     Medical aid was reached with the help of the Chinese Guerrilla forces after three days.  Lt. T.R. White, the only medical man in the flight, crash-landed in the water in the same vicinity and was taken to Lt. Lawson as soon as it was possible.  He was forced to amputate Lt. Lawson’s leg due to infection.

Ø     All crew members were carried to safety in China and flown to the United States in June.


Takeoff No. 8

Airplane #40-2242 Take off at 0846 (8:46am) Ship Time


Captain Edward J. York



1st Lt. Robert G. Emmens



2nd Lt. Nolan A. Herndon



S/Sgt. T.H. Laban



Sgt. David W. Pohl



Ø     This airplane bombed Tokyo with three 500 lb. demolition bombs and one 500 lb. incendiary cluster bomb.

Ø     Due to extremely high gasoline consumption and complete failure of their top gun turret leaving them defenseless, they proceeded to a landing 40 miles North of Vladivostok.

Ø     All crew members were safe but interned by Russians and sent to a place named Penza about 350 miles southeast of Moscow.

Ø     The airplane was confiscated by the Russian Government.

These are images from Vladimir Plotnikov which he located at http://www.airforce.ru/history/ww2/photoalbum/page_11.htm of York's plane, the day after the raid, in Russia.


Takeoff No. 9

Airplane #40-2303 Take off at 0850 (8:50am) Ship Time


1st Lt. Harold F. Watson



2nd Lt. James M. Parker



2nd Lt. Thomas C. Griffin



Sgt/ Wayne M. Bissell



T/Sgt. Eldred V. Scott



Ø     Took off from the Hornet without difficulty.

Ø     Navigated at minimum altitude to Tokyo.

Ø     Bombed Tokyo with three demolition bombs and one incendiary cluster bomb.

Ø     Targets hit were the Kawasji truck and tank plant, another factory building and the congested industrial districts near the railroad station south of the Imperial Palace.

Ø     Proceeded to China but encountered bad weather off the China coast.

Ø     Crew bailed out 100 miles south of Poyang Lake.  All landed safely with the exception of Lt. Watson who caught his right arm in his shroud lines and suffered a broken arm.  At first it was believed his arm was dislocated and an attempt was made to put it back in place.


Takeoff No. 10

Airplane #40-2250 Take off at 0853 (8:53am) Ship Time


1st Lt. Richard O. Joyce



2nd Lt. J. Royden Stork



2nd Lt. Horace E. Crouch



Sgt. George E. Larkin, Jr.



S/Sgt. Edward W. Horton, Jr.



Ø     This airplane and crew were first scheduled to take off from the Hornet two days out of San Francisco and return to the United States.  The purpose was to determine what the characteristics of the B-25 would be taking off from the carrier fully loaded.  It was decided that if it could be done it might as well be against the Japanese and the plane was allowed to remain for the mission.

Ø     The pilot complained that the warning to take off was given unexpectedly and hardly enough time was allowed for the crew to obtain course, weather and position information.

Ø     Take off was made without difficulty.  Navigation was done at 500 feet altitude to the Japanese coast then at 3,000 feet to target area.  Bombing was done at 2,500 feet with three 500 lb. demolition bombs and one 500 lb. incendiary cluster bomb.

Ø     The primary target, the Japan Special Steel Company and warehouses in South Tokyo, was bombed with two demolition bombs and one demolition bomb was dropped amid the thick industrial area in the Shiba Ward about ¼ mile in shore.  The incendiary cluster bomb was dropped over thickly populated and dense industrial/residential sector immediately inshore from the primary target.  Bombs were observed to be dropped with good effect except the last bomb which was dropped during a fighter attack.

Ø     The opposition amounted to an attack by nine Zero fighters and considerable anti-aircraft fire from the ground and from an aircraft carrier in Tokyo Bay.  One eight inch hole was torn in the fuselage just forward of the horizontal stabilizer.  Fighter attack was poorly organized.  Turret gunner believes one fighter was hit but does not believe it was shot down.

