through history, man always seems to be at war. In some cases he is the attacker, in others the defender. In both cases, these wars are broken down into two basic elements, the battles that are fought and the individuals who fight them. The elements conflict, courage, fear, cowardice, heroism, victory, and defeat make up the exploits of war we record in our history books. This paper will deal with war, more specifically, a special exploit within one of the most significant wars ever experienced. World War II involved millions of fighting men around the world.
In Europe, Hitler and Germany were the enemy. In the Far East, Japan was the enemy. To America, Japan was probably more hated since they brought us into the war with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. This assault on Pearl Harbor infuriated President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and he urged his military planners to find a way to bomb Japan. He wanted to bring home to Japan some meaning of war, and that they did. The first bombing of mainland Japan was a logistical challenge, a daring exploit, and had a major effect on both American and Japanese people.
In terms of the Japanese, they had solid reasons to feel secure. No foreign attacker had seriously threatened Japanese soil since Kubla Kahn in 1281. At that time, a violent storm destroyed Kahn's attack force, and the Japanese referred to this storm as kamikaze, which means divine wind. In the past, the Japanese felt that they were protected by the kamikaze; but now, they had a more tangible reason to feel secure with antiaircraft guns, warships, and planes. The Japanese were feeling high with their military successes starting with China and extending into the Pacific. They captured Hong Kong, Malaya, Guam, Wake and the Philippines.
They destroyed much of the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. It was no wonder that the Japanese didn't feel confident. The first plan to bomb Japan came shortly after Pearl Harbor. One month after the attack, Admiral Ernest J. King and General H.H. Arnold put the final touches on the original plan proposed by Captain Francis Low. Low was not an airman, but a submarine officer. He was at Norfolk air station when he noticed the outline of a flight deck painted on the runway.
As he looked at the runway, he noticed a shadow of a twin engine plane flying across it. In a split second the idea hit him. What if Army bombers could take off an aircraft carrier? Low tried his idea on Admiral King. King thought the idea had potential so he sent it on to Captain Donald Duncan to turn his plan into fact. This he did, and the Tokyo Raid became fact instead of fiction.
The first step in the plan was finding a leader. General Arnold requested Lieutenant Colonel James Dolittle as the man to select the plane and the men for the mission. Dolittle accepted the challenge without hesitation. Arnold let him know in no uncertain terms that he was to be a planner not a pilot.
As Doolittle went to work on the project, he saw a lot of problems. First of all, carrier landings were impossible for twin engine bombers. Next, the total air trip was eleven hundred miles. The closest landing area would be in Russia, but Joseph Stalin would not let them land there because he didn't want to be invaded by Japan since he already had his hands full with the Germans. Fortunately, China said it was all right to land there but they said it reluctantly. With these considerations and others, Doolittle determined that the chances of the mission succeeding was fifty-fifty.
Despite the odds, the decision was made to begin the project. As the first step, despite Arnold, Doolittle wrote himself into the plan as a pathfinder. Doolittle's job during the attack would be to light up Tokyo with incendiary bombs so that the bombers could easily spot their targets. The B-25 bomber was chosen for the mission. It could carry two thousand pounds of bombs at close to three hundred miles an hour, and had a two thousand mile range. After testing, it was proven that B-25's could take off from a U.S. aircraft carrier.
Twenty-four crews and planes were needed, and twenty-four crews volunteered. Doolittle warned the crews that this would be a top-secret and extremely dangerous mission. He told them that anyone who wanted to bow out should do so now. No one did. The first step for the crews began with a heavy training schedule. The first part of the training took place at Eglin Field, Florida in February, 1942.
The training revolved around those items needed to get such a large plane off the deck of a carrier. They trained in such things as: short takeoffs, formation flying, gunnery practice, low level bombing, navigation over water, fuel consumption tests, and quick ground refueling under enemy attack. Flights over the Gulf of Mexico gave experience to navigators over open water. Pilots and bombardiers practiced low-level bombing across the hills of Texas, New Mexico, and Kansas. The Norden bombsight was classified and also proved to be of little use at low level. Therefore, it wasn't used and was replaced by the design of the new bombsights by Captain C.R. Greening which only cost fifteen cents.
Army pilots learned to "hang on to their props", fighter style. On the runway, there were flags every fifty feet to help gauge minimum distance required to get airborne. On March 25, the flyers left for Sacramento, California for final flight training. After the training, the team that was to fly the mission headed for California. Sixteen planes were loaded onto the U.S.S. Hornet at Alameda Air Station near Oakland.
