The deck of the flat-top pitched, rolled and yawed in the 20 knot gusts as Jimmy tried to keep his eyes on the sailor with the checkered flag in the rain and spray. The left wing of his B-25B Mitchell stuck way out over the port side, and his right wing had barely cleared the superstructure. Circling motion… Okay, rev the engines… down signal… chocks removed… The flagman waited until the bow pitched downward and was on its way up, so the plane would have a maximum angle… GO! GO!GO! Full throttle, full flaps.. The 300 feet went by in a split second. Jimmy pulled up so hard the entire back of the plane was visible to the flight deck crew. Up and around again… Jimmy could see them cheering as the second Mitchell lined up. In a few minutes all 16 were airborne.

They were 150 miles shy of the designated launch zone, but they had been spotted by a Japanese picket ship, and it had to be assumed they’d signaled their own fleet before being shot out of the water. It was likely there won’t be enough fuel to make it to the designated airfields in China; probably have to bail or crash land somewhere as near as possible. Every pilot and flight crew member knew that as they boarded the bombers. The target was Tokyo Bay, and it was just four months after Pearl Harbor.
The bombing would only cause slight damage, and the planes crash-landed or bailed all over eastern China – one even landed in the Soviet Union. The Japanese captured eight crew members and executed three. But none of that was the point. The Japanese had a long-held belief that their homeland was protected by the Kamikaze (divine wind) that had scattered the Mongol fleet centuries ago. Those of a less mystical outlook had absolute faith in their heretofore victorious Imperial Navy.
Reality came crashing in with the bombs. There was nowhere on earth that the might and power of the United States could not reach, given sufficient intent to target. Americans can adapt and improvise to overcome any adverse circumstance – even on the scale of the Pearl Harbor attack. The facade of American isolationism, war-weariness and complacency, upon which Japanese hopes for a successful conclusion to the war rested, was shattered. Things would only get worse.
Yamamoto’s "sleeping giant" was now wide awake. He had no choice but to advance the timetable for Operation AF – Target: Midway (some of the high command, still refusing to believe a bomber could take off from a carrier, or that a U.S. carrier could get that close, thought they may have taken off from there anyway) and so set his course for disaster.
DOOLITTLE, JAMES H.
Citation:
For conspicuous leadership above the call of duty, involving personal valor and intrepidity at extreme hazard to life. With the apparent certainty of being forced to land in enemy territory or to perish at sea, Gen. Doolittle personally led a squadron of Army bombers, manned by volunteer crews, in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland: Medal of Honor
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