16 B-25s go to Tokyo

Posted: Friday, April 17, 2009 by Travis Cody in

On 18 April 1942, 67 years ago tomorrow, Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle led 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers off the carrier deck of USS Hornet in a raid against Toyko. Although damage was modest, the impact on American morale was immense. Click here to read a complete account.

Lt. Colonel Doolittle and his 79 volunteers proved that the Japanese homeland was not invulnerable to attack. They also forced the Japanese to recall a number of fighter squadrons to protect the island from further attack.

The sleeping giant Yamamoto feard was awake, pissed off, and fiercely determined to take the fight to the Japanese.

Today I pay tribute to the 80 men who accepted the challenge to fly those bombers, knowing that they would barely have enough fuel to make it to China to land after the raid. Because the task force was spotted by a Japanese picket boat, the flight launched 10 hours early and 170 miles farther away from Japan than originally planned.

Plane 40-2344, 34th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over N Chuchow, China

Lt Col James H Doolittle, pilot (14 Dec 1896 - 27 Sept 1993)
Lt Richard E Cole, co-pilot (Born 7 Sept 1915)
Lt Henry A Potter, navigator (Died27 May 2002)
S/Sgt Fred A Braemer, bombardier (Died 2 Feb 1989)
S/Sgt Paul J Leonard, engineer-gunner (KIA Africa 5 Jan 1943)

Plane 40-2292, 37th Squadron, 17th Group
Crash landed Ningpo, China

Lt Travis Hoover, pilot (21 Sept 1917 - 17 Jan 2004)
Lt William N Fitzhugh, co-pilot (Died 31 Aug 1981)
Lt Carl R Wildner, navigator (Died 7 Mar 1994)
Lt Richard E Miller, bombardier (KIA Africa 22 Jan 1943)
Sgt Douglas V Radney, engineer-gunner (Died 28 Jan 1994)

Plane 40-2270, 95th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over SE Chuchow, China

Lt Robert M Gray, pilot (KIA enroute India to China 18 Oct 1942)
Lt Jacob E Manch, co-pilot (Killed bailing out of T-33 Nevada 24 Mar 1958)
Lt Charles J Ozuk, navigator
Sgt Aden E Jones, bombardier (Died 9 Mar 1983)
Cpl Leland D Faktor, engineer-gunner (KIA bailing out China 18 Apr 1942)

Plane 40-2282, 95th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over SE Shangjao, China

Lt Everett W Holstom, pilot (Died 2 Dec 2000)
Lt Lucian N Younglbood, co-pilot (Killed 28 Feb 1949)
Lt Harry C McCool, navigator (Died 1 Feb 2003)
Sgt Robert J Stephens, bombardier (Died 13 Apr 1959)
Cpl Bert M Jordan, gunner (Died 3 Apr 2001)

Plane 40-2283, 95th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over SW Chuchow, China

Capt David M Jones, pilot (deceased)
Lt Rodney R Wilder, co-pilot (Died 7 June 1964)
Lt Eugene F McGurl, navigator (KIA Burma 3 June 1942)
Lt Denver V Truelove, bombardier (KIA Sicily 5 Apr 1943)
Sgt Joseph W Manske, engineer-gunner (Died 4 Apr 1998)

Plane 40-2298, 95th Squadron, 17th Group
Ditched off Wenchu, China

Lt Dean E Hallmark, pilot (Executed by Japanese 15 Oct 1942)
Lt Robert J Meder, co-pilot (Died in Japanese POW camp 1 Dec 1943)
Lt Col Chase Jay Nielsen, navigator (Died 23 Mar 2007)
Sgt William J Dieter, bombardier (Drowned 18 Apr 1942)
Sgt Donald E Fitzmaurice, engineer-gunner (Drowned 18 Apr 1942)

Plane 40-2261, 95th Squadron, 17th Group
Ditched off Shangchow, China

Lt Ted W Lawson, pilot (Died 19 Jan 1992)
Lt Dean Davenport, co-pilot (Died 14 Feb 2000)
Lt Charles L McClure, navigator (Died 1 Jan 1999(
Lt Robert S Clever, bombardier (Killed in US 20 Nov 1942)
Sgt David J Thatcher, engineer-gunner

Plane 40-2242, 95th Squadron, 17th Group
Landed in Primorsky Krai, Siberia

Capt Edward J York, pilot (Died 31 Aug 1984)
Lt Robert G Emmens, co-pilot (Died 2 Apr 1992)
Lt Nolan A Herndon, navigator-bombardier (Died 7 Oct 2007)
S/Sgt Theodore H Laban, engineer (Died 16 Sept 1978)
Sgt David W Pohl, gunner (Died 18 Feb 1999)

Plane 40-2303, 34th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over S Nanchang, China

Lt Harold F Watson, pilot (Died 14 Sept 1991)
Lt James N Parker Jr, co-pilot (Died 19 June 1991)
Lt Thomas C Griffin, navigator
Sgt Wayne M Bissell, bombardier (Died 9 Jan 1997)
T/Sgt Eldred V Scott, engineer-gunner (Died 31 July 1978)

