The Doolittle Raid:
An Unexpected Attack
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Americans were afraid that Japan would strike again. President Roosevelt knew that the United States had to strike back against the Japanese as soon as possible. He needed to restore America’s sense of security.
Army Air Force Lieutenant Colonel James "Jimmy" Doolittle had an amazing plan. He suggested that the United States bomb Japan using B-25 Mitchell Bombers that would take off from an aircraft carrier, something that had never been done before. After the bombing they would land in China.
Planning for the Attack
At first, everyone thought Doolittle’s idea was crazy. They thought the B-25s would not have the ability to take off from this aircraft carrier’s short runway because the planes weighed over 35,000 pounds. The runway on the aircraft carrier that they would use, the
USS Hornet, was only 467 feet long. B-25 bombers used land-based runways that were 1,500 to 3,000 feet in order to build up enough airspeed to take off. Doolittle insisted that the B-25 could still be launched from the aircraft carrier. He finally got his boss to believe he was right and to approve his plan.
There were three purposes for the air raid. First, it would give the Americans confidence after the attack on Pearl Harbor because Americans would know how strong they really were. Second, it would cause the Japanese to question their leaders because they promised that the Japanese homeland would never get attacked. Third, it would make Japan think that the United States would attack again, so it would will keep many of its aircraft in Japan to protect it from future bombing raids.
The Air Raid
On April 18, 1942 at 8:20 a.m., Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle flew the first B-25 bomber off the deck of the USS Hornet. After seeing the bomber take off, the men and women on the USS
Hornet said, "It was scary to see a bomber that was built and meant to only take off from an extended runway, take off from a short runway aircraft carrier."
The bombing did little physical damage to Japan, but the mental impact was enormous. The Japanese people were in a panic because the Imperial Army and Navy of Japan had promised that their homeland would never be attacked. In fact, they were attacked by a completely unexpected weapon – an air raid over Japan with a B-25 bomber. For the first time, Japanese leaders saw that they were dealing with an enemy more dangerous than they had imagined.
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