As they sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, a lot of the higher ranking officers were very nervous. The stakes were high. They were sailing into enemy waters close to Japan with both the Hornet and Enterprise which represented half of America's carrier strength in the Pacific. The airmen and the crew of the Hornet knew nothing of the mission until the first day out. Even after they found out they would be bombing Japan, the hand-picked flight crews felt confident since their training had been thorough.
They may have felt some of that confidence because most of them had never experienced combat before. During the final planning stages, all the loose ends were taken care of. Pilots were given a chance to pick their targets from a list that had already been made. The objectives selected were steelworks, oil refineries, oil tank farms, ammo dumps and factories, dockyards, and supply areas. Numerous alternate plans were devised to cover just about any problem that came up. For example, if they were forced to take off too soon, they were to fly to Hawaii or Midway.
They also received other information during their briefings. During one of these, they received three warnings: 1. Under no conditions try to land in Russian. 2. Non military targets couldn't be bombed like the emperor's palace. 3.
This would be the last briefing before takeoff. There were a lot of ships involved to make this mission a success. The number of ships had to be sufficient in case the enemy discovered them when they arrived in enemy waters. Six days out to sea, the carrier Enterprise arrived with her escorts and all of the ships became Task Force 16 under the command of Vice Admiral William Halsey. Captain Marc Mits cher was skipper of the Hornet.
Task Force 16 was composed of two carriers, the Hornet and the Enterprise, four cruisers, seven destroyers, two submarines, and two tankers. In order for the attack to work, a great deal depended on secrecy. However, the Japanese had an idea that something was going on when they picked up messages transmitted between the two task groups and Pearl Harbor. The Japanese stations monitored all radio broadcasts so that they could obtain any information about the mission that might be useful.
A carrier strike was the only way Japan could be attacked, and the Japanese figured that the Americans would have to get within three hundred miles to make a carrier strike because this was the limit for carrier planes to fly out and back to the carrier. The Japanese 26th Air Flotilla ranged out as far as six hundred miles, and they would hit any carrier force before its planes could even be launched. Besides that, the Japanese had a bunch of radio equipped boats about the same distance from the coast, and any enemy force crossing that line would probably be seen by one of them. As the task force got nearer to Japan, final preparations were made. On April 17 aboard the Hornet, crews moved all of the B-25's to the rear of the flight deck to prepare for launch. That was a good idea because at 3: 00 a.m. on April 18, radar operators aboard the Enterprise picked up the blips of two small ships.
A scout plane from the Enterprise spotted a Japanese patrol boat at 5: 58 a.m. about forty miles away. At 7: 38 a. m., the task force had encountered the Japanese patrol boat, the Nitto Maru. This boat was sunk by one of the American cruisers, the Nashville. Before it went down, the radio operator had enough time to send a message off to Japan that said three enemy carriers had been sighted. They were discovered and Admiral Halsey decided to launch the airplanes early. Fortunately for the American task force the Japanese chose not to listen to the report because no more messages came from the patrol boat.
It was time to get the planes into the air even though they were too far out. Halsey shifted the course of the ships into the wind bouncing around in waves that were thirty feet high. The task force was over eight hundred miles from Tokyo and over four hundred miles farther out than had been planned. The planes had taken off and were headed toward Japan, the next step of the plan took over. Task Force 16 had accomplished its mission. Within minutes, the carriers and cruisers reversed course and headed back to Pearl Harbor at 25 knots.
The planes were not in formation but were flying independently strung out in a ragged line 200 miles long. The flights were spread out to provide the greatest possible coverage to give the impression that there were more planes involved. The planes were to go in as lone raiders. Three and one half hours later, the first planes reached the coast of Japan. The planes skimmed over trees and hills, and then the pilots gunned their planes up to about one thousand feet above the city. The planes had been scattered out by headwinds and by different settings on their magnetic compasses and came over Tokyo from all different directions.
There was little opposition from the Japanese when the enemy planes arrived. Some fighters made attacks on the bombers, but they stayed away because they were civilian defense pilots and inexperienced. Antiaircraft defense over Japan was active but inaccurate. Even though it was erratic, ground gunners did hit several of the B-25's with fragments, but no American plane was shot down. It was all fast and furious as each pilot dropped his bombs and then bore southwest along the Japanese coast toward what they hoped would be China. The results from the attack were as expected.