Plane 40-2250, 89th Recon Squadron
Bailed out over NE Chuchow, China

Lt Richard O Joyce, pilot (Died 13 Feb 1983)
Lt J Royden Stork, co-pilot (Died 2 May 2002)
Lt Horace E Crouch, navigator-bombardier (Died 21 Dec 2005)
Sgt George F Larkin Jr, flight engineer (KIA India to China 18 Oct 1942)
S/Sgt Edwin W Horton Jr, gunner (deceased)

Plane 40-2249, 89th Recon Squadron
Bailed out over NE Chuchow, China

Capt C Ross Greening, pilot (Died 29 Mar 1957)
Lt Kenneth E Reddy, co-pilot (Killed in US 3 Sept 1942)
Lt Frank A Kappeler, navigator
S/Sgt William L Birch, bombardier (Died 18 Nov 2006)
Sgt Melvin J Gardner, engineer-gunner (KIA Burma 3 June 1942)

Plane 40-2278, 37th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over NE Chuchow, China

Lt William M Bower, pilot
Lt Thadd H Blanton, co-pilot (Died 27 Sept 1961)
Lt William R Pound Jr, navigator (Died 13 July 1967)
T/Sgt Waldo J Bither, bombardier (Died 25 Feb 1988)
S/Sgt Omer A Duquette, engineer-gunner (KIA Burma 3 June 1942)

Plane 40-2247, 37th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over N Nanchang, China

Lt Edgar E McElroy, pilot (Died 4 Apr 2003)
Lt Richard A Knobloch, co-pilot (Died 13 Aug 2001)
Lt Clayton J Campbell, navigator (Died 17 Nov 2002)
Sgt Robert C Bourgeois, bombardier (Died 13 Nov 2001)
Sgt Adam R Williams, engineer-gunner (Died 30 Nov 1993)

Plane 40-2297, 89th Recon Squadron
Bailed out over SE Shangjao, China

Maj John A Hilger, pilot (Died 3 Feb 1982)
Lt Jack A Sims, co-pilot (Died 9 June 2007)
Lt James H Macia Jr, navigator-bombardier
S/Sgt Jacob Eierman, engineer (Died 16 Jan 1994)
S/Sgt Edwin V Bain, gunner (KIA Rome 19 July 1943)

Plane 40-2267, 89th Recon Squadron
Ditched off Shangchow, China

Lt Donald G Smith, pilot (KIA Britain 12 Nov 1942)
Lt Griffith P Williams, co-pilot (Died 14 July 1998)
Lt Howard A Sessler, navigator-bombardier (Died 9 Feb 2001)
Sgt Edward J Saylor, engineer
Lt (Dr) Thomas R White, gunner (Died 29 Nov 1992)

Plane 40-2268, 34th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over Ningpo, China

Lt William G Farrow, pilot (Executed by Japanese 15 Oct 1942)
Lt Robert L Hite, co-pilot
Lt George Barr, navigator (Died 12 July 1967)
Cpl Jacob DeShazer, bombardier (Died 15 Mar 2008)
Sgr Harold A Spatz, engineer-gunner (Executed by Japanese 15 Oct 1942)

At each reunion, the surviving crew members perform a roll call and then drink a toast to the Raiders who have passed since they last met. Each man has a special silver goblet engraved with his name. The goblets of those Raiders who have passed are turned down.

A final toast between the last two surviving Raiders will be with a bottle of vintage Hennessy cognac from the year of Colonel Doolittle's birth, 1896. The bottle and the goblets have traveled to each reunion since 1960.

Gentlemen, you have my profound gratitude for your service and your sacrifice.

Let me also recognize the 57 US Army maintenance crew, without whom the planes could not have been properly prepared to succeed.

And lest we forget...the crews of USS Hornet, USS Enterprise, and Task Force 18 cruised into harm's way with the precious tonnage of an American Navy still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor just a few short months before.


  1. Thom says:

    What a wonderful Tribute. I don't think of this until I read something like this. It's wonderful and it makes me so proud of our Military, past present and future and makes me proud I'm an American.

  1. Marsha says:

    Gentleman, I salute thee!!

  1. DrillerAA says:

    Great post Trav. I have a few DVD's on WWII and I enjoy watching the Military Channel shows that focus on that conflict. My father was on another carrier in the Pacific that provided support to the invasion of Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal.
    There were several defining moments in that war and the Doolittle raid was certainly the first while the atomic bomb was the last.
    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  1. Ivanhoe says:

    Your tribute gave me chills. The Pearl Harbor movie touched the subject quite a bit. It's one of my fave movies.
    Have a wonderful weekend, Trav!

  1. Jeni says:

    Excellent post, Trav. Wonderful tribute to the bravery of these men. I always enjoy reading things about history and for some reason, especially articles and/or books about WW2, WW1, the Civil War and Revolutionary War. Our country certainly owes a tremendous debt of gratitude for all our veterans, from all the wars/conflicts but especially the crews of these planes.

