Seventy-five years ago 80 very brave Americans, led by Army Air Corps Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, brought the nation a badly needed morale boost. The War in the Pacific was going badly as defeat followed defeat. Navy Captain Francis Low hit upon a plan to send a message, not only to the American public, but also to Japan, that the United States was not beaten and that it would strike back and prevail.
16 Mitchell B-25B bombers were placed on the carrier USS Hornet. In great secrecy the Hornet and its escorts steamed to within 650 nautical miles of Japan when the force was discovered by a Japanese picket boat which was sunk by gunfire from the USS Nashville. Fearing discovery the Doolittle force launched immediately, some 10 hours earlier than planned, and 170 nautical miles further from Japan.
The raiders reached the Japanese Home Islands at around noon. They had split up into groups ranging from two to four planes and struck targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Nagoya, Kobe and Osaka. The raiders then planned to fly their planes into Nationalist controlled China and make their way back to the US. Miraculously 69 of the raiders did just that. Three of the raiders died and eight were captured.
Of the captured raiders, three were executed by the Japanese on October 15, 1942 following a show trial.
The remaining five POWs were placed on starvation rations, with one of them dying prior to liberation by the Allied forces at the end of the War. Jacob DeShazer, one of the POWs, came back to Japan as a missionary in 1948 and worked there for 30 years spreading the Gospel.