Submitted by: Karen Evans

Category: Stories

On April 18, 1942, fueled by the need for action in the devastating aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. commenced a daring and dangerous air raid over Tokyo. Detected by the Japanese in the hours prior to the planned raid and further out to sea than dictated, immediate action would be required of the airmen. Led by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, 16 B-25 bomber planes were swiftly launched from the carrier deck of the USS Hornet. Their targets were industrial and military installations in Japan with subsequent escape to landing destinations in China. With fuel consumption a major concern, as well as threat of anti-aircraft fire and enemy interception, it was a risky endeavor for safe passage of these men.

Beyond the targeted bombing, the mission would prove a success in the lesson of vulnerability which took a toll on Imperial Japan and its military strategy. The operation by the Tokyo Raiders, which greatly boosted American and allied morale, would generate strategic benefits for the U.S. in the Battle of Midway and disaster for the Japanese.

The raid would extract a sacrifice in return. Eighty brave souls, recruited from the 17th Bomb Group, had volunteered for a secret and hazardous objective. Although most would survive, one would lose his life in parachuting over China and two by drowning off the China coast. Three of eight airmen, captured by the Japanese, would die by execution. A fourth would perish in a Japanese prison. The rest would suffer harsh and extreme confinement. Essentially all 16 bombers inevitably would be lost. Of the 15 reaching China, 11 were destroyed during bail-outs and 1 crash-landing, while 3 were ditched at sea. The remaining, seriously low on fuel, would be confiscated upon landing in Russia and the crew incarcerated.

The Tokyo Raiders hailed from 35 states and only four surviving members remain today.

On April 16, 2012, the 70th Anniversary of the WWII bomber mission, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a Resolution honoring the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. Earlier this year, the Senate and House introduced legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal for their extraordinary efforts and service during WWII.

Senate Bill S. 381, authored and championed by Sen. Brown, was passed on November 19, 2013 with 78 bipartisan cosponsors and nine more than needed for consideration by the full Senate.

The legislative effort now resides in the House for consideration of its own bill, H.R. 1209, introduced and sponsored by Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX). At the present time, there are 265 bipartisan cosponsors and House Financial Services Chair, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), will determine passage beyond the current committee stage.

For all who value our veterans and their remarkable contributions to military history, our voices could help ensure the Congressional Gold Medal for these heroic men. Surviving members could then accept the earned accolade in honor of the eighty who willingly stepped forward for their country when action was desperately needed. To that effort, consider contacting your Representative to request and urge them to co-sponsor and pass H.R. 1209.

“A nation reveals itself not only in the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”
- John F. Kennedy

Read the personal experience of one WWII Tokyo Raider - Lt. Edgar McElroy

About the author:

An advocate for those who honor and pay tribute to military service. Former Director of Administration for the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, Project Coordinator for Agon Arts & Entertainment / Laurel Publishing, and independent Political Researcher published by The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Money Magazine, Worth Magazine, Sarah McClendon Washington News Service, United We Stand America, Texas Business and Texas Watch.

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