Jimmy Doolittle, the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders;
310thBG, Doolittle Raiders
Blue Squadron and Friends, ........Sat, 18 Apr 2009 (To the 57th Bomb Wing)
67 years ago - approximately four hours from now - Reserve Lt Col Jimmy Doolittle launched from the deck of the USS Hornet at the controls of a heavily modified B-25B Mitchell medium bomber. The deck crew and command staff of the Hornet and the remaining Raiders looked on with some trepidation, as it was literally a “do or die” moment for the legendary aviator and the entire strike force. As Ted Lawson would later write, “If he (Doolittle) couldn’t do it, we couldn’t do it.” But, Lt Col Doolittle could…and very soon, so would they all.
Four aircraft back, the 380th’s future commander, Lt Rod “Hoss” Wilder, sat in the co-pilot’s seat of #02283. Also on board this B-25 was another future member of the 380th, Lt Denver Truelove, navigator. Eight more aircraft toward the fantail sat #12, “Fickle Finger”, tail #02278, with Lt Bill Bower at the controls. Most of you have met Col (ret) Bower at our reactivation or at the annual 310th banquet two weeks back. Lt Bower would, as a Major, go on to command our sister squadron, the 428th, and later the (then) 310th Bomb Group. Further back and barely on the deck of the Hornet (her entire tail aft of the main gear hanging out over the Pacific) sat aircraft #15, “TNT”, tail #02267, with the 380th’s future Squadron Navigator, Lt Howard Sessler, ready to toggle off his bombs over targets in Nagoya. Most of you know that the B-25 at WestPac Restorations (just across the flight line from us at Pete Field) flew off the deck of the Constellation painted as #02267 for the movie, Pearl Harbor, in a reenactment of the Doolittle Raid. Our good friend and supporter, Bill Klaers, was at the controls (Bill has flown his B-25 off aircraft carriers five times now…no other pilot in history has this in his log book).
The Raiders – all volunteers – launched approximately ten hours earlier than planned after a Japanese picket boat detected their task force and radioed a warning to Tokyo. They knew they wouldn’t have the fuel to reach their recovery bases in China, but they went anyway. They’d spent weeks in training for short takeoffs at Eglin Field in Florida, but none had actually flown a B-25 off the pitching deck of a carrier until that day. There were so many “ifs” and “unknowns” that morning six-decades-and-change ago that it’s hard for us, today, to fully appreciate the enormity of the task and the epic courage of the men who set themselves to it.
Of the Raid, much has been written. Not nearly so much of where Doolittle and his men went afterward. You can, however, find almost all of them by researching the major B-25 outfits in the Pacific in Europe…such as the 57th Bomb Wing and, specifically, the 310th Bomb Group, where about a dozen of the Raiders wound up (and where they held their first reunion, on the second storey of the 310th HQ building in North Africa, in 1943). To a man, they continued to fight till the very end of the conflict, though some would end up as POWs or be killed in action before V-J Day.
War is a terrible thing – though it is not the most terrible of things – and much of what we think of as America’s national character was defined in WWII. The Doolittle Raid, itself, is a hallmark moment in our Nation’s history – on par with the surrender of British forces at Yorktown or the flag raising on Mount Suribachi – where Americans showed ingenuity, physical and moral courage, and perseverance against all the evidence that pointed to the endeavor as a disaster in the making. But fortune, as always, favors the bold, and America could not, and never will, back down from a fight with a tyrant and/or an aggressor…and will do everything in its power to take the fight to their doorstep.
We in the 380th have inherited a legacy of valor unmatched by any other squadron in our Wing, and it is imperative that we continue to honor that heritage in everything we do. Eisenhower once said, “…the Nation that forgets its heritage is unworthy of it.” This will never be an issue in Blue Squadron. From the deck of the Hornet, to the skies of North Africa, the Mediterranean and Southern and Eastern Europe and through the long years of the Cold War, the 380th has fought to secure our Four Essential Freedoms. We continue to do so today, and ever shall.
But…it all began many years ago with an impossible mission. On that day – this day – 18 April, 1942.
Blue Team, for those of you not standing a turn of the watch in the Middle East, I hope you will have an enjoyable weekend with your families. But for all of you, when you have some time today, take a moment to drink a toast to Jimmy Doolittle, his Raiders, and the men with whom they fought in the second World War (and later, for many, in the Cold War). In honoring them, we honor ourselves: as Americans, as Airmen, and as their direct descendents…for we in the 310th and 380th wear their colors today.
Take care. And, as always, thank you all for your service to our Nation.
Very Respectfully, Mike “Drop” Assid, Lt Col, USAF
( Placed by Barbi Ennis Connolly, 57th Bomb Wing Historical Researcher and Historian for 2 Groups.)