The Need For Action: Doolittle’s Daring Air Raid On Japan

The historian Edward Gibbon believed that man held two consuming propensities: the love of pleasure, and the love of action. The love of pleasure should be refined, and tempered, by the duties of a responsible life and the civilizing machinery of a progressive education. The love of action, he believed, was much stronger, and “when it is guided by the sense of propriety and benevolence…becomes the parent of every virtue; and, if those virtues are accompanied with equal abilities, a family, a state, or an empire may be indebted for their safety and prosperity to the undaunted courage of a single man.”[1]

This same theme—that of the redeeming power of action—was intoned with earnestness by Theodore Roosevelt, who advocated a “strenuous life” as a way to keep one’s personal demons in check.

Get action!, he would call out, in his bombastic, bespectacled Teddy Roosevelt way. One could hardly craft a better motto than this, I think, for a signet ring.

Experience bears out this view. Adolf Von Schell, in his classic treatise Battle Leadership, took note of the necessity of action as an antidote to depression and fear:

When a soldier lies under hostile fire and waits, he feels unable to protect himself; he has time; he thinks, he only waits for the shot that will hit him. He feels a certain inferiority to the enemy.  He feels that he is alone and deserted…It is different during the attack. Here the soldier himself acts; he has something to do; he moves forward; he fires; he assaults and dictates the action of the enemy…He believes he can do everything by himself…He has the feeling that his action depends on his own will, and in consequence he can act in accordance with that will.[2]

Prolonged periods of supine inaction promote defeatism, demoralization, and an enervating paralysis. In conditions of adversity, in times of conflict, it thus becomes critical to take and retain the initiative through the performance of positive action. One wartime example of the implementation of this psychological principle is Doolittle’s air raid on Japan in April 1942.


One of Doolittle’s bombers coming in low over Japan

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Japanese Empire’s military forces struck all over East Asia. Malaya and Singapore fell in February 1941. Further inroads were made into Chinese territory, which had been under occupation since the 1930s; Australia itself seemed on the edge of invasion. American forces had been routed in the Philippines, and Japanese naval forces were moving boldly into the central Pacific. No one seemed able to stop them. For the first time in living memory, the British and Americans were getting badly beaten by a foreign power. Japan had outclassed the Allies in nearly every category that mattered, and it seemed as if it were only a matter of time before all East Asia came under the control of the Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Some dared to think otherwise. In the midst of this low point, Navy Captain Francis Low and Army Lt.Col. James Doolittle thought that there might be a way to raid the Japanese home islands by air. The idea was that the enemy, which believed itself protected and invulnerable, should be made to acknowledge the reality of war. It was a way of saying:

You might know how to get us, but we know how to reach out and touch you. We’re still here, and we’re not going anywhere. If it’s war you want, then by God, you bastards, you will have it. 

This was the subliminal message of the raid. It would fulfill President Franklin Roosevelt’s desire to hit back at the enemy at the earliest possible opportunity. Something had to be done, the President implored, to give the public a morale boost. Action needed to be taken. But it was not as easy as it might appear. The bombing aircraft of the time lacked a true long-distance capability, and there were no American bases anywhere near a reasonable striking distance from Japan. Yet, as often happens amid the exigencies of desperation, ingenuity and initiative found a way to thread a camel through the eye of a needle.

L1/Japan, Tokyo Raid/1942/pho 53

A captured airman is led out for execution

After careful consideration, Low and Doolittle selected the B-25B Mitchell bomber to carry out the raid on Japan. No other aircraft had the combination of cruising range, bomb capacity, and maneuverability that would prove suitable for the job. The hazards were daunting. It would be a one-way mission only, as the planes lacked the fuel capacity to return. The bombers would have to fly with no fighter support, and would thus be extremely vulnerable on the approach.

No one had ever flown B-25s off of a carrier before, and it was uncertain whether it could even be done. The aircraft would be lightly armed, so as to enable a greater capacity of bombs and fuel, and would have to fly in low, nearly skimming the waves, so as to avoid detection. It was a daring, hazardous mission, and Doolittle wanted volunteers only. And he got them.

Doolittle eventually assembled his little fleet of specially-modified B-25s and proceeded with his escort ships across the Pacific in strict radio silence. But then, as so often happens in war, things began to happen that necessitated a change in the original plan. The task force was spotted about 650 nautical miles east of Japan by a Japanese patrol boat, which passed on the information to its headquarters. Secrecy had been compromised.  Doolittle made the decision to launch the attack immediately, rather than wait until he was within his ideal striking distance. Thus, while still 170 miles from his original launch point, he gave the order to release the bombers. On his command, 16 B-25s lumbered off the carrier decks and slowly made their way to their targets.

After about six hours of perilous flying, the bombers began to appear in the skies above Tokyo. Residents were incredulous. The planes hit industrial targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokuska, Nagoya, and Kobe. Not a single aircraft was shot down; near total surprise had been achieved. The aviators’ luck held even after delivering their payloads, as a tail wind helped carry them to China.

Most of the airmen ditched their aircraft or bailed out in the Chinese countryside. One crew landed in the Soviet Union, where they were immediately taken into custody by the Russians (Stalin at the time had no wish to anger Tokyo). The crews had each flown an average distance of 2250 nautical miles; it was the longest and most audacious B-25 mission in history.


What comes around, goes around:  bomb damage in the aftermath

Although the raid had negligible impact on Japan’s industrial capabilities, that was never the intended goal. The goal was to demonstrate to a demoralized public that the Americans could reach out and touch the Japanese in ways that they had never expected possible. Their reaction was one of predictable fury:  intensive sweeps were undertaken by the Imperial Army in China to find the bailed-out pilots; three captured American airmen were put through a “trial” and shot. The raid played some role in the Japanese decision to attack Midway Island, so as to prevent any future air attacks on the home islands. And Midway proved to be the turning of the tide in the Pacific War.

