The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders was a group eighty men from all walks of life who flew into history on April 18, 1942. They were all volunteers and this was a very dangerous mission. Sixteen B-25 bombers took off from the deck of the USS Hornet, led by (then Col.) Jimmy Doolittle. They were to fly over Japan, drop their bombs and fly on to land in a part of China that was still free. Of course, things do not always go as planned.
The months following the attack on Pearl Harbor were the darkest of the war, as Imperial Japanese forces rapidly extended their reach across the Pacific. Our military was caught off guard, forced to retreat, and losing many men in the fall of the Philippines, leading to the infamous Bataan Death March.
By spring, 1942, America needed a severe morale boost. The raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942, certainly provided that – cheering the American military and public. Yet, the Doolittle Raid meant so much more, proving to the Japanese high command that their home islands were not invulnerable to American attacks and causing them to shift vital resources to their defense. Two months later that decision would play a role in the outcome of the Battle of Midway, the American victory that would begin to turn the tide in the Pacific War.
Amazing Chinese civilians helped the downed crews escape and return safely to Allied bases. They did this at an incredibly heavy cost, with some accounts estimating as many as 250,000 civilians were killed by Japanese forces in their search and as reprisals.