The Legacy of Flight

Images from the archives of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum

Otto Lilienthal gliding. (NASM)

Doolittle Raid


USS Hornet crewmen watch an Army Air Forces B-25 Mitchell medium bomber lift off from the carrier deck on April 18, 1942, en route to Japan. Led by renowned aviator Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, the 16 B-25s bombed military and industrial targets in Tokyo and other cities. The "Doolittle Raid" inflicted relatively minor damage, but it electrified the home front, sharply boosting morale after months of demoralizing defeats after Pearl Harbor.

None of the B-25s reached their intended Chinese landing fields. One detoured to Russia, where its five-man crew was interned. The other crewmen either bailed out or crash-landed in China. Three died in the process and eight were captured. The Japanese executed three and a fourth died in captivity. The other crews found their way back to fight another day. Doolittle was promoted to brigadier general and commanded air forces in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and England.


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