Aftermath of the Doolittle Raid

A crash-landed plane in China

Doolittle himself survived the war, along with most of his comrades. An aggressive, hard-driving man, he set high standards for himself and his men. After crash landing in China, he at first thought the raid had been a failure, and expected to be reprimanded on his return. Instead, there was an outpouring of joy, and he was decorated for his leadership of the operation.

We cannot know the ultimate ends of our actions, and must grope forward, often with the assurance and faith of the sleepwalker. When one is at the lowest point in his fortunes, when all seems lost, and when the knocking of Despair at our door resounds audibly in our ears:  this is the time to rouse oneself from the torpor of inaction, to finger the pommels of our daggers, and ready them for some decisive action. Hit the bastards hard, and keep hitting them. Teddy Roosevelt would tolerate nothing less.

Action, action, and more action. There is a crystalline purity in its purpose, and an ineluctable simplicity in its dialectic. Let this be our creed.

Read More: The Apology That Will Never Be Delivered

[1] Bury, J.B. (ed.) of Gibbon, Edward, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  London: Methuen & Co., vol. II., p. 37 (1974).

[2] Von Schell, A., Battle Leadership, Quantico: Marine Corps Association, p. 14 (1999).

95 thoughts on “The Need For Action: Doolittle’s Daring Air Raid On Japan”

  1. Good article. I think most people forget that the Doolittle raid was basically a suicide mission, flown by guys with balls the size of the 500 pounders they dropped, carried out for the express purpose of sending the message – “we’re coming for you, motherfuckers.”

      1. What are your favourite war memoirs besides Storm of Steel? Have you read Guy Sajers The Forgotten Soldier?

        1. Yeah, I read Guy Sajer’s book a long time ago when I was on active duty in Okinawa. Kind of depressing. “I was hungry, I was tired, I fought the Russians…” The same story for 350 pages.
          There are many great war memoirs out there. The ones that resonate for me personally are these:
          1. Caesar’s “Gallic War”. You get inside the mind of a master of diplomacy, warfare, and tactics. Written in the purest, clearest language. It’s worth learning Latin just to feel Caesar speak to you personally.
          2. James Webb’s “Fields of Fire”. A novel, but based loosely on Webb’s experiences in Vietnam. This one resonated personally for me for a number of reasons.
          3. Soldat, by Siegfried Knappe. Great account of WWII on the Eastern Front by a German officer. Even better is his account of 7 years of captivity in Russian gulags. An incredible story of survival.

        2. Thanks for the recommendations!
          The Forgotten Soldier is still my personal favourite, as Sajer (who was basically a scared kid way out of his depth) is more relatable than the heroic and inhumanly brave Jünger.

        3. W/R/T the Pacific War, you may enjoy William Manchester’s books “American Caesar” about MacArthur, and “Goodbye, Darkness”, which is Manchester’s memoir of his time as a marine in the Pacific.
          À bientôt,

        4. For modern memoirs, I really enjoyed Nate Fick’s One Bullet Away; the Making of a Marine Officer. Nate Fick was the platoon leader of the platoon featured in Generation Kill (great book and mini-series).

        5. Might I also recommend David Hackworth’s book “About Face” on these lines? He was the most decorated US Army officer of the 20th century (Audie Murphy outstrips him only because he wasn’t commissioned if I remember right) and his combat experiences ran right through from the end of World War 2 right through to Vietnam. Some people have said if you extracted big chunks of his book they’d make an excellent infantry instruction manual, and he was always brutally honest about what he thought the US Army was doing wrong.

        6. Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” and “If I Die in a Combat Zone…” also

        7. “The Things They Carried” is great.
          Has anyone read any books on the sinking of the USS Indianapolis? men in the water, water on fire, Japs shooting at them while sharks below were picking them off…the story doesnt even sound real.

    1. Good comment. Yep, its purpose was to inform Tojo and the emperor that the game being played was, in fact, NOT solitaire.

  2. “Time, action itself, and the aid of heaven usually break a thousand paths and uncover a thousand unexpected solutions.” – Louis XIV

  3. This is a good story that shows how there’s more to war than purely military objectives, that psychology and morale are also a significant part of it.
    I’d also like to say that I’ve bought and just finished reading your book Quintus, it was a joy to read.

  4. Very nice tie in to the new strategy of going full bore after the SJW’s and exposing them for their lies and hypocrisy. Stop just defending and attack. There were many commanders that did not agree with the Tokyo mission. Just like the last piece on attacking SJW where they work. live. and feel protected, I noticed a lot of men arguing against such tactics. Action, and more action with full force is what manophere needs now. Attack the lying SJW where they feel the most secure. Go after their jobs, advertisers, friends. Make their lives as uncomfortable as they have made their targets. Research every aspect of their lives, keep it legal, but beyond that hit them hard. Nice piece. In Action.

    1. You won’t even have to make it “as uncomfortable,” since they fold immediately under pressure. I called a girl I knew from way back last night; she drives me nuts, now, but she’s been like a sister since I was 12, so I called her while she’s in town for the holidays. She’s gone full SJW at this point, and she started blathering on about police brutality and racism. I believe the police are a bit out of control these days, so I tolerated it for a bit, but then she just couldn’t let go of it and started playing the race angle, defending the Ferguson riots, etc. All I said was: “I’m going to have to call bullshit on you; your sentiments are far more racist, because they give the impression that black people are not capable of being morally responsible for their actions.” *Immediately* she said, “Well, I’m going to bed; I was in bed when you called me and I just don’t need this. I have a nerve condition and I’ll be up shaking all night if I don’t end this conversation right here.”
      Okay. I’m sure she’ll be real useful if things ever come to a fight.