Ø     Withdrawal made down the Japanese coast at 3,000 feet within the clouds to avoid detection.  Encountered instrument flying conditions about 100 miles form China coast.  Strong tail wind discovered at 500 feet down Japan coast.

Ø     Climbed to 9,000 feet when estimated position was over Chuchow and crew bailed out at 2200 (10:00pm).

Ø     With the aid of Chinese farmers and soldiers was able to reach Chuchow in four days.


Takeoff No. 11

Airplane #40-2249 Take off at 0856 (8:56am) Ship Time


Captain Charles R. Greening



2nd Lt. Kenneth E. Reddy



2nd Lt. Frank A. Kappeler



S/Sgt. William L. Birch



Sgt. Melvin J. Gardner



Ø     Took off from Hornet without difficulty.

Ø     Navigation accomplished at minimum altitude.  Twenty-five knot head wind observed to landfall.

Ø     Landfall made considerably north of expected course.  Continued low altitude navigation overland.  Crossed an active airfield unexpectedly.  Intercepted approximately ten minutes later by four new type fighters (Later proved to be the Japanese Toni) and underwent sustained attack.  One was observed to be hit by turret gunner which wobbled off and was believed to have crashed.  The second hit was seen in flames.  Slight damage sustained by remaining two fighters when turret gunner exhausted ammunition.

Ø     All four 500 lb. incendiary cluster bombs dropped on a large oil refinery and storage area which were well camouflaged but easily detected from low altitude.  Bombs dropped from 600 feet because of fighter opposition.  After bombs were dropped it was not difficult to outrun fighters.  Smoke column from target observed billowing to several thousand feet at least fifty miles from target.

Ø     Three patrol boats were attacked with machine gun fire near mouth of Tokyo Bay.  One was left burning.

Ø     Tail wind discovered while heading south for China coast.  Navigation accomplished at minimum altitude except for 20 minutes spent in cloud deck at 2,500 feet to inspect plane for damage.  Right engine missed irregularly on withdrawal.

Ø     Bad weather encountered 100 to 150 miles from China coast.  Proceeded on instruments and crew bailed out 200 miles inland from China coast.  Plane left on A.F.C.E. and flew another 150 miles before crashing.

Ø     Lt. Reddy suffered a broken knee cap and a severe cut on the forehead.  Sgt. Gardner sprained both ankles slightly.  Crew arrived safely at Chuchow on the late evening of April 20th.

Ø     Bail out occurred at 2330 (11:30pm), over fourteen and one half hours after take off.


Takeoff No. 12

Airplane #40-2278 Take off at 0859 (8:59am) Ship Time


1st Lt. William M. Bower



2nd Lt. Thadd Blanton



2nd Lt. William R. Pound



T/Sgt. Waldo J. Bither



S/Sgt. Omer A. Duquette



Ø     Took off from carrier without difficulty.

Ø     Navigation accomplished at minimum altitude in formation with Captain Greening.

Ø     After landfall navigated to target separately.

Ø     Bombing accomplished at 1,100 feet with three 500 lb. demolition bombs and one incendiary cluster bomb.

Ø     Target bombed was large warehouse, railroad siding and oil refinery in the Yokohama dock area.

Ø     Sunk one weather boat 100 miles east of Japan by use of forward firing machine gun.

Ø     Bad weather encountered over China and crew bailed out at 2330 (11:30pm) from an altitude of 11,500 feet.  Entire crew reached Chuchow safely in three days.


Takeoff No. 13

Airplane #40-2247 Take off at 0901 (9:01am) Ship Time


1st Lt. Edgar E. McElroy



2nd Lt. R.A. Knobloch



2nd Lt. C.J. Campbell



Sgt. Robert C. Bourgeois



Sgt. Adam R. Williams



Ø     Took off from carrier without difficulty.

Ø     Flew formation at minimum altitude with Captain Greening to Japanese coast.

