Doolittle Raid - Origins

Origins

The raid had its start in a desire by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, expressed to Joint Chiefs of Staff in a meeting at the White House on 21 December 1941, that Japan be bombed as soon as possible to boost public morale after the disaster at Pearl Harbor.

The concept for the attack came from Navy Captain Francis Low, Assistant Chief of Staff for anti-submarine warfare, who reported to Admiral Ernest J. King on 10 January 1942 that he thought that twin-engine Army bombers could be launched from an aircraft carrier after observing several at a naval airfield in Norfolk, Virginia, where the runway was painted with the outline of a carrier deck for landing practice. It was subsequently planned and led by Doolittle, a famous civilian aviator and aeronautical engineer before the war.

Requirements for the aircraft for a cruising range of 2,400 nautical miles (4,400 km) with a 2,000-pound (910 kg) bomb load resulted in the selection of the B-25B Mitchell to carry out the mission. The Martin B-26 Marauder, Douglas B-18 Bolo and Douglas B-23 Dragon were also considered, but the B-26 had questionable takeoff characteristics from a carrier deck and the B-23's wingspan was nearly 50% greater than the B-25's, reducing the number that could be taken aboard a carrier and posing risks to the ship's island (superstructure). The B-18, one of the final two types considered by Doolittle, was rejected for the same reason.

The B-25 had yet to be tested in combat, but subsequent tests with B-25s indicated they could fulfill the mission's requirements. Doolittle's first report on the plan suggested that the bombers might land in Vladivostok, shortening the flight by 600 nautical miles (1,000 km) on the basis of turning over the B-25s as Lend-Lease. Negotiations with the Soviet Union (which had signed a neutrality pact with Japan in April 1941) for permission, however, were fruitless.

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