  5. Related to the subject matter of this article, I note, from my observation and understanding of everyday events, many of our liberal friends have, of late, been attempting to re-write history w/r/t the atomic bombing–the better to cast the US as not only sucky and mean but “RACIST!!!” also. Thus, I have prepared the following FAQ for use as necessary:
    Atomic FAQ for the Historically Confused.
    Q1. Should there have been a “demonstration”?
    A1A. We gave them a demonstration at Hiroshima, and it took them another atomic bomb, and a huge conventional bombing operation (the largest of the Pacific War) and another week and a half to surrender.
    A1B. As it happens, that was considered. Ironically, Eddie “If You Have a Problem, I Have a Bomb For It” Teller envisioned a “demonstration bombing” over Tokyo Bay. However, the idea of a demonstration bombing was considered and rejected. The four scientists–Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Ernest O. Lawrence, and A.H. Compton–on the Scientific Panel advising the Interim Committee of the War Department reported, on June 16, 1945, “We can propose no technical demonstration likely to bring an end to the war; we see no acceptable alternative to direct military use.”
    Also, Harold Agnew, a Manhattan Project physicist who flew the Hiroshima mission, thought that Teller’s idea was nonsense. Six miles was thirty thousand feet, as high as they could fly, and it would have been difficult, even impossible, for the plane to get away in time.
    Agnew also articulated, “We also only had 2 bombs. The ability to deliver bombs 3 days apart I believe gave the impression we had lots. Whta would we have done if they told us to jump in the lake after the demonstration? Having only one bomb to use would not in my opinion [have] convinced [the Japanese] to quit.”
    Q2. Didn’t the Japanese try to surrender?
    A2. The Japanese did not accept the terms of unconditional surrender outlined at the Casablanca Conference the Pacific Allies (US, UK, ROC). That’s >2.5 years of advance notice that only unconditional surrender would be accepted. In point of fact, the Allies, had refused to accept anything other than the unconditional surrender of Germany. That should have been, at the very least, Clue #2, in Large Print. Japan’s futile attempt to negotiate terms–no occupation of the Home Island, Hirohito stays in power and we handle the war crimes trials–cost them another nuclear strike and the largest single conventional bombing attack of the war.
    Q.3 Is it false that there would have been a million American casualties in Operation Downfall? Wouldn’t the Japanese have just surrendered without a fight?
    A.3. Estimates vary, but run as high as 4 million Allied casualties, and up to 10 million Japanese casualties, depending on whether Japan would utilize civilians in defense of the home islands. In fact, the Japanese had organized the Kokumin Giyū Sentōtai, civilian volunteer defense units to resist any amphibious assault on the Home Islands.
    The American experience in the Pacific from New Guinea up to and including the Okinawa landing showed the Japanese to be fierce fighters who would continue combat operations even after all hope of victory was lost. Okinawan civilians were ordered to commit suicide and given hand grenades to kill themselves and American soldiers, who the Okinawans had been instructed were barbarians who would go on a rampage of rape and murder in Okinawa.
    Many Okinawans committed suicide, some blowing themselves up, others by throwing themselves off of cliffs, pushing the combined millitary/civilian death toll to >220,000.
    And Okinawa was just the preview.
    There is nothing to indicate that, on August 6, 1945, there was any reason to believe this would not be the American experience during an invasion of the Japanese home islands.
    In point of fact, by the time August of 1945 rolled around the Japanese had a good idea as to How Things Were Going, and that they had no realistic hope of winning the war. It was just a matter of how high the bodies were going to be piled before they quit. In spite of this, Japan had prepared Operation Ketsugō, in a effort to force the allies, through attrition, to accept an armistice.
    Q.4. Weren’t the Atomic Strikes just “revenge” for Pearl Harbor?
    A.4. President Truman’s primary obligation was to the American people. His duty was to bring the war to a successful conclusion as swiftly as possible while minimizing American (and by extension, Allied) casualties.
    Imagine, if you will, this headline: “While American Boys Die In the Bloody Invasion of Japan, President Truman Continues to Refuse to Use New “Super Bomb” That Would Cause Japan’s Immediate Surrender.”
    Q.5 Weren’t the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki just “racism”?
    A.5 It is odd that the charge of “racism” is leveled in this context, particularly in light of the humane occupation of Japan by the United States after the Japanese surrendered.
    This is particularly true in light of Japan’s treatment of subject populations in China, Korea, The Philippines and elsewhere, where an estimated 30 million (approximately 23 million ethnic Chinese) were slaughtered.
    In China, Japan implemented Sankō Sakusen, the “Three Alls” policy: Kill All, Burn All, Loot All.
    The Japanese “Unit 731” carried out experiments on prisoners, including vivisection (without anesthesia), intentional infection with plauge, gangrene and venereal disease, freezing and amputation of limbs. Once all the limbs had been amputated from an individual, leaving just the torso and head, the person was used for plague experiments.
    An estimated half a million people died as the result of Japanese experiments in biological warfare. Japan pursued a policy of deliberate famine in Vietnam and the Dutch East Indies.
    To determine the treatment of frostbite, prisoners were taken outside in freezing weather and left with exposed arms, periodically drenched with water until frozen solid. The arm was later amputated; the doctor would repeat the process on the victim’s upper arm to the shoulder. After both arms were gone, the doctors moved on to the legs until only a head and torso remained. The victim was then used for plague and pathogens experiments.
    By comparison, allegations of racism in the use of atomic weapons against an intractable foe determined not to surrender seem silly, don’t they?
    In the final analysis, the Japanese were very lucky to have been occupied by the United States rather than the USSR–otherwise, Japan might be as happy and prosperous today as, say, North Korea. Indeed, the bombings made modern Japan, as it presently exists, possible.
    Truman’s obligation was to end the war successfully and expeditiously, which is precisely what he did. His choice was both strategically and morally (in terms of minimizing casualties on both sides, plus ensuring the re-emergence of Japan as a free nation) correct, for both America and Japan. By sacrificing Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Truman saved millions of lives by avoiding the necessity of Operation Downfall.
    Don’t believe me? Here are some voices from the Imperial Japanese government who agree with me:
    “We of the peace party were assisted by the atomic bomb in our endeavor to end the war.” –Kōichi Kido.
    “[The bobmings were] a golden opportunity given by heaven for Japan to end the war.”–Hisatsune Sakomizu, chief Cabinet secretary.
    À bientôt,

