On April 18, 1942, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle led the famed “Doolittle Raid” when 16 B-25 medium bombers flew off the deck of the carrier U.S.S. Hornet some 650 miles east of Japan. The mission was to bomb five Japanese cities. From a tactical viewpoint the damage inflicted was minimal. But strategically it had a tremendous impact on American morale because the raid took place just six months after Pearl Harbor.
When the carrier task force was spotted by a Japanese vessel the “Raiders” were forced to take off in bad weather 10 hours ahead of schedule. After they bombed their targets the Americans approached the Chinese coast at night (vs. day as planned) and flew smack into a major storm. While they were helped by a 25-knot tailwind, all but one of the planes ran out of gasoline and crashed. Of the 80 fliers who volunteered, seven lost their lives during the mission and 12 more died in action within 15 months.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 marked the 70th anniversary of the “Doolittle Raid” and four of the five remaining survivors attended the reunion ceremonies at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. Here are some images from that reunion.
Four surviving members of the Doolittle Raiders, front row from left: Thomas C. Griffin, David J. Thatcher, Richard E. Cole and Edward J. Saylor, wait for a second flyover of B-25s at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. The fifth surviving "Raider" of the original 80, Lt. Col. Robert Hite was unable to attend because of recent health issues.