Ø     Enroute to target encountered accurate AA fire from enemy airfield.  Bombed target exactly as planned.  Three 500 lb. demolition bombs and one 500 lb. incendiary cluster bomb dropped on congested building area, naval ships and docks in the Yokosuka Naval Base area.  One naval ship was hit in dry dock and seen to fall on it's side after bombing, another was left burning while apparently refueling and a giant crane seen to collapse when the bomb exploded.

Ø     No enemy aircraft were encountered but accurate AA fire encountered enroute and over target area.

Ø     Instrument weather and one and one half hours from China coast resulted in instrument flying.  Crew bailed out at 2230 (10:30pm).  Sgt. Williams sustained a wrenched knee upon landing.  With aid of Chinese were able to reach Chuchow in three days.


Takeoff No. 14

Airplane #40-2297 Take off at 0907 (9:07am) Ship Time


Major J.A. Hilger



2nd Lt. Jack A. Sims



2nd Lt. James H. Macie, Jr.



S/Sgt. Jacob Eierman



S/Sgt. Edwin V. Bain



Ø     No difficulties encountered during take off from carrier.

Ø     Low altitude navigation to Nagoya.

Ø     One enemy patrol plane (similar to B-26 in appearance) seen 600 miles east of Tokyo but it was believed he did not see the B-25.

Ø     Bombs used were four 500 lb. incendiary cluster bombs dropped on military barracks in Nagoya Castle grounds, oil and storage warehouse, military arsenal and Mitsubishi Aircraft plant south of Nagoya.  All targets were believed to have been squarely hit.  Over thirty miles from target a column of smoke over 5,000 feet high could be seen over target area.

Ø     Only AA fire was observed in opposition and was ineffective.

Ø     Rain squalls and bad weather encountered 300 miles from China coast.  Crew bailed out at 2220 (10:22pm) from an altitude of 8,500 feet.

Ø     Crew was taken to Chuchow in two days.


Takeoff No. 15

Airplane #40-2267 Take off at 0915 (9:15am) Ship Time


1st Lt. Donald G. Smith



2nd Lt. G.P. Williams



2nd Lt. Howard A. Sessler


Flight Surgeon

1st Lt. T.R. White, M.D.



Sgt. Edward J. Saylor



Ø     Took off from carrier without difficulty.

Ø     Proceeded to Kobe at minimum altitude.

Ø     With four incendiary cluster bombs, bombed a large aircraft factory, dock yards and yards in the north part of the bay.

Ø     Ditched airplane in water near an island west of Sangchow, China.  All crew members escaped without injury.

Ø     Lt. T.R. White M.D. saved medical kit but later lost it in rough sea.

Ø     Chinese helped crew to safe area.  Lt. White taken to Lt. Lawson to provide medical aid.


Takeoff No. 16

Airplane #40-2268 Take off at 0919 (9:19am) Ship Time


1st Lt. William G. Farrow



1st Lt. Robert L. Hite



2nd Lt. George Barr



Cpl. Jacob DeShazer



Cpl C. Spatz



Ø     Because of rough sea the plane slid backwards on the deck of the Hornet and the propeller caught a sailor in the arm.  There was no damage to the propeller but the sailor lost his arm.  Take off was made without difficulty.

Ø     Bombing was done on targets in Nagoya.  Reports on effects are not available.

Ø     Crew landed on the coast south Hanchung and were captured by soldiers of the Puppet government.  Lt. Farrow and Corporal Spatz were executed by the Japanese.  The remainder of the crew survived 40 months of confinement in prison camps.

Ø     Targets of Nagoya were oil storage tanks and one aircraft factory.  Bombs dropped at 500 feet and had direct hits on one oil storage tank which went up in an explosion and smoke.  There was also a direct hit with incendiary cluster bomb on an aircraft factory.

Ø     Lt. Barr was the first one captured after the bail out which was one hour later.  Spatz was captured about three hours after bail out.  DeShazer and Farrow were captured the following AM  about 9:30, Hite was captured about 11:00 AM on the 19th.



        In view of the nature of the combined mission herein described careful consideration of the elements of weather was made for the entire operation.  Weather reports for many years back had been studied by the Army Air Force complement to determine the best seasonal period of time that would meet the need of this mission.  The Aerologic section on the carrier force provided information day by day that would allow the task force to take maximum advantage of weather for concealment and security while at the same time plan for the best possible conditions under which the bombers could be launched.