    1. You should have one prepared for all the Nazi sympathizers and Russian apologists that disparage US WWII efforts here on ROK as well.

      1. I think the difference is that, minus the disparaging the US bit, the folks pushing the Russian war effort–which is little known in the West–have a legitimate point; when they go astray, it’s more on the “The USA sux and did nothing!” side of the equation. I have traveled enough among the Slavs to know that they understand and appreciate America’s role in the war, both in production, on the Atlantic Wall–and sometimes there is a vague awareness that somebody *may* have been fighting Japan.
        Indeed, the Battle of Midway is a good starting point for educating Slavs on the Pacific War, b/c they don’t have a dog in that fight really. So when I explain the heroism of the Marine pilots who rose to defend Midway–out numbered by greater than 4 to 1 by an enemy flying superior aircraft, yet able to resist with such ferocity that a second attack wave on the island was necessary. As the Japs had already changed out their equipment from bombs to torpedoes (the better to sink your carriers with, my dear) they were forced to offload the torps and re-load the bombs. The Japanese were moments away from launching a massive attack on the US flat tops, except that, at this critical moment, the flights from Enterprise and Yorktown caught the Japs in their double-switch, with their decks laid out with bombs, torps and full fuel lines. Absent Midway throwing punches at the Japanese, Enterprise and Hornet would have likely joined Yorktown at the bottom of the Pacific.
        Instead, well….as John Lee Hooker sang, it was “Boom Boom Boom Boom”.
        À bientôt,

        1. The Japanese Command did at least 3 major errors in their battles in the Pacific.
          1) How idiotic to launch an attack against Pearl Harbour when US carriers were not present. This was not good planning or flexibility.
          2) Failure to structure their fighter CAP to defend against torpedo ( low level ) and dive bomber ( high level )
          Attacks. They had the zeros airborne and they were certainly capable of defeating both waves.
          3) Leyte Gulf : the strategic sacrificial plan actually succeeded; only to have it all lost by an Admiral who organized his attack on the screeningforces in a thoughtless and time consuming manner. Even then the path to press through to hammer the invasion beaches was basically open.

        2. You need to waaaaaaay back further than Midway. You need to ask the question “why did Japan attack Pearl Harbour” and why was their attack a strategic blunder?
          You also need to tidy your room or you won’t get any pudding!

        3. The Eastern Front was probably the most brutal warfare in human history and that deserves recognition. However, much of that loss i attributable to USSR incompetence, inefficiencies, and indifference. And as you identified, the U.S. was the only power capable of taking on the Pacific theatre simultaneously to Europe. To tout casualty figures as the sole determining factor in war efforts is severely flawed, and often times very misleading.

        4. I will repeat, having traveled extensively and lived among the Slavs, I am the last person to denigrate the Russian war effort. However, as you allude to, # of bodybags on your side is NOT a metric of victory. Stalin purged his general staff to eliminate rivals and the Red Army suffered as a result.
          That said, it is the anvil that wears out the hammer and the Eastern Front demonstrated the resolve of Russian Steel.
          À bientôt,

        5. Captain Hindsight, is that you? Pearl Harbour had a large concentration of US battleships, as well as was an important forward base. The attack was not idiotic, it was a rational act in light of the information and the sum total of military science available to Japanese decision-makers.
          The relative importance of the aircraft carrier compared to the battleship was not known at the time, it was a lesson learned because of the Pacific War.

      2. I for one, do not believe in the US interpretation of the World War 2 religion either. There were no angels in that war, no good guys.

        1. I think that is applying a very liberal moral relativism of the history. The U.S., relative to other major powers in the conflict (Germany, USSR, Japan), made militarily guided decisions that I don’t think those others mentioned could justify.

        2. You may think that but it is not. A lot of people throw this word “liberal” about without defining it but the working definition seems to be “someone I disagree with”.
          Your perspective on the war seems to be “me good, them bad”. If we do it, it is good and holy, if they do it is evil. Such a perspective is in line with the Hollywood version of the war.

        3. Considering I’m a combat veteran of OIF and OEF-A (both during the surges), I am confident I am more qualified than most to reflect on the moral relativism of actions that take place in combat. I used “liberal” to mean a very loose moral relativism. I don’t think US foreign policy is without sin, but compared to Axis actions in the WWII era, I believe the US is morally superior. I’m also curious what exactly you are identifying as being major moral demerits for the US during that period? Aside from Japanese internment camps, what should the US be culpable for?

        4. I respect your service and your bravery John but I do not see how viewing crime as crime regardless of who it is committed by as moral relativism. Rather, I see this as following a consistent ethical code.
          WW2 may be seen as the “Good War” but in my view it was one of the dirtiest. Most people’s perspective of the war does come from Hollywood. Once you get away from the “purity” of the military operations (i.e. soldier vs soldier) and explore the motivations of the “shot callers” i.e. politicians and government leaders you very quickly become mired in a very murky world.
          The US, USSR and UK were involved in significant bombings of civilian populations. You would require some significant mental gymnastics to arrive at a conclusion that when we kill civilians its OK and when the Germans kill them its not.

