Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle accepts a medal from the skipper of the USS Hornet, Capt. Marc A. Mitscher. The medal, once given to a U.S. Navy officer by the Japanese, was wired to a 500-pound bomb for return to Japan "with interest." (U.S. Air Force photo)
Lt. James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle, Doolittle made history as the first pilot to fly coast-to-coast in less than a day in a modified DeHavilland DH-4, in September 1922. Equipped with crude navigational instruments, he traveled from Pablo Beach, Fla., to San Diego, Calif., in 21 hours and 19 minutes. He made only one refueling stop at Kelly Field. The military gave him the Distinguished Flying Cross for this historic feat. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Retired Maj. Gen. David Jones and Philip Antoniello lay a wreath in honor of the USS Hornet at the Navy Memorial in Washington Nov. 9. On April 18, 1942, the Doolittle Raiders, led by then Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, became the first to bombard Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Doolittle Raiders have celebrated their victory for the past 64 years. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Rusti Caraker)
On April 18, 1942, Airmen of the U.S. Army Air Forces, led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle (front row, right), carried the battle of the Pacific to the heart of the Japanese empire with a surprising and daring raid on military targets at Tokoyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Nagoya and Kobe. This historic attack against these major cities was the result of coordination between the Army Air Forces and the U.S. Navy, which carried the 16 North American B-25 medium bombers aboard the carrier USS Hornet to within take-off distances of the Japanese Islands.
James "Jimmy" Doolittle, best known for his command of a surprise raid on Japan early in World War II, was also instrumental in early aviation development. He began his aviation career with the Army Air Service in 1917 and in March 1924, while assigned to the Air Service Engineering School at McCook Field near Dayton, Ohio, Doolittle conducted acceleration flight tests on a Fokker PW-7 that won him a Distinguished Flying Cross. During the tests, Doolittle flew the aircraft to the point of structural failure to identify the flight loads that could be generated during aerial combat.
In 1925 Doolittle earned a Doctor of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in 1929 he conducted special instrumentation tests at the Full Flight Laboratory on Long Island. These experiments were to perfect instruments for performing take-offs and landings in adverse weather, flying at night, and in-flight navigation. Doolittle won the Harmon Trophy in 1930 for his experiments with flight instruments.
As an air racer, Doolittle won the Schneider (1925), Mackay (1926), Bendix (1931), and Thompson (1932) trophies, setting many speed records in the process. He left the Air Corps in 1930 to become a privately-employed aviation specialist. He was called back for military duty in 1940 and worked on the conversion of the automobile industry to wartime aircraft production. He retired in 1946, but continued to work for many years in and for aviation.