Doolittle’s Tokyo Raiders

At the beginning of the U.S. involvement in World War II, plans were drawn up for a daring raid on Tokyo after the devastation of Pearl Harbor.

If you’ve seen the movie Pearl Harbor, you know the raid I mean. The air raid itself consisted of 16 B-25 Mitchells, carrying 80 airmen dropping bombs on an enemy city half a world away. That doesn’t even include the carriers, seamen, and other personnel and equipment that it took to pull it off.

It amazes me that these men stripped their planes down to nothing and pulled off such a brave attack. Three died. Eight spent time as prisoners of war. Fifteen planes were destroyed.

Lt. Col. James Doolittle, USAAF, led the raid, and the men have come to be known as the Doolittle Raiders. Every year, the survivors have an annual reunion. Five airmen from that raid are still alive today.

Living in Ohio, I am constantly amazed at the rich aviation heritage in our state. I was even more amazed this past weekend when I got the opportunity to see restored B-25s at Grimes Airport in my own town.

This week is the anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, and there are activities here in Urbana and at the National Air Force Museum, in Dayton, Ohio (actually down the road from where I used to live when I lived in Dayton!). We do have a small aviation museum, but like a lot of locals, it’s real easy to overlook the cool stuff we have when it’s right there every day. I’m awfully guilty of that…just like many of us are.

So…off we went, camera in hand, to take a look at restored B-25s and to take a moment to stop and just appreciate the bravery of the men who took this on. It wasn’t a huge tactical victory…instead, it was a huge morale boost to the United States, after Pearl Harbor, and a huge morale blow to Japan…who had been flying high after their successes.

We watched planes taking off, planes on the ground, watched them overhead in the sky even after we went home. All weekend we heard the sounds of the planes, a constant, steady reminder of another time and another place, but of a national pride that still exists.

Take a look.

This next one isn’t a B-25, but it’s kinda cool. Behind the pilot was a place for a wounded soldier to be airlifted to safety.