        5. The reason I think experienced combatants are more likely to have a realistic perspective is because most understand that circumstances aren’t always clearly delineated like in a video game. Additionally, understanding that Population Resource Control is critical in military operations. Even after the fact. It’s not mental gymnastics to differentiate concentration camps, interment camps, the “Rape of Nanking”, Katyn Massacre, etc. from Dresden, Stalingrad, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, etc.
          And for what it is worth, from what I have observed, the only people benefitting from those two conflicts are politicians, defense contractors/companies, and occasionally indigenous populations. US and UK citizens have received no benefit.

        6. Lolz, like Eisenhower killing a million plus POW’s and also allowing the Russians to take Eastern Europe and impose communism?
          You’ll believe anything John. You even thought I was an SJW troll the other day ranting about “Fat Albert”. 🙂

        7. I agree with this John. I think that the perspective of a combat veteran is a very important and frankly often ignored perspective especially when it conflicts with the official story.

    2. I’ve also seen people point to our internment of our Japanese-American citizens for proof that we were racist. Of course they forget the incident at Niihau Island, which convinced civilian and military leadership that citizens with Japanese ancestry could not be trusted. Blind hatred is usullay rare – there’s almost always some reason people hate or mistrust each other.
      As for the bombing, what’s really worse, being incinerated in an instant at Hiroshima, or being incinerated over a prolonged period at Dresden?

      1. The Internment certainly did more harm than good, but it was a trip to Disneyland compared to Japanese treatment of civilian populations–see “Nanking, Rape of”. *
        À bientôt,
        *I would be remiss here if I did not suggest further reading on the subject, for those interested, in particular w/r/t John Rabe, a German businessman working for Siemens in Nanking, whose leadership in the establishment of the “Nanking Safety Zone”, saving the lives of a quarter of a million Chinese civilians and became known as “the Living Buddha of Nanking”.

        1. Or the “Allies” treatment of civilian populations. See Dresden, Tokyo, Fire bombing of…”

        2. Right, but the “Internment” is likely to get brought up to show how “RACIST!!” America was (and still is!) in the minds of the wacko left. Thus it is imperative to counter with a Japanese example.
          À bientôt,

        3. To be fair, the US was a pretty racist place during those times. I don’t think there is much argument about that.

        4. The point is never brought up for that reason, but to show that whites are always Racist/Evil/Bad. You can tell it’s not merely generational chauvinism, b/c nobody mentions the (far worse) racism of the Empire of Japan.

        5. Are you saying China is not the sick man of Asia?
          Well I try not to get into arguments as to whose race is most racist. We can stick to facts and ignore that kind of silliness.

        6. My point was relative to the liberal/SJW types whose Moral Vanity drives them to the point of self-abnegation.
          À bientôt,

      2. Fuck that. The Japanese are some of the most racist and insular people on the face of the planet, and regularly tossed the racist tag to take criticism off themselves – especially back in the 80s, when their star was still ascendant.

      3. You wouldn’t need to point to J-A internment as proof of racism numbnuts! You are aware that the US Military was segregated at this time?

        1. What if the black guys preferred to fight in their own units?
          Never trust an Englishman’s definition of racism. You’ll end up with Rotherdam, lolz.

    3. ah japan. you built your entire empire off of the usa’s scraps, and then decided to bite the hand that fed you for decades. because divinity? and then, with 9/10ths of the usa war machine sent off to europe, your superior supremacist supremeness saw not a single victory against the remaining 1/10th rolling over in it’s fat white man spare-time lethargy sleep.
      i mean, doolittle did little, and even his one mission of a handful of planes saw victory.
      ouch. i guess i’d still be a little butt hurt too. but then again, to think the sun rises to revolve around you, how would you ever not end up butt hurt?

      1. Actually, two rogue Brits helped them ramp up their war machine; one was from an elite family, the other a military officer. The blue blood sold designs for Brit warships to the Japs in the 1920s. I dont remember what part the officer played. I do remember, however, that the blue blood was friends with Churchill, so the scandal was spiked. The officer, was the scapegoat, was sent to jail, where I think he committed suicide (wish I remembered the name of the bookk).

    4. A policy of unconditional surrender is the best strategy to keep a war going. It extended the war Europe and the Pacific. Ironically, after accepting unconditional surrender the US reverted to some of the terms of the Japanese “conditional” surrender.
      The Japanese were prepared to provide a “conditional surrender” prior to Pearl Harbour. This of course is not acceptable to an Imperial Power that must “sell” a war to its population.

      1. It is one thing for a conqueror to extend mercy; it is another for the conquered to demand it. MacArthur was a pragmatist and did what he thought was best to run the country–effectively as its last Shogun. That said, MacArthur’s decisions after the war ended are immaterial to the Potsdam Declaration and that the Japanese knew–and had demonstrated for them with the German example–that any form of “conditional” surrender was DOA. Indeed the first “conditional surrender” proffered was laughable: (a) the position of the Emperor was to be guaranteed, (b) no occupation of Japan, (c) Japan would handle its own disarmament, (d) Japan would conduct its own war crimes trials. This was later amended to a “single condition” proposal which was effectively Potsdam plus (a) above, which was also rejected.
        These were also offered *after* Nagasaki. It should also be pointed out that the Japanese knew they were going to lose for some time, as each “Victory” came closer and closer to the home islands. They knew how the war was going and that it was just a question of how high they wanted to pile the bodies first. The problem was that nobody could walk into Tojo’s office and say “Nippon maketa” – Japan is beaten.
        À bientôt,

        1. The idea of war crimes trials are surely laughable no matter who conducts them. Where were the war crimes trials for the US/UK and USSR criminals? And were the Japanese conditions really that unacceptable? The US let them keep their Emperor in the the end. And the US still occupies Japan. Necessary? All of this calls into question the US’s purposes for going to war in the first place and the reason for dropping the bombs.
          I take your point about “conquerors” but we supposedly live in enlightened countries wherein crime is crime no matter who commits it. Rule of law. The time for barbaric hordes with a Might Makes Right moral code is surely long past?

