Jimmy Doolittle

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Brig. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle

James Harold Doolittle (December 14, 1896September 27, 1993) was a United States Army general who fought in World War II, and was the commander of the famous Doolittle Raid.

He was born in Alameda, California, spent his youth in Nome, Alaska, attended Los Angeles Junior College, and spent a year at the University of California School of Mines before leaving in October 1917 to enlist in the Signal Corps Reserve as a flying cadet. Doolittle trained at the University of California School of Military Aeronautics at Rockwell Field, California, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Signal Corps' Aviation Section on March 11 1918.

During World War I he was not a member of the Lafayette Escadrille as some historians write. A hapless namesake who served briefly in the famous Lafayette Escadrille suffered several mishaps and left the service. Instead, Doolittle stayed in the United States as a flight instructor. He performed his war service at Camp Dick, Texas, Wright Field, Ohio, Gerstner Field, Louisiana, Rockwell Field, California, Kelly Field, Texas, and Eagle Pass, Texas.

Doolittle's service at Rockwell Field consisted of instructor duty as Flight Leader and Gunnery Instructor. At Kelly Field, Doolittle served with the 104th Aero Squadron and the 90th Aero Squadron, and it was with the latter unit that he performed line duty at Eagle Pass. This duty consisted of participating in the Border Patrol that had started prior to the Mexican Punitive Expedition of 1916, and which was turned over to the Department of the Treasury in 1921.

Qualifying for retention at the start of the Reduction In Force at the end of the declared War Emergency, 2nd Lieutenant Doolittle received a Regular Army commission, and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on July 1 1920. Subsequent to this, Doolittle attended the Air Service Mechanical School at Kelly Field and the Aeronautical Engineering Course at McCook Field, Ohio.

Doolittle was one of the most famous pilots during the inter-war period. In September 1922, Doolittle made the first of many pioneering flights. He flew a DeHavilland DH-4 - which was equipped with pioneering navigational instruments - in the first cross-country flight, from Pablo Beach, Florida, to San Diego, California, in 21 Hours and 19 Minutes, making only one refueling stop at Kelly Field. The US Army gave him a Distinguished Flying Cross for this historic feat. Following this, Doolittle was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree by the University of California, even though he had never finished his studies after leaving the university to enlist during World War I.

In July 1923, after serving as a test pilot and aeronautical engineer at McCook Field, Doolittle entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In March 1924, Doolittle conducted aircraft acceleration tests at McCook Field, which became the basis of his Master's thesis and led to his second Distinguished Flying Cross. He received his Master's Degree in June 1924. Since the Army had given him two years to get his degree, and he had done it in only one, he immediately started working on his Doctorate of Science in Aeronautics, which he received in June 1925.

Following graduation, Doolittle attended special training in flying high-speed seaplanes at the Anacostia Naval Air Station in Washington, DC. During this period, he served with the Naval Test Board at Mitchell Field, NY, and was a familiar figure in air speed record attempts in the New York area. He won the Schneider Cup race in a Curtiss R3C in 1925, with an average speed of 232 MPH. Doolittle was awarded the Mackay Trophy in 1926 for this feat.

In April 1926, Doolittle was given a leave of absence to go to South America to perform demonstration flights. In Chile, he broke both ankles, but put his Curtiss P-1 through stirring aerial maneuvers with his ankles in casts. He returned to the United States, and was confined to Walter Reed Army Hospital for his injuries until April 1927. Discharged from the hospital, Doolittle was assigned to McCook Field for experimental work, with Additional Duty as an Instructor Pilot to the 385th Bomb Squadron of the Air Corps Reserve. During this time he was the first to perform an outside loop.

His most important contribution to aeronautical technology was the development of instrument flying. He was the first pilot to take-off, fly, and land an airplane using instruments alone, without a view outside the cockpit. Returning to Mitchell Field in September 1928, he assisted in the development of fog flying equipment. He helped develop the now almost universally used artificial horizon and directional gyroscope and made the first flight completely by instruments. He attracted wide newspaper attention with this feat of "blind" flying and later received the Harmon Trophy for conducting the experiments. These accomplishments through 1929 enabled practical all-weather airline operations. Doolittle helped influence Shell Oil to produce the first quantities of 100 octane aviation gasoline. High octane fuel was crucial to the high-performance planes that were developed in the late 1930s.

