The doolittle raid

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During the first months after the devastating attack Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, the US watched Japan taking over South East Asia and could not do anything about it. The US began to build an unstoppable military force, but until it became operational, something was desperately needed to boost morale, to demonstrate to enemies and allies alike that the US is striking back.

The best and most efficient way to do this was to strike Japan by air. Several proposals to attack Japan itself by air were rejected. The US lost its air bases in the Philippines, and sending the few remaining aircraft carriers to within strike range from Japan was much too risky. However, a young Navy officer suggested attacking Japan with medium bombers which would take-off from an aircraft carrier. It was a daring idea, perhaps impossible, so Admiral King asked his air operations advisor to study the possibilities. After five days of careful calculations, the Admiral received a 30-page report, hand-written for secrecy. After considering various factors such as range, winds, weight, armament, fuel, and route, it was concluded that the mission could possibly succeed but the bombers will not be able to return to the aircraft carrier. Instead they will have to land somewhere in Asia.

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Since medium bombers were in the army Air Force, the project was then passed to General Henry Arnold who appointed Lt. Colonel James H. Doolittle as the mission commander. Doolittle was the right person for this extraordinary and technically difficult mission. At age 45, Doolittle was not just an excellent and highly experienced pilot. 

The 16 bombers chosen had to be specially modified to travel such a long journey and as much space as possible had to be used up as fuel space. The bombers had around double the amount of fuel that normal bombers would have. 16 people volunteered ...

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