The 1942 Doolittle Tokyo Raid
Anything that wasn’t actually crew, fuel or bombs was quickly removed from the planes.
Doolittle then added multiple auxiliary fuel tanks to increase the plane’s range, even putting one in the now empty belly gun turret. With these modifications, the B-25 could (hopefully) make it from the anticipated launch point offshore near Japan, fly in low to hit their targets and then continue on to land safely at airfields in China that were not in enemy hands.
Now came the recruitment, training and deployment of more than 100 Army pilots and crewmen, plus their support personnel, all of which had to be done in absolute secrecy. Pilots trained for a mere three weeks at Eglin Field in Florida under the supervision of Doolittle, with the able assistance from naval aviators stationed at nearby NAS Pensacola. The training included low level bombing, over-water navigation, night flying and, most importantly, very short takeoffs.
After reaching an “operational” level of competence, the raid’s 22 aircraft and their crews were sent to Alameda, California and the best 16 planes were loaded aboard the carrier USS Hornet. The ship departed at noon on April 2, 1942, passing under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was not until they were well at sea that Doolittle was able to tell his pilots and crews about their ultimate destination…Japan.
Copyright Browning, 2017. Written by Browning staff writer Scott Engen. Photos copyright by Browning, from Browning company archives (used with permission) in the public domain or as indicated in the caption.