Sixty-five years ago. . .

. . . Guts, determination, innovation & courage were defined
(and well before Joint was “cool”)
(Courtesy Mary R. over at USNI’s blogGeneral Doolittle describes the Tokyo raid)

Conceived in the dark aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the raid had its genesis in the idea of CAPT Frank Lowe, USN who predicted that Army twin-engine bombers could be launched form a carrier under the right conditions. Planned by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, USA and executed by 16 modified B-25B’s of the 34th BS, 17th BG flying from the deck of the USS Hornet (CV 8) – 650 nm from Tokyo, history was made and an enemy left shocked. The raid took place after only two months of planning and special training with 16 all volunteer crews. More on the raid itself here, here and here.

North American B-25B Mitchell

The B-25 originated from an Army Air Corps competition that was won by Martin with their B-26 design. The contest was a novel one in that the Army would order the winning design straight into production, by-passing the prototype phase. Despite having garnered almost double North American’s score, Martin was adamant that they were not going to be able to produce the B-26 in the numbers the Army Air Corps wanted – so they awarded North American with the remainder of the contract. The B-26 was fast, rugged and could carry a significant bomb load – outstripping he B-25 in each category. It’s airframe was designed and constructed such that the ability to take punishment was legendary and second only to the B-17. Yet because of its high wing loading, the B-26 was also notable for its fast landing speeds and long takeoff requirements. The B-25, on the other hand, reached production sooner, also demonstrated a capable bomb carriage capability and, for the purposes of this mission, had take-off requirements that suited it for the carrier.

Still, when all was said and done, these were (relatively speaking) big aricraft on a small flight deck. Carriers wouldn’t see the likes of this until after the war with the advent of the specially modified P2Vs for the nuclear mission – and then those were limited to the much larger decks of the Midway-class carrier.

TECHNICAL NOTES:
Armament: Six .50-cal. machine guns; 3,000 lbs. of bombs
Engine: Two Wright R-2600s of 1,700 hp each
Maximum speed: 328 mph
Cruising speed: 233 mph
Range: 2,500 miles (with auxiliary tanks)
Ceiling: 21,200 ft.
Span: 67 ft. 6 in.
Length: 53 ft.
Height: 16 ft. 9 in.
Weight: 29,300 lbs. maximum
Cost: $109,670 (1943)

Post Script:

Some few years ago (OK, 27 years) I was standing in line at a bank in the main building of the Naval Postgrad School in Monterey, quite engrossed in some transaction I had to make. Standing in front of me was a elderly gentleman who also was quietly waiting his turn at the busy counter. As he approached, the teller exclaimed with considerable joy and surprise “Why General Doolittle! What a pleasure to see you sir – we see so little of you lately it seems!” Needless to say, I jerked my head up so fast I swear I’d broke my neck. Still, it’s not every day you got to meet a living legend and a very gracious and humble one at that…

- SJS

Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors

3 Comments

  1. Bill the Shoe

    A now-deceased friend who flew B-25s in Europe remarked that the B-25 guys called the B-26 the Flying *****, because its wings were so small that it had no visible means of support.

  2. virgil xenophon

    I think it not insignificant that the “outside-the-box” thinking responsible for the concept came out of the submarine service–by someone with no skin-in-the-game/axe-to-grind, so to speak. I’ve always said (in several places) that Navy types seem to proffer novel problem-solving approaches more than the other branches–mainly, I feel, due to the relative isolation and operational independence which Navy officers have–especially on the graveyard watch or under water–lots of time to think and ponder…

  3. SoCal Pir8

    Not to change the subject but I had the exact same experience with ADM Stockdale at medical at NAS North Island. I was starstruck being in the same room with him.

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