JIMMY DOOLITTLE (Illustration) American History Famous Historical Events Famous People Film Social Studies Aviation & Space Exploration STEM World War II

Image depicting B-25s aboard USS Hornet (CV-8), en route to their launching location in the Pacific.  They would be flown by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle and his "Raiders" on a mission over Japan's home islands during April of 1942. The USS Nashville (CL-43) is in the distance.  Image online, courtesy U.S. National Archives.  PD


The Japanese had always believed their home islands were safe from attack. Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle set out to prove them wrong.

Was it possible to send American LAND-BASED planes from an aircraft carrier to bomb the wooden buildings and military installations in Japanese towns? Doolittle thought so.

Choosing the B-25 "Mitchell" as the best plane for such a mission, he and his hand-picked crews would fly sixteen B-25s to key targets like Tokyo and Yokohama:

  • Their plan? Drop bombs on the perceived invincible islands.
  • Their point? Seriously damage Japan's sense of security.

Not all went according to plan.

On April 18, 1942, a Navy Task Force en route to Japan encountered an enemy patrol boat. Mitchell and his crews were part of the Task Force, aboard the USS Hornet. Naval equipment then (this link takes you aboard the Hornet) was not like equipment now (aboard CVN 75, the Harry S. Truman).

The Americans sank the patrol boat, but had it radioed Japan? Taking no chances, the "Tokyo Raiders" had to start their mission 800 miles from the target. They had planned to be 450-650 miles away.

Fuel was critical. After the bomb run, the planes had to fly another 1200 miles to friendly bases in China. B-25s did not have the needed range. But Doolittle and his men took off anyway, knowing full well they would be in serious trouble at the end of the raid.

Over the Japanese home islands, the Americans dropped their ordnance on factories, military installations and oil storage facilities. With night and bad weather approaching, the planes were running out of fuel. Most of them would not make the China bases.

One plane diverted to Vladivostok, in Siberia, where crew members were interned by the Russians. The others would have to choose between three bad options: bail-out, crash-land or ditch-at-sea.

Doolittle crash-landed in friendly China and returned to the States soon afterwards. But two of the planes ended up in Shanghai where the Japanese, not the Chinese, were in charge.

No one from the United States knew where the two crews were until August, when the Swiss Consulate General advised that eight Americans were imprisoned by the Japanese police.

0 Question or Comment?
click to read or comment
2 Questions 2 Ponder
click to read and respond
0 It's Awesome!
vote for your favorite

Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: May 01, 2001

Updated Last Revision: Jan 25, 2018

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"JIMMY DOOLITTLE" AwesomeStories.com. May 01, 2001. Feb 24, 2020.
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Show tooltips