Brought WWII To Japanese Mainland
Aero-News has learned
two aviators who brought World War II to the Japanese mainland, and
the daughter of the mission’s leader, will speak at the Air
Force Academy March 14.
Retired Cols. Bill Bower and Dick Cole, along with Jonna
Doolittle-Hoppes, are the speakers for a lecture sponsored by the
Academy’s history department.
On April 18, 1942, 80 volunteer bomber aircrews led by then-Lt.
Col. James Doolittle launched 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers from
the USS Hornet, to bomb mainland Japan.
Colonel Cole and Doolittle were at the controls of the first
bomber to take off from the aircraft carrier. Their destination was
Tokyo. They dropped incendiary bombs near an armory, then made a
low-level escape west to China, bailed out, met up with Chinese
forces and returned to friendly territory.
This mission was the first American strike on the Japanese
mainland. It also gave America a much-needed morale boost during
the early days of World War II, and showed how unprepared the
Japanese mainland was for air attacks.
"Nearly every plane, on its approach to Japan, has reported the
sighting of naval and merchant vessels, innumerable small fishing
craft, and a number of patrol planes," wrote Colonel Doolittle in
his post-strike report. "Yet the Japanese apparently were entirely
unprepared for the attack. Either their dissemination of
information was faulty or the communication system had broken down
"As we passed over the countryside, farmers in the field looked
up and went back to work undisturbed; villagers waved from the
streets; a baseball game continued its play; and in the distance,
training planes took off and landed apparently unaware of any
danger present," Colonel Doolittle said. "The overall picture is
one of inadequate defense. The warning system did not appear to
function; interception by fighters was definitely cautious; and
anti-aircraft fire, responding slowly, did not reach the intensity
one would expect for so important a city as Tokyo."
The 12th bomber on that raid was flown by Colonel Bowers, and
was bound for Yokohama. His crew made their low-level attack at
1,100 feet, bombing Ogura Refinery, two factories, a factory area
and then strafing an electric powerhouse.
After the Yokohama strike, Bower turned his bomber east toward
China. They then strafed and sank a Japanese weather boat, crossed
the China coast, ran out of fuel and bailed out. Local Chinese
forces escorted the crew to Chuchow, where they could eventually
return home safely.
Not all of the Doolittle Raiders were as fortunate as others.
Three were killed during the raid. Five were interned in Russia.
Eight became prisoners of war in Japan -- three executed by firing
squad and another dying in captivity. Thirteen others would die
later in the war.
Today, only 16 of the original 80 raiders remain alive to tell
their story about the first American air raid on Japan during World