Weather Conditions Desired

Reasons for Weather Requirements


Departure from San Francisco

Low visibility

To prevent observation in and about San Francisco from deducing the mission of a task force accompanying a carrier whose flight deck was loaded with B-25’s.

Desirable that the departure of the Hornet be under conditions of low visibility.

Passage West

Heavy cloud cover and/or rain squalls

To prevent premature detection of the task force by Japanese vessels or aircraft.

Bad weather for the trip toward Japan was considered to be highly desirable.

Final Fueling at Sea

Low winds and calm sea.

Transfer of fuel from the oilers to the other vessels can be completed expeditiously in a relatively smooth sea.

An interlude of weather satisfactory for fueling was considered essential for the completion of the mission.

Launching of B-25’s

A true wind of at least 7 knots

The bombers were not designed for carrier operations.  A velocity of 40 knots, or 10 knots in excess of the usual requirement for carrier aircraft was necessary.

Absolutely essential.

Bombing of Japan

Good visibility over the target.

Tail winds.

A low-level bombing attack was planned.


Since the planes were to be launched at near maximum range, fuel consumption was vital.

Essential if the raid were to be effective.


Desirable in order that reserve fuel would place bases in China within range.

Withdrawal from Japanese waters

Heavy cloud cover and/or rain and squalls

Once the presence of our force was disclosed, concealment in a bad weather zone would handicap possible retaliation.

Desirable but not essential.


        With facilities at hand, forecasting for the raid on Japan was extremely difficult.  With atmospheric disturbances moving from west to east with complete lack of reports from the entire area to the west of Midway and the Aleutians, no high degree of reliance would be placed on the analysis of the western portion of the Pacific weather map.  Complete weather observations made at one location frequently permit accurate construction of a weather chart by means of inductive reasoning.  Forecasting of this kind could be done aboard the Hornet which was equipped for taking it's own weather observations.  However, no great assurance could be given concerning the reliability of such “spot” forecasting if the forecast period was too long.


        Nearly all of the weather conditions desired were found during the operation.  Unfavorable conditions were head winds for the bombers enroute from the carrier to the targets and a storm center had developed over China in the landing areas which prevented any of the planes from finding their destinations.


        Several years prior to the war, medals of friendship and good relationship were awarded to several people of the United States by the Japanese government.  In substance these medals were symbolic of the friendship and cooperation between the nations and were to represent the duration of this attitude.  It was decided by the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Frank Knox, that the time was appropriate to have these medals returned.  They had been awarded to Mr. Daniel J. Quigley, Mr. John D. Laurey, Mr. H. Vormstein and Lt. Stephen Jurkis.



        After arrangements had been made and the medals secured, a ceremony was held on the deck of the Hornet during which the medals were wired to a 500 lb. bomb to be carried by Lt. Ted Lawson and returned to the Japanese government in an appropriate fashion.  During the ceremony the bomb was inscribed by various crew members with various sentimental inscriptions such as, “I don’t want to set the world on fire – just Tokyo!” and similar phrases.



        “The medals were subsequently delivered in small pieces to their donors in Tokyo by Lt. Ted Lawson at about noon, Saturday, April 18, 1942.” [5]


        “Through the courtesy of the War Department your Japanese medal and similar medals, turned in for shipment, were returned to His Royal Highness, The Emperor of Japan on April 18, 1942.” [6]



        Although it may well be revealed that the first raid on Tokyo was not actually conducted under what is now known as a joint action it was an operation that involved some of the early principles and pointed out the necessity for recognizing a clear out plan involving joint activities.  Decisions were made, whenever possible, by conference methods between the Army Air Forces and the Navy and every possible eventuality covered in order that in emergencies an immediate plan could be adopted that was agreeable and to the best interest of both forces.