        2. Perhaps you’re forgetting, two days after the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, but we were *invited* into the war.
          The conquered don’t get to impose terms that the conqueror does not agree to grant. The Japs knew the terms of Potsdam a couple of years in advance, saw what happened with Germany and didn’t offer even the “4 conditions” surrender until after the atomic strikes. Japan could have surrendered at any time after they saw that their fates were sealed, but could not, intellectually or emotionally, bring themselves to do it.

        3. So what you are saying is that this was a war on conquest by the US on the Japanese? I think that is close to the truth.
          As I said the US did accept a conditional surrender. The Japanese were not seeking to “impose terms” but rather negotiate terms. Any rational party would attempt this and such is common throughout history.
          “Saw what happened with Germany”? Not sure what your point is. Germany was not nuked.

        4. You might be better served by not being intentionally dense.
          It was an attempted war of conquest by the Japanese. They lost.
          “Unconditional” and “negotiate” don’t go so well together. The example of Germany goes to whether the Allies were inclined to accepting “conditional” surrender; they were not.
          À bientôt,

        5. Shame on you for being so rude. I am merely extending your logic.
          The attack on Pearl Harbor was not motivated by conquest in any case. It was a carefully laid trap by Roosevelt.
          Germany was very much in a different position vis a vis the Allies. I would expect any nation to negotiate based on their own unique situation not another’s. And again the US did except a conditional surrender a fact you have not yet dealt with.

        6. Hey, I just call balls and strikes. If you don’t like how I address you, then some self-examination might be in order.
          À bientôt,

    5. The notion that the nuclear attacks were unnecessary and avoidable is hardly some act of revisionism by clueless modern liberals. It was, among others, shared by none other than Eisenhower. That man was definitely a clueless hippie with no idea about the realities of war.

      1. Could we have NOT done them? Sure. Would it have been better? No. If Ike thought otherwise, appeals to his authority aside, he was wrong. Why? It too *two* atomic bombs plus the largest conventional bombing of the Pacific War (over the night of August 14-15) to get them to give up. Many more American (and Allied) servicemen would have died, as well as Japanese servicemen and civilians, and Japan would have likely been partitioned.
        Notice that nobody ever talks about how badly we hit them over the night of the 14th. It’s b/c that was a *conventional* bombing–if we had been able to hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki with conventional weapons, doing the same amount of damage, nobody would be talking about them. They’d be a footnote.
        À bientôt,

        1. Funny that you accuse me of appeal to authority, yet you quote quite a few people who you imply are authorities whose opinion proves something.
          You operate on the unwarranted assumption that no other outcome than unconditional Japanese surrender would have been an acceptable outcome, and on the false dichotomy that it would have required either a nuking or an invasion.
          There is no straightforward answer to this question, and anyone who thinks there is is an ideological hack, and I’m not interested in meandering about the details.

        2. Say what you want, that isn’t *ALL* I did, and you seem to be unable or unwilling to address me on the facts. And that, aside from the cheap shot at the end, is fine. Bottom line, we’re going to have to ATD on this, which is fine by me. *shrugs*
          À bientôt,

    6. Excellent, Sir ! Thank you very much for posting this. I get very tired of the yellow liberals always trying to make America the bad guy.
      This info should be a required study at all schools.

    1. I’d say they were. What’s not mentioned is the mini-pogrom the Japanese carried out against Chinese nationals who in some cases helped the downed US airmen. Some estimates put the death toll at 25,000 people.

  6. Two points to add to this excellent article:
    Firstly, Doolittle himself initially considered the raid a failure. He returned home expecting to be court-martialed due to the fact that the raid had caused no significant damage to Japan. Instead, he was given a medal.
    Secondly, I believe personally that the effect of the Doolittle Raid was far greater than it’s usually given credit for. Mitsuo Fuchida (the man who lead the airstrike on Pearl Harbor) writes a good deal in his book about the psychological effect that the raids had on Admiral Isoroku, the guy running the Japanese navy. Isoroku was obsessed with the idea of Tokyo being “the emperor’s city”, and so he was willing to do whatever it took to keep it perfectly safe. As Quintus Curtius writes, this lead him into the disastrous battle at Midway, which was a blow that the Japanese navy never recovered from. But even taking Midway wouldn’t ensure the safety of Tokyo, so at the same time the Japanese carriers were steaming towards Midway, he sent a smaller fleet north to invade the Aleutian Islands, near Alaska. If Japan successfully occupied both Midway and the Aleutians, he hoped, they could run patrols between the two islands that would spot any more Dootlittles.
    The battle of Midway was a much closer fight than a lot of people think. Any number of factors could’ve tipped the scales towards the Japanese. The fleet that was sent to invade the Aleutians consisted of two carriers as well as heavy cruisers and destroyers, and I personally believe that if those ships had been at Midway instead of off bombing the icy wastes of the Aleutians, the fight could’ve gone very differently.
    Realistically, Japan was never going to win WW2. That war was lost one second after the first bomb landed on Pearl Harbor. But a Japanese victory at midway could’ve drastically altered the course of history. I don’t know enough to speculate about what could’ve happened, but it’s easy enough to guess one thing: millions more lives could’ve been lost. America would’ve had to devote more resources to the pacific theater, which would’ve meant they were sending less to Europe. Someone who knows more about the European theater can speculate what that would mean in practice, but I know for a fact it would’ve been nothing good.
    The 20th century could’ve turned out very differently without the Doolittle raids.

