A new treatment of the daring Doolittle raids over Tokyo that fills in many of the gaps in the true story.
In his glowing assessment of the bravery and innovation of the Doolittle raiders, historian Scott (The War Below: The Story of Three Submarines That Battled Japan, 2013, etc.) does not neglect to explore the ultimate horrendous cost of the mission in human lives. After the sneak attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt and his military commanders were desperate for a retaliatory measure that would help buoy national morale. Figuring out how to wage a bombing mission over Tokyo took the best heads of the Navy and Air Force, specifically Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold’s staff troubleshooter, the legendary racing pilot Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle. Immediately taking up the mission and demanding that he also lead it, Doolittle chose the “aerial workhorse” B-25 as the sole craft whose wingspan could clear the superstructure of an aircraft carrier. The problem was the fuel load required to fly from a Pacific carrier to Tokyo then onward to China—landing at approved airfields not in the control of the Japanese—all while keeping absolute secrecy. Spotted by the Japanese well over 800 miles from Tokyo (they were supposed to get 200 miles closer), the all-volunteer crews of the 16 bombers aboard the carrier knew when they took off on April 18, 1942, that they had little chance of reaching the Chinese coast. Of the 80 men, 61 survived the war; four died in crash landings, and four fell into the brutal hands of the Japanese. The damage to Tokyo spurred the Japanese to focus next on Midway, while the Japanese retaliatory slaughter against the Chinese as a result of the raids totaled some 250,000 deaths, a fact that Scott does not fail to note.
A spirited, comprehensive and highly readable account of the tremendous wherewithal required for this extraordinary effort.