        It is important to point out the attitude that existed between the Navy and the Air Force personnel during the first meeting on the carrier Hornet.  Obviously each service has previous grievances, undoubtedly of petty nature and misunderstanding, which did not allow these people to freely operate together from the start.  Those who knew the nature of the mission prior to embarkation were in perfect accord but it was not until the force was at sea that the mission was announced to all personnel.  At that time a feeling of mutual understanding created a splendid attitude of cooperation and respect.  It continued until the day the bombers were required to take off and then many of the Army crews felt the Navy crew had let them down by promising to get them no less than 600 miles (and more than likely 400 miles) from the target before launching.  The launching distance was 823 miles (statute) and without attempting to analyze the reason for the early take off the Army crews became highly indignant at the apparent lack of consideration by the Navy.  It was General Doolittle who enlightened these same crew members in Calcutta, India on the reasons for this early take off and further promoted the idea of complete understanding between the involved services.


        After explanations and reasoning has been applied it became apparent the United States could ill afford to risk the carriers Hornet and Enterprise at that stage of the war.  It was apparent it was not the Navy who should be considered as bearing the risk but that of the United States of which the Army Air Forces were concerned as much as anybody else.


        It is obvious that an undertaking such as this was a tremendously expensive operation.  It is also impossible to accurately measure the value of the results obtained in view of the nature of the mission and the length of time that elapsed before the results could be completely evaluated.


        First the costs involving the Navy will be studied.  In view of the fact the forces involved were enroute to the South Pacific, only the extra time involved over and above that which it took them to get there and that which would have required without carrying the Army bombers to the take off point would be considered as extra expense.  Considering the fact that the extra time involved was a minimum the costs there could not be evaluated as excessive.  The Navy lost two planes and one crew in patrol activities which were no more than could be expected in peace time operations.  Naval conclusions have appeared to indicate the effort was considered successful and acceptable as to the costs involved.


        “That the first raid against Japan was successful” is now accepted fact.  The results of this carefully planed blow against Japanese morale at a critical period in our history was invaluable.


        Despite the fact that the entire operation was masterfully planned and executed, the element of chance involved now appears very large.  Had weather postponed fueling operations or adverse conditions prohibited the take off of the Army bombers at the expedient time, our force would have been exposed to detection in a most unfavorable disposition.  Luckily, fortune favored both these operations and , in addition, provided cover for undetected penetration through the Japanese outer patrol.” [7]


        “The Task Force Commander considers that the successful transportation and Launching of the Army bombers under the continuous adverse weather conditions which prevailed reflects great credit to the commanding officer, Hornet, Lt. Col. Doolittle and the Army personnel involved.” [8]


The Army Air Forces sustained the following losses:

Ø     Sixteen B-25 Bombers.

Ø     One C-47 and entire crew (Number unknown).

Ø     Seven men killed.

Ø     Four prisoners of war.  (Four others were taken prisoners of which three were executed and one died of starvation)

Ø     One amputee (Loss of left leg).

Ø     Five minor casualties from injuries while landing.


The Chinese government expressed appreciation to the United States for the effort in this operation but was not pleased with it for several reasons.  First, they feared retaliation by the occupying Japanese fro assisting the American flyers in escaping from dangerous territory.  Second, they were planning an offensive against the Japanese and the bases intended for use in this operation were lost due to Japanese offensives that resulted after the raid had been completed.  Third, the B-25’s were intended for delivery to the Chinese government and were all lost. [9]


        The reprisals against the Chinese people proved to be tremendous.  It is impossible to determine the extent; however, numerous villages were plundered and hundreds of Chinese civilians were killed in the areas where it was learned the American flyers had been assisted.  The Chinese were almost powerless to resist these reprisals.


        The effects on the Japanese homeland and general war effort were estimated in many respects although some positive facts were known:


1.    An undetermined amount of damage was sustained in the bombing itself.

2.    An undetermined number of first line fighting airplanes were returned to the defense of the Japanese homeland.

3.    The Japanese suffered a definite morale relapse for a critical period of time.


The effect of the first raid on Japan on the American public is highly controversial.  The immediate effect was considered electrifying and highly effected the public morale.  American newspapers and periodicals were emblazoned with huge headlines and the elation of civilians and service personnel alike soared to a point of elation considered the highest of the war at that time and for some time to come.


