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Historic Aviation – Doolittle’s Raid

Written by on April 6, 2021

On the 18th of April, 1942, the U.S.S. Hornet and U.S.S. Enterprise steamed towards Japan on a daring raid that would test the absolute limits of the American Navy.  Under direction from the American President, Franklin Roosevelt,  Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle committed to planning a retaliation attack on the Japanese capital in an effort to boost morale and strike fear into the heart of the Japanese Empire.

Using 16 heavily-modified B25 Mitchell Twin-Engine bombers, each with a 5-man crew, the plan consisted of a carrier-launched, symbolic attack to be carried out over Tokyo before continuing on to allied airfields in China.  The B-25 itself was not considered a carrier-based aircraft and the preparation to launch such a raid required each bomber to be stripped to its bare bones including the loss of its lower gun turret and highly-classified Norden bombsight.

With the addition of a neoprene collapsible fuel tank to extend range, each crew faced a monumental challenge: launch the B-25 from the deck of an aircraft carrier within the 400 mile limit of Tokyo, drop 5,000 lbs of ordinance over the capital and escape to the distant land-based airfield in Chuchow.  The following clips document the events of the raid itself which ultimately triggered the Japanese Navy to make a critical error on Midway and solidified the B-25 as one of the most influential bombers in World War II.

 


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