Doolittle Raid on Tokyo shocks Japan
18th April 1942: Monitoring Japanese radio just after the attack the US Navy overhear a hysterical reaction to the 'loss of face' and fear of the new threat
Less than six months after Pearl Harbor the Japanese progress across Asia and the Pacific appeared unstoppable. Detailed planning went into a joint USAAF -US Navy operation that became known as the ‘Doolittle Raid’ - to demonstrate that the USA would fight back in surprising ways. The success of the raid went far beyond the modest damage caused - and was a portent of things to come.
On 18th April 1942 sixteen B-25 bombers took off from the USS Hornet and headed for Japan. The unprecedented use of medium bombers from an aircraft carrier enabled the surprise attack on the Japanese homeland. Even with modifications and extra fuel the bombers were at the limit of their range and would not be able to return to the carrier. Instead, after bombing, they were to continue their flight over Japan and attempt to land in China or Russia.
When the USS Hornet was spotted by a Japanese patrol vessel the mission was brought forward - and the margin of error in the range was reduced even further. The crews all took off in the knowledge that they were very likely to have to crash land or ditch in the sea.
The raid was led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, his post action report was completed in May 1942, by which time he had been promoted:
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