The Raid on Tokyo
The top brass of the Navy and the USAAF liked Low’s idea. To organize the raid Lieutenant Colonel James Harold “Jimmy” Doolittle, a famous prewar airplane racer, test pilot, and aeronautical engineer, was selected. He chose the B-25 Mitchell, a twin-engine bomber that could carry a bombload of 3000 pounds to a range of 1350 miles. Two B-25s were loaded aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, and flew off its deck on February 3rd, 1942, without a problem. Doolittle selected 24 volunteer crews, and two dozen B-25s were sent for modifications in Minneapolis. When the planes were ready, the crews were sent to pick them up and fly to Eglin Field in western Florida. There, starting on March 1st, 1942, Doolittle gave the volunteers an intense three week crash course to prepare them for the raid.
That done, sixteen B-25s and crews were loaded aboard the Hornet, and sailed out. They rendezvoused with the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise on April 12th, 1942, and the combined task force set course for Japan. A problem arose on the morning of April 18th, 1942, when the task force was sighted by an enemy picket boat 750 miles from Japan. It was quickly sunk, but not before sending a radio message. Fearing loss of the element of the surprise, it was decided to launch the bombers immediately, 10 hours earlier and 170 miles further from Japan than initially planned. At 08:20, Doolittle flew the first B-25 off the Hornet’s deck. By 09:19, the other 15 bombers had followed him into the air. Flying low to avoid detection, they winged their way to Japan. They arrived around noon, and bombed targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe, Osaka, Nagoya, and Yokosuka.