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The Doolittle raid

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  • The Doolittle raid

    Most are aware of the Doolittle raid of 18 April 1942. A handful of B-25 medium bombers took off from the carrier Hornet, dropped their bombs on mainland Japan, and proceeded to crash land or parachute into Japanese-held territory. All of the aircraft were lost. Many of the airmen were captured, and some were executed.

    The raid was trivial in terms of damage. Generally, it is acknowledged as a morale boost to a U.S. public that had been pummeled by multiple war disasters since 7 Dec 1941.

    Some historians claim that the raid did more than boost morale; that it in fact caused the Japanese military to devote more assets to defense of Japan's mainland. I find this last to be grasping a bit. Does anyone else think the raid did more than boost American morale?

    The Raiders have a unique tontine described here. The last two raider's left alive will open the cognac and toast their comrades. The display used to be at the USAF Academy, and I well remember seeing it at Arnold Hall, the Cadet recreation center. As of Dec 2010, there are only five raiders still with us.

    I find the raid to be a unique moment in WW2 history. Brave men indeed. I wish I had been able to meet them as a cadet.


  • #2
    Originally posted by Chogy View Post
    Some historians claim that the raid did more than boost morale; that it in fact caused the Japanese military to devote more assets to defense of Japan's mainland. I find this last to be grasping a bit. Does anyone else think the raid did more than boost American morale?
    The shame upon the IJN in general and upon Yamamoto especially was profound.

    It caused the Japanese to rethink their entire naval strategy and almost certainly led to the approval of Yamamoto's until-then bitterly contested Midway operation proposal...with the attendant results.

    As far as diverting resources to the defense of the Home Islands, I don't have precise information right at hand but they definitely made changes after Doolittle. To do otherwise would've been to ignore the danger to the Emperor and the Home Islands, both considered sacred.

    The irony is that, without thousands of more combat aircraft, you're not going to "defend" paper and wood cities against anything. Their fire brigades were more than merely pathetic, they were downright criminal. Check out the book "Whirlwind" by Barrett Tillman for an excellent read on the air war against Japan from Doolittle to Nagasaki.
    “Never let yourself be persuaded that any one Great Man, any one leader, is necessary to the salvation of America. When America consists of one leader and 158 million followers, it will no longer be America.”
    ― Dwight D. Eisenhower

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    • #3
      While it would be hard to quantify the effects, there were clearly effects on the Japanese defense stratagies, home air defense in particular. I don't believe it made a big difference in the resources available to the frontline, but psychologically - it was a big event. The generals, who made promises that the homeland would be secure, lost some of their influence and power. With these personel changes, different personalities would be in charge in some cases, who in turn could have made different choices - siginificantly affecting the war.
      sigpic"If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
      If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

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      • #4
        Didn't they go after Kiska and Attu in part because of the raid... if so then then the attack had a direct bearing on Midway and changed the course of the war.

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        • #5
          Not only did it raise moral. It also brought forth an Admiral (Halsey) that would himself become a moral booster all through out WWII, He sailed Hornet and Enterprise in 40 knot gales to within 700 miles of the home islands. It made a hero and legend of James Doolittle, his air crews and the B-25. It also showed Japan, that seemed to be a bit full of itself at the time especially Yamamoto that he wasnt as smart as he thought he was and this was but an inkling of what was to come. Further, it was one of the very first at sea deliveres of aircraft parts via USN airship #L-8. The parts were delivered upon the deck of the Hornet en route after leaving San Francisco.

          Halsey would later write...That from the bridge of the Enterprise he knew he was "witnessing one of the most couragous deeds in military history".

          This is an excellent site for photos and info on the Doolittle Raid.
          Doolittle Raider Raid Photos
          Fortitude.....The strength to persist...The courage to endure.

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          • #6
            I didn't know the airship dropped by the Hornet enroute - that is outstanding.

            Apparently, Chinese efforts to shelter some of the raiders resulted in a terrible backlash from Japan, adding to the burdens of the Chinese people.

            And yes, in the "face driven" power structure of Japan, I can see the raid causing a shift in both leadership, and in strategic thought.

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            • #7
              He's a pic of it Chogy.

              http://www.doolittleraider.com/images/h53294.jpg

              A caption from the L-8 site:

              An interesting sidelight of the operation was an early example of airborne shore-to-ship logistics support, when the Navy blimp L-8 flew out over the Pacific to deliver urgently-needed aircraft parts directly to Hornet's flight deck.
              Last edited by Dreadnought; 14 Dec 11,, 20:10.
              Fortitude.....The strength to persist...The courage to endure.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by zraver View Post
                Didn't they go after Kiska and Attu in part because of the raid... if so then then the attack had a direct bearing on Midway and changed the course of the war.
                I think that may be the case: Midway wasn't cancelled after the Doolittle raid - as it might have been before. In the movie a Japanese Admiral said "the gods of strategy have concieived a monster" - which is a fairly good description of the Japanese plans for Midway, it was a terribly complex operation - and look what happened. Taking those Aluetian Islands (part of their Midway plan) didn't do them much good either. In hindsight; the Japanese needed to mass their forces - not divide them.
                sigpic"If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
                If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."

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                • #9
                  AR posted a link to this site in an earlier thread, but here are some photos of the raid and it's consequences:

                  World War II: Daring Raids and Brutal Reprisals - Alan Taylor - In Focus - The Atlantic
                  "There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you're not there any more." -Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge

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                  • #10
                    Yamamotos plans post Pearl Harbor lacked both flexibility and contingency. Once they fried his ass in the skies over Bouganville from a Naval Direction, they were screwed. They considered him the smartest and he warned them what would happen once the American war machine reved up into gear they would grind them down slowly but shorely. It was merely a matter of time after Midway. And once US submarines started sinking the Japanese supply to the home islands their forward progress was pretty much halted. That is among US troop landings on the island chains and aerial superiority to support the USN.
                    Fortitude.....The strength to persist...The courage to endure.

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                    • #11
                      The raid had to do with building morale. Why, I cannot say. The General, must have known the situation. I suspect, this had also to do with the Japanese morale. The Japanese were fighting well, and the U. S., made a spectacular bombing, the first, of Japan. General Doolittle must have known, what the impact of the bombs would be, since very few could be carried on the medium bombers, they having to take off from aircraft carriers.

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