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Doolittle Raid Launch Footage - 1942


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The Doolittle Raid, April 18, 1942, was the first air raid by the United States to strike the Japanese home island of Honshu during World War II. The mission was notable since it was the only time in U.S. Military history that United States Army Air Forces bombers (16 modified B-25B bombers) were launched from a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier on a combat mission. The raid demonstrated that the Japanese home islands were vulnerable to Allied air attack, and it provided an expedient means for U.S. retaliation for Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.

The bombers were carried by the USS Hornet (CV-8) from Alameda, California to their launch point in the Pacific. At a distance of about 650 miles from Japan, the task force encountered a Japanese picket boat, which radioed an attack warning to Japan. Although the boat was destroyed by gunfire from the cruiser USS Nashville, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle and Hornet skipper Captain Marc Mitscher decided to launch the B-25s immediately – ten hours earlier and 170 miles farther from Japan than planned.

The footage shows some of the men rescued from the picket boat (and I believe the boats destruction), although the shot of the Japanese men is overexposed. Most of the rest of our film shows the men preparing the aircraft for launch and launching. They launched their aircraft between 8:30 and 9:19 in the morning.

This reel doesn't contain any footage after the raid left the Hornet – there are a couple of still shots with possible bomb damage and maybe a picture of a crashed B-25 in China, and some footage of at least one of the raiders receiving a medal in China, but that's all we have.

Immediately after the raid, Lt. Col. Doolittle told his crew that he believed that the loss of all 16 aircraft, coupled with the relatively minor damage that had been inflicted on their targets had rendered the attack a failure, and that he expected a court martial on his return to the United States. Instead, the raid bolstered American morale to such an extent that Doolittle was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Franklin Roosevelt. He was also promoted two grades to Brigadier General, skipping the rank of colonel. He went on to command the 12th Air Force in North Africa, the 15th Air Force in the Mediterranean, and the 8th Air Force in England during the next three years.

About the Doolittle Raid footage:

This Doolittle raid footage was acquired from a collector by Part of it consists of a print of an Army Air Forces film (the date code on the film is 1946) and part of it (what I call the outtakes – some raw footage) consists of a copy of some footage from the National Archives ... the date code on that part of the footage is from the 1970's.

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