        For reasons unknown to the American public, destinations and details of losses had to be kept secret.  An effort was being made to ransom those who had been made prisoners which, in some degree, required secrecy.  This, coupled with the fact that information concerning the execution of the crew members was poorly timed, caused the people of the United States to loose confidence in the results that were obtained.  Unaccountable delays in passing the information to the public made them feel the government might be covering up for uncertain or bad effects.  The President of the United States learned of the capture and punishment on October 19, 1942 but made no announcement until April 21, 1943.  This was a delay considered much beyond the time that could be of any possible aid, to hope of aid, or rescue. [10]


        There were two lines of thought in connection with the execution of the three crew men captured by the Japanese.  First, that the elation in connection with the raid for the American public changed to that of horror and disaster.  Second, that it so incensed the majority of Americans with a feeling of hatred and desire for revenge that additional effort was gained for the American war effort.


        The overall opinion seems to bear out the feeling that the raid could be considered successful and acceptable when measuring it to the objectives it was designed to achieve.  There were certain factors that could have improved the effectiveness if the raid were to be repeated:


1.    The bombing was not completely effective.  Greater numbers of airplanes with a greater load of bombs would have improved the effectiveness.  Closer coordination on immediate follow up raids from other take off points might have been justified.

2.    A member of the Army Air Force complement should have been sent to the landing area in China to act as liaison and send positive information on what could be expected there.

3.    In the opinion of the Chinese, the Emperor’s Palace should have been bombed.

4.    In view of the morale objectives the public relations factors could have been better coordinated.












In order to destroy Chinese airfields in Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces, from May 15 to mid-August 1942, the Japanese mobilized at least nine infantry divisions to launch the Zhejiang-Jiangxi (Zhe-Gan) Campaign.

Way of A Fighter written by Flying Tigers General Claire Chennault recorded in detail the atrocities of the Japanese troops:” During the three-month battle, the Japanese troops directed the spearhead of war at the central part of eastern China. In an area measuring 200 square miles, they followed the three-all policy, razing the airport and killing all suspected to have helped Lt. Col. Doolittle and his men. All the villagers, old and young, in the area where the US bombers crashed, were slaughtered and their houses burnt down.... Some 250,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians died in the three-month battle. The Chinese paid heavily for the American bombing raid, but they had no complaints and they never ceased to aid and support American pilots who were forced to land in Japanese controlled areas.”

Chinese captured by the Japanese following the fall of Quzhou City

Japanese plane bombing Quzhou Airport

Name list of Yiwu residents killed by the Japanese in bacteria campaign

Japanese troops entering Quzhou City

Tables showing the losses incurred by Changtai Town and Qinghu Town of Zhejiang Province by the Japanese invaders: (where some of the US bombers crashed)
27 people killed, and 400,000 Chinese yuan worth of housing burnt down.




        Throughout the period of preparation, training and execution of the first raid on Tokyo there occurred several incidents worthy of record to describe humorous incidents.  Some of these incidents serve to illustrate the efficiency of operation and others prove that even under the most difficult circumstances the Americans could still recognize and appreciate a sense of humor.


1. During the time it was necessary to call for help from civilian concerns a carburetor expert was sent from the Bendix factory to pressure check the carburetors of each airplane as well as to make such other adjustments that might be necessary.


The expert arrived and one of the pilots picked him up at Pensacola to bring him to Eglin Field.  Immediately after landing some time was spent looking for Lt. Col. Doolittle for the sake of instructions and introductions.  The expert was a small, irritable and cocky individual, apparently bored with the assignment.  As soon as the Colonel was located, he was properly introduced.  Before Doolittle could say anything further than “Glad to meet you,” the so called expert blurted out-


                    “Now just what is it that you want, bub?  I understand you want some carburetors pressure checked!  I can tell you now that they have been checked before they left the factory – as a matter of fact we just don’t send out equipment that is not in perfect condition – furthermore…”


                    Doolittle stopped him short with his famous fierce scowl – “Hold it, son!” he warned, “what did the factory send?  An expert or a salesman?  If you’re a salesman, go home, we have plenty of carburetors.  If you’re an expert, stick around, we need you!”  He turned on his heel and left the surprised little carburetor man who, incidentally, stuck around!