    1. Ending the war in Europe was the key to ending the war with Japan. Not only would it allow the United States to devote more resources to the pacific, but it would also allow European Allies to shift their focus and join in. (The British were able to create and deploy a Pacific Fleet toward the end of the war in Europe).
      My personal theory is that Japan ultimately surrendered not because of the A-bombs, but because of impending invasion by the Soviets, which would have lead to Japan being split in half just like Germany. The Japanese had fought with the Russians before, and they had no doubt heard of the atrocities committed against the East Germans by Soviet occupiers. Rather than let the Ruskies take half, they made the wise choice to surrendered the whole thing to the US.

      1. I’m not sure I agree with that first part. There was nothing stopping the American government from saying “Sorry, Europe, you’re on your own!” and devoting their full resources to the Pacific theater. They didn’t do that, of course, but would they have done so in the aftermath of a defeat at Midway, which would’ve meant the complete destruction of the US Pacific Fleet? I’m not sure. (I’m not saying “I’m not sure,” as a pussy way of disagreeing with you. I genuinely have no idea.)
        By the time the British fleet was helping with the fight with Japan, the war was pretty much over. I can’t think of a major naval battle that they participated in. At that point in the war a humiliating defeat for the land of the rising sun was inevitable.
        As for the theory that it was the threat of Soviet invasion that caused the Japanese to surrender, I’ve heard it before, but I don’t know if that’s right. I’m not sure that they were really thinking about what the post-war situation would be like, or that they thought that rule by America would be preferable to rule by the Soviets. Everything I’ve read indicates that the top brass was fully prepared to fight to the end, and it was only when they realized that there was going to be no glorious last stand, just the slow, repeated annihilation of their cities via a nuclear holocaust, were some of them ready to give in. Even then, some of them weren’t: one high-ranking officer, Matome Ugaki, got in a plane hours after the emperor’s declaration of surrender and tried one final, pointless kamikaze attack.

        1. Couple of notes here are that some were indeed prepared to fight on to the end: on the night of August 13-14, there was an attempted coup against Hirohito and the government at large by several junior officers (the Kyujo Incident), which failed. Japan announced its surrender to the world on 15 August. Note this was after the Emperor and the government had already resolved to surrender — that happened around 10 August, and the impending surrender was what sparked the coup.
          The other thing was — doesn’t Lend Lease figure into the picture of the US’s support to Europe? As I understood it America had basically been bankrolling England’s defence since 1940 or so under that program, and FDR was still around until 1944 or so to see it kept going.

        2. Yes, my original statement really was an overreach. More accurately, I’d say that the end of the war in Europe helped bring about the end of the war with Japan more quickly, not just by the obvious reallocation of American resources to the pacific, but by also introducing the threat of additional Allies joining the fight. (Allies that would not only contribute military resources but would also, after shedding enough blood in the Pacific, demand a political role in shaping the future of post-war Japan).

      2. Not to forget that, at the time the Japanese government realized the war was lost and that it had to sue for peace, its most important aim became to preserve the God-Emperor of Japkind. Everything else was secondary to that. The Soviet Union liked neither gods nor emperors, so even an unconditional surrender to the US was preferable to the possibility of Soviet occupation.

  7. “Prolonged periods of supine inaction promote defeatism, demoralization, and an enervating paralysis.”
    Applies to all life, it would seem.

  8. Yeah, I guess once our leadership goaded Japan into war and knew Pearl harbor was going to be attacked but just sat back and let it happen, this type of action did have to be taken.

  9. straying off topic .but this reminds me why i have a problem with the term self defense , it imply’s i’m the vulnerable one and the attacker dictates the situation. i prefer the word self offense instead, changes the mindset a bit from you being as prey against predator . attack the attacker ! be the predator . whether its some piece of shit running up on you in the street, or the sjw’s that have a problem with this site. this was great quintus , any thoughts on doing a piece about merrill’s marauders !

  10. I read about another very interesting raid years ago, in a short text from a compilation of war stories. It is about a pilot named “Corn” Sherill (I can’t remember the exact spelling), who remained behind in the Philippines after the Japanese invasion, with a small maintenance crew.
    Those guys repaired a damaged P-40 that took off a year after Pearl Harbour on skies on a makeshift runway in the jungle. Sherill attacked a Japanese base on Formose, a “premiere” to insult the Japs, he even put down the Rising Sun Flag of the airbase with the tip of a wing, then flew to China, where he was intercepted by Flyings Tigers who did not understand the presence of an American Airplane bearing obsolete colors.
    Anyone here heard or read that story before? A more detailed text about it would be fine!

  11. Quintus, good article btw. I am just curious about your assertion that Stalin “had no wish” to anger Japan. The USSR had just annihilated the Japanese Sixth Army in Mongolia. Would he really be worried about angering Japan? Can you explain? Thanks.

  12. America failing at foreign policy since April 6 1917.At least that’s as far back as care to remember the fallacy of our policy anyway.The Doolittle raid was nothing but a feel good suicide mission good read though.

  13. Doolittle was also the one who led the charge after the war to merge the US Marine Corps into the Army. Were it not for John Wayne in The Sands of Iwo Jima to draw public attention and interest to the Marines legacy, he might have achieved his goal.
    Doolittle also led something after WW2 called the Doolittle board, which gutted the authority of the NCO corps as well as that of junior officers in the field. For all his achievements , he was very much a company man and sometimes bureacrat.

