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Dolittle Raider dies
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, October 09, 2007

It was probably one of the most audacious and heroic raids ever made. It had little military effect, but the psychological effect on morale was incredible.
Nolan Herndon, a member of the famed Doolittle Raiders who bombed Japan in 1942, has died. He was 88.

Herndon died Sunday of pneumonia, Edgefield Mercantile Funeral Home director David Burnett told The Associated Press on Monday.
My parents, who both served in WWII, said this raid did more to lift the spirits of Americans than anything you can imagine.

Those who participated in it were all volunteers. After all the gloom and doom in the Pacific with the loss of the Philippines and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the raid was mostly a propaganda strike designed to lift the morale of Americans and let the Japanese know what they'd tangled with.
The Raid was a total secret to all involved and the members of the raid were chosen by volunteering for a "dangerous secret mission". The members did not know the target destination until the planes were loaded on the ship and the raid was underway. This was to prevent any "leakage" of information about the raid. 16 B-25 twin engine bombers were to take off from the deck of the Aircraft Carrier USS Hornet and bomb Japan mainland. This would be the first attack on Japan mainland of WW2. Because the airplanes were too large to be taken below deck on the aircraft carrier they had to be stored at the end of the runway on top. As a result the runway was very short, especially for the first plane in line, and special training was required to teach the pilots to be able to take off in such a short distance with a full payload.
The Raiders knew it was a one-way trip. Their total time over Tokyo would be about 30 seconds. Their only hope was to continue on and hopefully land in China - that is if they had enough fuel to do so. Even then, chances were they'd be captured by the Japanese.
The appearance of 16 B-25s over Japan on April 18, 1942, lifted the gloom that had descended upon America and her Pacific allies. The bomb damage that resulted was not great, compared with that inflicted later in the war, but the raid had some far-reaching effects. The Japanese were forced to retain fighter units for the defense of the home islands which had been intended for the Solomons, and they felt compelled to expand their Pacific perimeter beyond the area where it could be defended adequately. The full impact of the raid on the minds of the Japanese military leaders and its consequent influence on the course of the war in the Pacific were not realized until long after that conflict.

For American and her allies the raid was a badly needed morale booster. Besides being the first offensive air action undertaken against the Japanese home islands, the Tokyo raid accomplished some other "firsts" that augured well for the future. It was the first war action in which the United States Army Air Force and the United States Navy teamed up in a full-scale operation against the enemy. The Doolittle Raiders were the first and last to fly land-based bombers from a carrier deck on a combat mission and first to use new cruise control techniques in attacking a distant target.
80 volunteer flew off the deck of the USS Hornet. One was killed on bail out after the bombing mission. 2 drown when their aircraft crashed in the water off the China coast. 8 were captured. 3 of them were executed by the Japanese. 1 died of beri-beri while in captivity. 4 survived 40 months of captivity by the Japanese. The rest successfully eluded capture and were returned to the US (where 13 more died later during WWII).

Incredible men doing incredible things. It is important to note the passing of such men as Nolan Herndon. What he and the others did was simply incredible and served to validate the concerns Adm. Yamamoto had supposedly expressed after Pearl Harbor:

"I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

The Dolittle Raid was Japan's first indication of how resolved the "sleeping giant" really was.

RIP Mr. Herndon and thank you for your bravery and service.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

I’d post a PoMo screed on this, you know innocent civilians, terror, racism, and the like but it would be wrong...

I love Doolittle’s bio, I Could Never be So Lucky Again, that really sums up his life and career, though it wasn’t really luck at all.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I Could Never be So Lucky Again
Fortune favors the bold
Written By: jows
URL: http://
Audacious and heroic indeed. I couldn’t agree more. I would say though that they were ordinary men doing incredible things. That’s that makes them heroic.
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
Actually, in terms of the fact that it distracted the Japanese away from their South Asian strategy (they had destroyed the British Asian fleet’s major elements and driven the rest to E. Africa) in favor of going to Midway and putting their head into Nimitz and Spruance’s trap, I’d say that it DID have military value.

"I love Doolittle’s bio, I Could Never be So Lucky Again, that really sums up his life and career, though it wasn’t really luck at all."

"Luck is the residue of design."-Branch Rickey

Written By: E. Brown

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