2.  At the time the B-25’s were flown to Sacramento Air Depot all that was expected was a propeller change.  However, according to local policy, any airplane being processed for overseas would have to withstand a complete check.  (The mechanics were civilians and not very good ones.)  In short the check was almost a disaster as most of the airplanes had to be salvaged by the regular crew chiefs assigned after the check had been halted by Colonel Doolittle.


When departing the station it was necessary to fill out a report on the work accomplished by the station.  Col. Doolittle took one look at it and not having time for his opinion, wrote diagonally across the report one word – “LOUSY!”


                    The base operations officer looked startled when he saw the remark, “Just a minute, Colonel, you will have to give us a detailed report – this will not do!”


            “I haven’t got the time!” was the Colonel’s polite answer.


                    “If that’s the case, I wont sign your clearance – regulations you know!”


                    Whereupon Doolittle muttered something and bluntly walked to his airplane, started it, taxied out and took off.


                    The infuriated operations officer turned to one of the pilots with Doolittle’s gang and shouted, “Who is that guy?  I can tell you he is heading for a lot of trouble!”


            “He sure is,” was the answer, “He sure is!”


3.  Aboard the carrier Hornet “Gus” Widhelm, the CO of one of the flying squadrons, a veteran poker player along with other shipmates, engaged the Army Air Forces in some plain and fancy poker.  At the appropriate times serious games could be found “under way”.


By the time the B-25’s took off for Tokyo most of the Army boys who played poker were broke and Gus was rolling in wealth to say nothing of prestige.  He forgot one thing, however.  There sere still some Army crew who didn’t go on the raid that were still aboard.  By the time the task force reached Pearl Harbor revenge had been won – the Army cleared Gus for $1,100 and cleared every other Navy poker player of every cent they started to sea with!


4.  A Navy sailor was seen inscribing a message on one of the 500 lb. bombs soon to be delivered to Tokyo – it read, “You'll get a BANG out of this!”


5.  When Doolittle bailed out over China he found walking was more difficult and exhausting than flying.  In fact, he grew so tire he told the interpreter, an amiable Chinese officer, that he could positively go no further without some other means of transportation!

“I will see if I can find a donkey for you to ride,” the obliging officer said, “You just wait here.”


                    The Chinese officer went off to a nearby village and returned in about 30 minutes leading a stubborn little donkey.  “Here, you can ride this donkey,” he offered.


                    Doolittle, ready for anything, walked around the rear of the animal to mount – just as he passed the south quarter the donkey kicked him savagely in the chest, sending him sprawling down the trail.  The Colonel sat gasping for a few moments and held his injured chest.  The little officer watched the scene complacently then walked over to the Colonel and said, “He bites too!”


6.  Lt. Jack “Shorty” Manch, who is 245 pounds and stands 6’-7”, was a phonograph hound.  In addition he possessed a fine portable phonograph as well as two .45 caliber pistols and a 25-35 carbine rifle – all of which he took with him in his B-25 over Tokyo.


When it came time for him to bail out he strapped on both pistols, took the carbine in one hand and the phonograph in the other – then jumped!  When he landed all he had was the handle of the phonograph in his hand!


7.  Sergeant Scott, a gunner, described the weather over Tokyo as, “A nice sun-shiny day overcast with anti-aircraft fire!”


8.  T/Sgt Bither accidentally pulled the ripcord to his parachute while up in the nose of the airplane.  He calmly crawled back to the navigators table and repacked it to finish just as the planes engines sputtered out of gas.  The job was a bit haphazard but the chute worked!


9.  Before leaving Sacramento Jones, York and Greening were spending a quite evening at the Senator Hotel Bar.  During the course of the evening the three eased out into the lobby and on the way spied a middle aged gentleman soundly sleeping on one of the lobby chairs.