  1. Bond says:

    Travis you have a unique ability to cause my body to shiver with goosebumps when I read these posts.

    What an incredible tribute...a lot of research went into this and you should be commended.

    Now, on another subject, it appears IT is cracking down and I can not even get here at work...you are blocked as a 'social network" site. Some blogs I can read, but I can not see any pictures anymore.

    I came home at lunch and the first blog I came to was yours.

    Again...simply brilliant!

  1. Cherie says:

    Originally thought of as a stunt to prove to the Japanese that they were not invulnerable and for American morale (which certainly needed a shot in the arm at the time), it's over all contribution to the war effort is incalculable. Thanks for reminding us of the date and the brave people who carried it out.

  1. It's a shame in a way that war brings out so much heroism in humankind. I admire such heroes as you describe here, but I wish we could see that heroism in things more for all humanity.

  1. Trav,this is a great posting,I thnk you for this one.

  1. JohnH985 says:

    Brave men that we should never forget, thanks for reminding us.

  1. Travis says:

    Thom: I would prefer that these acts weren't necessary, but it's good to know that we have people who are capable.

    Marsha: Well said.

    Drilleraa: I've always been drawn to the stories of ordinary men doing extraordinary things.

    Ivanhoe: WWII movies are some of my favorites.

    Jeni: I think I'm most impressed by the fact that they did the job with full knowledge of the challenges they would face trying to get back after the bomb run.

    V: Thank you Sir. I try to write these tributes with respect.

    Cherie: Indeed. The unintended benefit of drawing back some Japanese fighter squadrons, as well as the confidence it gave American forces were critical to the early war effort.

    Charles: Excellent point.

    Mike: It is always my honor to post stories about the troops.

    John: I can do no less.

  1. Well done, Travis. That's an outstanding tribute to an incredibly courageous group of men.

  1. Jamie says:

    Interesting piece of entertainment trivia: The United States Navy named one of its aircraft carriers after the fictional location, USS Shangri-La, as an obvious reference to the Doolittle Raid. President Roosevelt had answered a reporter's question by saying that the raid had come from "Shangri-La", which was the name of the mysterious place of perpetual youth in the Himalayas in the popular book and movie of the time, Lost Horizon. In addition, if you missed it on television and don't catch one of the showings on the History channel, there is a great documentary: One Hour Over Tokyo featuring historical footage and interviews with the remaining raiders.

  1. Love the description of the reunion ceremony - it really does give me chills. I really enjoyed your post, and lingered over each name on every plane.

  1. Nice post Trav, these men left the deck of the USS Hornet with the full knowlege they did not have enough fuel to return, will America be able to find men like this when they are needed in the future?

  1. Travis says:

    Southern: Less than what they deserve.

    NNG: Thank you dear.

    Jamie: I knew of FDR's reference to Shangri-La and of the carrier. I haven't seen that documentary, but I'll look for it.

    Julia: I think it makes a tribute more special to see the names. It makes the men more real.

    Sarge: Perhaps if you focus on the positive, you'd realize that these men can be found in every generation in every walk of life.

  1. Beautiful tribute, Trav. Very well written. Hope you had a lovely weekend.

  1. A hat tip and drink hoisted to those brave men.

  1. well done travis. I wish the news would do half an hour on this rather than all the name calling and finger pointing.

    and I love reading all of the comments too....makes me a little teary.

  1. Julie says:

    Whoa I guess cognac was a biggie back then, huh? Very good tribute Travis. I knew you would do it up wonderfully!

    Well put...."every generation".

  1. I love it when you post these tributes. I learned so much with this post and it was sobering to read the names and dates. May they all find peace.

  1. Travis says:

    CWM: Thanks! I did!

    Songbird: I join you. One can never toast them too much.

    Katherine: People really do understand and acknowledge. Sometimes it just takes a bit of a nudge to remind them.

    Julie: The best for the best I say.

    Mimi: I'd like to take more time to write proper essays on some of these topics.

  1. Dana says:

    Wow - fascinating and awesome. Thank you!

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this rememberance.

    When I was a child in San Diego during WWII I knew Lt. Griff Williams, co-pilot on plane 15. They lived just across the alley from us and his son, Dicky, was my closet playmate.

    Griff was tall, handsome and every inch the image of a hero. I thought his wife, Barbara, was as besutiful as a movie star.

    After Griff returned from the raid and we all learned what he had been doing Dicky had a standard answer to anyonw who asked where his father was: "Bombing Tokyo!" That applied even when Griff was in North Africa. Girff was forever "bombing Tokyo."

    I think id is difficut for those who only read of the raid and WWII in history books to really comprehend the emotions of those times. Everything seemed up close and personal. The impact of the raid on the nation's psyche cannot be overstated; from the agony and insecruity of defeat we became a nation who proclaimed, "Yes we can!"

    Would the country had that spirit of unity today in meeting our numerous problems.

    Thanks again for the tribute to the men of this great even.

    L. Lenfred Link
    4316 Grand Avenue
    Des Moines, IA 50312