There was a high degree of damage for such a few planes since many of the Japanese buildings were flammable. At first, the Japanese people didn't know what was happening. Then they figured it out when they saw the dark planes with the white stars on the side. They were Americans.
The Japanese authorities reported that fifty people had been killed, two hundred and fifty wounded, and ninety buildings destroyed. Radio Tokyo announced that enemy bombers had appeared over Tokyo for the first time but that they did little damage. According to this report, nine Americans had been shot down. It didn't really make much difference the amount of damage because the objective of the attack had been psychological. The attack was a shattering blow to the Japanese people. The next problem facing the pilots was to get their planes and themselves to safety.
As they headed for China, the B-25's encountered for and rain. The ceilings kept getting lower and navigators had to estimate their positions by dead reckoning. One good thing about the weather was that they had picked up a tail wind which helped conserve gas. Thirteen hours after takeoff, the B-25's were somewhere over China listening for a homing signal, but none was to be heard. In China, the paper-plan had fallen apart. Everything was going wrong.
Marshal and Arnold wanted to maintain secrecy, so they gave little information to the Chinese leader and none to Colonel Claire Chennault, the leader of the Flying Tigers. Radio beacons that were supposed to be at the landing fields never made it because the plane carrying them crashed in a storm. There was no lights because when the B-25's reached the coast, air raid sirens went up and everyone turned the lights off. The survival of the crews was better than expected. Most of the B-25's crash landed and their crews either stayed with the planes or parachuted out over Chinese territory. Plane 16, after flying 200 miles into China crash landed and the crew members were captured by the Japanese.
In total, eight fly ers were captured by the Japanese. The American prisoners were turned over to the Kempe i Tai, the Japanese Army's police. All of the prisoners were tortured. Some had heir faces covered with wet towels that suffocated them.
Others were forced to drink large quantities of water and then the guards would jump on their stomachs. The Japanese wanted to break the spirits of the fly ers and get them to sign confessions. Five of the Americans were found guilty of bombing schools and gunning down civilians and were sentenced to life in prison. Three others were sentenced to death after a trial that lasted twenty minutes. They were eventually executed as the Japanese condemned them as, "enemies of the people".
Other flies had better luck than those captured by the Japanese. Doolittle landed in a rice paddy. Plane 8 turned northwest when they left Japan and headed toward Russia. They landed at a small airfield there and were taken into custody.
Ted Lawson, who was the pilot of "The Ruptured Duck", attempted a beach landing; but as he approached the ground, both of his engines quit. His plane landed in six feet of water going at one hundred and ten miles an hour. Lawson was severely injured. The majority of the flesh on his left leg had been ripped off and bones above and below the kneecap were exposed. Later, under the care of the Chinese and the American flight surgeon, Lawson lost his leg.
He watched as nurses picked it up and carried it out of the door. Now that the flies were on the ground, those that were not prisoners made their attempt to get home. Chinese guerrillas picked up the fly ers and headed toward Chunking. The flies didn't trust the Chinese since they thought they were leading them into the hands of the Japanese. Then a Chinese engineering student named Tong-Sheng Liu showed up, and since he could speak English became their guide and interpreter. During a three week period, groups of Raiders finally struggled into Chunking and that was the end of the journey.
The Chinese people had held up their part of the bargain. They had helped the fly ers get safely away from the Japanese. The Japanese, however, were furious at the Chinese and showed it. Thousands of Chinese were killed. The Japanese made it a point to burn to the ground those villages through which the airmen had passed and been helped. They tortured countless civilians.
In one reported case, a man was wrapped in a gasoline soaked blanket and his wife was forced to set him on fire in front of her 3 children. The mission was over. Doolittle and some of the Raiders were ordered back to the United States while others remained in the China-Burma and India Theater. America was more than proud of the fly ers and Doolittle was promoted to the rank of brigadier general.
FDR pinned the Medal of Honor on Doolittle at the White House. One month later, General Arnold awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross to the Raiders. Like all wars, World War II came to an end. This story and many other stories will live on in recorded history. In the case of the Tokyo Raid, a set of eighty silver goblets, each one inscribed with a Raider's name, has been kept on display at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. All of the Raiders were heroes.
All helped shorten the war. It is important to remember that there were thousands of other heroes in World War II that provided the ultimate victory. There may be no record of what they did, but they were heroes none the less. It is this fighting spirit that makes America great.