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Doolittle Raid
Tokyo and other Japanese cities

Doolittle RaidCampaign: Pacific War Campaign (December 7, 1941 – September 2, 1945)

 

Date(s): April 18, 1942

Principal Commanders: James H. Doolittle [US] N/A [Japan]

Forces Engaged: 16 B-25 Mitchells, 80 airmen (52 officers, 28 enlisted), 2 aircraft carriers, 4 cruisers, 8 destroyers [US]; Unknown number of troops and homeland defense [Japan]

Estimated Casualties: 3 dead, 8 POWs (4 died in captivity: 3 executed, 1 by disease), 15 B-25s [US]; About 50 dead, 400 injured (including civilians), 5 sailors captured, 5 patrol boats sunk, 3 aircraft, 1 light aircraft carrier damaged [Japan]

Description: The Doolittle Raid, also known as the Tokyo Raid, on April 18, 1942, was an air raid by the United States on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on Honshu island during World War II, the first air raid to strike the Japanese Home Islands. It demonstrated that Japan itself was vulnerable to American air attack, was retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, provided an important boost to U.S. morale, and damaged Japanese morale. The raid was planned and led by Lieutenant Colonel James "Jimmy" Doolittle, U.S. Army Air Forces.

Sixteen U.S. Army Air Forces B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China—landing a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible. Fifteen of the aircraft reached China, and the other one landed in the Soviet Union. All but three of the crew survived, but all the aircraft were lost. Eight crewmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three of these were executed. The B-25 that landed in the Soviet Union at Vladivostok was confiscated and its crew interned for more than a year. Fourteen crews, except for one crewman, returned either to the United States or to American forces. An estimated 250,000 Chinese civilians were killed by the Japanese during their search for Doolittle's men.

The raid caused negligible material damage to Japan, only hitting non-military targets or missing completely but it succeeded in its goal of raising American morale and casting doubt in Japan on the ability of its military leaders to defend their home islands. It also caused Japan to withdraw its powerful aircraft carrier force from the Indian Ocean to defend their Home Islands, and the raid contributed to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's decision to attack Midway Island in the Central Pacific—an attack that turned into a decisive strategic defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) by the U.S. Navy in the Battle of Midway. Doolittle, who initially believed that loss of all his aircraft would lead to his being court-martialed, received the Medal of Honor and was promoted two steps to Brigadier general.

Result(s): First attack on Japanese Home Islands, US propaganda victory; US morale improved, Japanese weakened. No significant military effect.

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