Published 17 May 2017, 17:01
A dozen North American B-25 Mitchell bombers gathered at the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio on April 17-18 to mark the 75th anniversary of the famous Doolittle Raid.
Plans had called for 17 airframes to take part in the event but poor weather and serviceability reduced the final turn-out; however, a spectacular flyover was conducted and the aircraft were on static display for the large crowd.
Following the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to strike Japan as quickly as possible to bolster American spirits.
The top-secret plan called for 16 B-25s to take off from the USS Hornet about 450 miles from Japan, bomb targets at locations such as Yokohama and Tokyo, and then fly another 1,600 miles to friendly airfields in China. The aircraft launched at dawn on April 18, 1942, under the command of James ‘Jimmy’ Doolittle, and the ‘Doolittle Raiders’ dropped their bombs on Japanese oil storage facilities, factories and military installations before heading to China. However, with poor weather and fading light it became obvious that the aircraft would not reach their intended bases before their fuel was exhausted. The crews either bailed out or force landed in eastern China after more than 13 hours in the air. With the help of the Chinese people, most of the Raiders safely reached friendly forces. However, eight were captured by the Japanese and held as prisoners of war and three of the these were executed.
Today only one Raider survives – Lt Col Richard ‘Dick’ E Cole – who served as Doolittle’s co-pilot on the lead aircraft. Now 101 years old, Cole attended the event to pay tribute to his colleagues.