Doolittle Raid Spirit Needs Revived In Washington

April 18, 2012

A Doolittle B-25 over the USS Hornet

Around noon, 70 years ago today, residents in the outskirts of Tokyo heard the powerful drone of aircraft engines and looked up to see B-25 Mitchell bombers skimming their roof tops. Minutes later they heard the explosions and saw the smoke rising skyward as the Mitchell’s opened their bomb bay doors and delivered their 2000 pounds of cargo.

And thus began America’s response to the murderous Japanese attack on Peal Harbor four months earlier.

While the popularly known “The Doolittle Raid”, may have been tactically insignificant and inflicted minimal damage, its strategic impact was much more measurable and had far reaching effects on both sides of the Pacific.

The boost to American morale was immediate and profound.

Since the infamy of December 7th, Americans had heard nothing but defeat coming from their radios. From the British retreat throughout the Indian Ocean and the surrender of Singapore to Wake Island and the recent fall of the Philippines and Bataan no American of the time could be blamed for having doubts about the Allies ability to stop the Japanese onslaught.

The Doolittle Raid brought more than just a speck of good news in a sea of bad, it brought hope. After all, if we could bomb the Japanese home islands by launching land based bombers from carriers, we could no anything.

The effect upon the Japanese could not have been more different. Aside from the initial shock factor and psychological effect, the raid changed the course of the war.

Embarrassed by putting the Emperor in danger and in need of restoring the confidence of the populace, the raid forced the Japanese Imperial High Command to recall Admiral Nagumo’s carrier task force from its engagement with British forces in the Indian Ocean in order to protect the home islands.

It also put an end to Nagano’s plan to isolate Australia and set in motion Admiral Yamamoto’s plan to once and for all neutralize the American carriers that he had warned about since before Pearl Harbor.

Less than two months later Yamamoto’s combined fleet would engage the American navy at the Battle of Midway and by nightfall on June 6th 1942, the “rising sun” of the Empire of Japan would rise no more.

After losing four carriers and over 3,000 men and some of his best pilots, Yamamoto was forced to retreat and the Imperial Japanese Navy would never again regain the offensive.

Those who see the Doolittle Raid as but only a morale booster would do well to remember that without Doolittle’s Raid there would have been no “Battle of Midway” and without Midway no crippling Japanese defeat.

While the war would slog on for another three plus years, we remember today that the beginning of its end occurred with just sixteen planes and the volunteer heroes who manned them those seven decades ago.

But along with paying tribute to the mission and its participants we also need to reflect upon a secondary aspect of the raid: the environment that brought forth the plan in the first place.

December 7th, 1941 had forever capsized the naval warfare conventional wisdom of the time and America was desperate.

So desperate was the time that the idea of launching land based bombers from a carrier deck went from a career stalling, laugh out loud scheme pre-Pearl Harbor to a respected “great thinking, can do” reception just a month later that forever changed the course of human history.

As we now sit upon our mountain of debt and see nothing but deficits year after year can there be any doubt that we are today in yet another “desperate” situation?

We have a Senate that has not produced a budget for now over 1,000 days, a President who has seen his last two presentations get ZERO aye votes (the Senate last year, the House this year) and yet we’re told by both President Obama and the leader of that Senate, Harry Reid, that they are not the problem.

We have a President who has presided over an unprecedented accumulation of debt and federal spending that is a known fact to be unsustainable, but who has yet to put forth any proposal of substance to correct course.

We have entitlement spending on course to take us over a financial cliff, a federal government on course to eviscerate our individual liberties, and a bureaucracy regulating us into economic oblivion, all facilitated and fast tracked by one Barack Obama, but yet he wants us to believe that it’s Mitt Romney who’s “out of touch”.

On this 70th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid there are but two things certain:

  1. Without the willingness to ignore conventional wisdom and the fortitude to see the raid through, WWII would have a vastly different narrative today.
  2. If we continue to follow the disastrous pre-Pearl Harbor conventional wisdom parallel of Barack Obama the America that launched those bombers 70 years past will be no longer 70 years hence.

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