“Let’s give him a hot foot,” suggested Jones.  No further questions were asked so a match was applied in the proper place and ignited.  The three walked to the other side of the lobby and watched.  Nothing happened except the match burned down and went out!  They returned and put two matches under the man’s sole only to have the same thing happen.  A third trip was made and this time a whole book of matches was lined up on his sole.  Just as the matches flared up, an old lady who had been watching, unobserved, for the whole time walked up, “Shame on you boys!  Why don’t you leave the poor man alone?”


            Before she could get a reply from the three chagrinned lads the old man opened his eyes and drunkenly reprimanded her, “Go away y’ol’bat!  Let ‘em have their fun.”


10. The Chinese made every effort to entertain the Tokyo raiders when the opportunity would afford itself.  One of these occasions proved to be a dinner party which a hot wine drink was served.  Each guest had his own separate hostess in the form of a Chinese girl sitting along side him at the dining table.  One of the boys was doing his best to keep up the wine – which incidentally must be drunk while it was hot or it would be no good, and as soon as it was drunk the glass would be immediately filled again.  The effects were very stimulating.  The man in question did not give the Chinese girl a second glance until a number of these drinks had been consumed.  He later admitted that with every drink she became prettier and prettier.


Finally he decided he would have to converse with her if anything was to be accomplished.  A careful analysis of the situation brought the decision that it would be more expedient if he could teach her to speak English instead of him learning Chinese.  With complete and deliberate pantomime to illustrate his words, he tried a few sentences but got no response.  Finally he said, “Where-are-you-from?”


            She looked at him calmly and without a facial expression said. “I am from Chicago and I wish to hell I was back there!”

11. Every year the members of the first Tokyo raid have a reunion.  A preliminary meeting was held in North Africa but only a few of the crews were present.  The first meeting of any size was held at the MacFadden Deauville Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida, in 1945.  The meeting was so successful the meeting was held there again in 1946.  Below is a copy of the night watchman’s report to the manager – a testimony to the success of the reunion!


NO ORAL INSTRUCTIONS                                                                DATE 4/19/47


O F F I C E   M E M O


TO: Mr. Freeman            FROM: Tom Willemstyn                        COPY TO:




            The Doolittle boys added some gray hairs to my head.  This has been the worst night since I worked here.  They were completely out of my control.


            I let them make a lot of noise in 211 but when about 15 of them with girls went in the pool at 1:00 A.M. (Including Doolittle) I told them “No swimming at night”.  Doolittle told me that he did not want to make any trouble and that they were going to make one more dive and would leave.  But they were in the pool until 2:30 A.M.


            I went up twice more without results.  They were running around in the halls in their bathing suits and were noisy up until 5:00 A.M.


            Yes, it was a rough night.

*This memo was autographed by members present.

[1] From a report to the Commanding General, AAF

Doolittle, J.H. B/Gen. AAF Report on Japanese Raid copy #3

Military Intelligence Service – Dated July 9, 1942.

[2] Doolittle, J.H. Report on Japanese Raid, Military Intelligence Pg. 5,6.

[3] From a report to the Commanding General, AAF

Doolittle, J.H. B/Gen. AAF, Report on Japanese Raid copy #3

Military Intelligence Service – Dated July 9, 1942

[4] Mitscher, M.A., Commanding Officers Report of Action, to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, dated April 28, 1942.  U.S. Naval Library, Washington, D.C.

[5] Mitscher, M.A. Letter Report to Commander Pacific Fleet.

[6] Knox, F. Letter Report to Mr. H. Vormstein

[7] Aerology section, Chief of Naval Operations, The First Raid on Japan.  Naval Library, Washington D.C.

[8] Halsey, 1st Endorsement to Commanding Officer.  Hornet Report, dated April 28, 1942

[9] Doolittle, J.H. A Personal Letter written on request to Colonel Greening October 27, 1948

[10] Time Magazine, U.S. At War, page 19, dated May 3, 1943

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