The plan to bomb Japan was born in late 1941; just a few weeks after the Japanese bombed the U.S Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In March of 1942 a group of eighty volunteers arrived at Eglin Air Force base to prepare for an unspecified mission that was only described as extremely hazardous.
"Well back in the early forties this is where the Doolittle Raiders trained after we were bombed in Pearl Harbor. Our president got together with the war department and had Jimmy Doolittle put together eighty of his aviators and they trained here initially for that mission. It was a very secretive mission only Jimmy Doolittle knew about it" said Air force Armament Museum Director George Jones. The Doolittle Raiders spent three weeks at Eglin, and then boarded the US Navy Aircraft carrier "Hornet" to begin their mission. Col. Doolittle didn't release the destination or their target objectives until a few hours before the crews were ready to take-off. Then the plans changed at the last minute.
"We had to take off early. Originally we were scheduled to take off at dusk on the nineteenth. We had two thousand pounds of incendiary bombs and our job was to light up northwest Tokyo for a couple of reasons. One was to do as much damage as we could with the fire bombs. And the other was to give the airplanes some sort of reference flying down the chain” said Doolittle Raider Dick Cole.
In terms of physical damages, the raid was not impressive. The raiders lost all of their B-25 bombers, trying to land in China. Eleven men were captured or killed.
"At the time of the raid the war was on and it was just a mission we went on. We were lucky enough to survive it but it didn't seem like that big a deal at the time" said Doolittle Raider Ed Saylor.
But it was. The raid proved Japan could be bombed. Not only was the raid a huge morale booster for U.S. forces and the American people, it also forced Japan to significantly alter its military strategy, which was key to a u-s victory in the battle of midway and the overall Pacific conflict. Seventy-one years later, soldiers and civilians showed their gratitude to the last of the Doolittle survivors at their last reunion.
"Not only is it rich in history, the Doolittle Raiders did something that has cemented them in American history" said P.R. Manager Katherine LeBlanc.
"Our great nation needs to understand and appreciate the sacrifices that these great warriors did over seventy-one years ago. Especially in today's day and age with what's going on with our nation today. We look back at these special aviators who are the most humble people and performed one of the most critical missions in our history of our armed forces” said Jones.