The Doolittle Raid.

The Doolittle Raid.

John Grehan and Alexander Nichol.
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
As an example of airmanship, innovation, and cold hard courage there are only a few feats of arms that can rank up there with the Doolittle raid. The Dambuster or Black Buck raids spring to mind of course, but this is April 1942, the Japanese steamroller is in full flow across the Pacific. America has entered the war but has had little success to show its public dragged into an unpopular (before Pearl Harbour) War. Franklin D Roosevelt called for an immediate strike on Japan. The logistics however are daunting 5000 miles from the American mainland, beyond the range of any aircraft then in service. No Black Buck style air to air refuelling in those early days.

Step into the limelight US Navy Captain Francis Low then an Assistant Chief Of Staff for Anti Submarine Warfare. Low suggested that large aircraft could be launched from carriers to strike at Japan. The Navy lacked a suitable aircraft but he believed the United States Army Air Force’s new B-25B Mitchell could fly off a Navy Carrier deck. He presented his idea to Admiral Ernest J King, then Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet who immediately saw the potential and the rest is, as they say, history.

The man who would give his name to the raid, Lieutenant Colonel James H Doolittle, a renowned aviator, test pilot, and pioneer was handpicked by General Henry Harvey “Hap” Arnold. There were immense obstacles to overcome and nothing but radical thinking from the very start would solve those problems.

This book one of Pen and Swords Images Of War series is as always far more than just photographs. The authors John Grehan and Alexander Nicol have dealt in detail from the initial planning, engineering and adapting the bombers, to a crew by crew breakdown of the mission itself. Each aspect is examined and explained and in doing so the immense achievement becomes very apparent.

Every man a volunteer each knowing that the narrow margins for error made this essentially a one way trip with a high probability of capture even if they did make landfall in China. This shows the caliber and courage of every aviator in the sixteen B-25 bombers which is bought into stark relief. Led by Doolittle in the first bomber to trundle down the flight deck of the USS Hornet the effect on morale of both the US public, and conversely the Japanese population, can never be underestimated. Packed with detailed photographs and technical information, this volume tells the staggering story of the men who struck that first blow.

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