In January 1930 he was adviser for the Army on the building of the Floyd Bennett Field in New York City. Doolittle resigned his regular commission Feb. 15, 1930 and was commissioned a major in the Specialist Reserve Corps a month later, being named manager of the Aviation Department of the Shell Oil Company, in which capacity he conducted numerous aviation tests. He also went on active duty with the Army frequently to conduct tests.

In 1931, Doolittle won the Bendix Trophy Race from Burbank, California, to Cleveland, Ohio, in a Laird Super Stallion Biplane.

In 1932, Doolittle set the world's high speed record for land planes, and took the Thompson Trophy Race at Cleveland in the notorious Gee Bee R-1 racer with a speed averaging 252 miles per hour.

In April 1934 Doolittle became a member of the Army Board to study Air Corps organization and a year later was transferred to the Air Corps Reserve. In 1940 he became president of the Institute of Aeronautical Science. He went back on active duty July 1, 1940 as a major and assistant district supervisor of the Central Air Corps Procurement District at Indianapolis, Indiana, and Detroit, Michigan, where he worked with large auto manufacturers on the conversion of their plants for production of planes. The following August he went to England as a member of a special mission and brought back information about other countries' air forces and military buildups.

He was promoted to lieutenant colonel Jan 2, 1942 and went to Headquarters Army Air Force to plan the first aerial raid on the Japanese homeland. He volunteered and received Gen. H.H. Arnold's approval to lead the attack of 16 B-25 medium bombers from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, with targets in Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, and Nagoya. The daring one-way mission on April 18, 1942 electrified the world and gave America's war hopes a terrific lift. As did the others who participated in the mission, Doolittle had to bail out, but fortunately landed in a rice paddy in China near Chu Chow. Some of the other flyers lost their lives on the mission.

Doolittle received the Medal of Honor, presented to him by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House, for planning and leading this successful operation. His citation reads: "For conspicuous leadership above and beyond the call of duty, involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life. With the apparent certainty of being forced to land in enemy territory or to perish at sea, Lt. Col. Doolittle personally led a squadron of Army bombers, manned by volunteer crews, in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland."

The Doolittle Raid is viewed by historians as a major public-relations victory for the United States. Although the amount of damage done to Japanese war industry was minor and quickly fixed, the raid showed the Japanese their homeland was not invulnerable, and forced them to withdraw several frontline fighter units for homeland defense. More significantly, Japanese commanders considered the raid deeply embarrassing, and their attempt to close the perceived gap in their Pacific defense perimeter led directly to the decisive American victory during the Battle of Midway.

Doolittle served as a flight instructor.
Doolittle served as a flight instructor.

In July 1942, as a Brigadier General - he had been advanced two grades the day after the Tokyo attack - Doolittle was assigned to the 8th Air Force and in September became commanding general of the 12th Air Force in North Africa. He was promoted to major general in November and in March 1943 became commanding general of the Northwest African Strategic Air Forces, a unified command of US Army Air Force and Royal Air Force units.

He took command of the 15th Air Force in the Mediterranean Theater in November and from January 1944 to September 1945 he commanded the 8th Air Force in Europe and the Pacific, until war's end, as a Lieutenant General, the promotion date being March 13, 1944. On May 10, 1946 he reverted to inactive reserve status and returned to Shell Oil as a vice president and later a director.

In March 1951 he was appointed a special assistant to the Air Force chief of staff, serving as a civilian in scientific matters which led to Air Force ballistic missile and space programs.

He retired from Air Force duty Feb. 28, 1959 but continued to serve his country as chairman of the board of Space Technology Laboratories. He also was the first president of the Air Force Association, in 1947, assisting its organization.

On April 4, 1985, the U.S. Congress advanced him to full general on the Air Force retired list. In a later ceremony, President Ronald Reagan and Senator Barry Goldwater pinned on his four-star insignia, making him the first person in U.S. Air Force Reserve history to wear four stars.

In addition to the Congressional Medal of Honor, during his career Doolittle also received two Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Star, four Air Medals, and decorations from Great Britain, France, Belgium, Poland, China and Ecuador.

Doolittle died in California and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.


External links

fr:James H. Doolittle ja:ジミー・ドーリットル pl:Jimmy Doolittle pt:James Harold Doolittle


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