  14. Thoroughly enjoyed this. I knew of the raid – didn’t realise the bombers never planned to return to the carriers, but instead intended to fly on to China / USSR.
    The same motivations can be found in the Vulcan raid on the Argentinians during the Falklands conflict. The point is not the damage inflicted, it is in the message it sends.
    This is a message so profound it is difficult to overstate it’s significance. Be you a State or an individual, actions speak louder than words.
    Be the man who acts. Talking, alone, is for the weak.

  15. Excellent article, Quintus. While it’s excellent to see the success of Doolittle, the truth is that even in failure, it’s better to die trying than to embrace inaction. I like that your article focused so much on the need to be about doing something: “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”
    Once, as an undergraduate, I took a course in which we read Milton’s Paradise Lost. It describes Adam and Eve as working and tending the garden, and some students expressed surprised that they had to “work” in Paradise. The professor asked if this made sense to anyone. I said, yes, it made perfect sense to me; hadn’t people noticed how, even though work tires us out because of our fallen nature at present, still there was an energizing and focusing power whenever we engaged in labor, especially when we worked on something we enjoyed doing? I mentioned how I enjoyed getting absorbed in work that was meaningful to me, and that this was the essence of most hobbies like working on cars, whittling, brewing beer, etc. It could sometimes be hard work, but it was certainly more pleasant and energizing than vegging out in front of a television. How much more would this be the case if, as with Adam and Eve, physical labor couldn’t make you tired? Most of the class looked at me like I was crazy, but a few guys got it. One man mentioned that he loved to lift weights and play his bass. Men, especially, thrive on the focus and fruits of their labor.

  16. I’m not really sure I can buy the premise of this article. If you, as a leader, need to do stupid and counterproductive stuff simply because your underlings will get demoralized if you don’t, then, well, you do what you have to do, but ultimately the fault lies in the character flaws of your underlings. How much prudent and wise policy has been compromised or ended up not happening because of such? The cautious and prudent Fabius Maximus successfully neutered Hannibal’s army. The action-man Gaius Terentius Varro led Rome to a catastrophic defeat.
    It’s no wonder that Doolittle himself considered his raid a failure. The damage inflicted was minimal, in no way worth the loss of the bombers. The only reason why it turned out to be a net benefit to the US was because Japan overreacted to it, pulling back military assets for homeland defense, while a proper response would have been to ignore it.

  17. The Need For Action – From Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s book “On Killing”:
    Jim Morris is an ex-Green Beret and a Vietnam veteran turned writer. Here he interviews an Australian veteran of the Malaysian counterinsurgency who is trying to live with the memory of an execution. His story is entitled ‘No Heroes, No Villians, Just Mates’”
    This time we leaned against a wall on the opposite side of room. He leaned forward, speaking softly and earnestly. This time there was no pretence. Here was a man baring his soul.
    “We attacked a terrorist training camp, and took a woman prisoner. She must have been high up in the party. She wore the tabs of a commissar. I’d already told my men we took no prisoners, but I’d never killed a woman. ‘She must die quickly. We must leave!’ my sergeant said.
    “Oh god, I was sweatin’,” Harry went on. “She was magnificent. ‘What’s the matter, Mister Ballentine?’ she asked. ‘You’re sweatin’.”
    “’ Not for you,’ I said. ‘It’s the malaria recurrence.’ I gave my pistol to my sergeant, but he just shook his head. … None of them would do it, and if I didn’t I’d never be able to control that unit again.
    “’ You’re sweatin’, Mr Ballentine,’ she said again.”
    “’ Not for you,’ I said.”
    Did you kill her?
    “Hell, I blew ‘er f—–in’ ‘ead off,” he replied.
    “My platoon all gathered ‘round and smiled. ‘You are our tuan [Malay for “sir” or “leader”] my sergeant said. ‘You are our tuan.’”
    I’m not a priest. I’m not even an officer any more. … I hoped my look told Harry that I like him, that it was okay with me if he forgave himself. It’s hard to do though.
    The Need For Action – General Nguyen Ngoc Loan
    Google that general’s name and you’ll see certain picture; you’ll know it when you see it. General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, moments earlier to that photo being taken had discovered the Viet Cong guerrilla had been the leader of a terrorist squad that had killed the family of one of Loan’s deputy commanders who was a childhood friend.
    Eddie Adams took that photo and wrote the following in TIME Magazine, Monday, Jul. 27, 1998:
    I won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for a photograph of one man shooting another. Two people died in that photograph: the recipient of the bullet and GENERAL NGUYEN NGOC LOAN. The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. What the photograph didn’t say was, “What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?” General Loan was what you would call a real warrior, admired by his troops. I’m not saying what he did was right, but you have to put yourself in his position. The photograph also doesn’t say that the general devoted much of his time trying to get hospitals built in Vietnam for war casualties. This picture really messed up his life. He never blamed me. He told me if I hadn’t taken the picture, someone else would have, but I’ve felt bad for him and his family for a long time. I had kept in contact with him; the last time we spoke was about six months ago, when he was very ill. I sent flowers when I heard that he had died and wrote, “I’m sorry. There are tears in my eyes.”
    Bless these courageous men!

  18. Let’s not forget that all wars are fought for the benefit of the rich at the expense of the poor. President Johnson and his contractor/banker buddies made millions off the Vietnam War while my Marine father was wounded and disabled in North Vietnam and was eventually told by the VA to get lost before he died.

  19. I don’t even know how the planes got off the ground carrying gonads the size of Navy destroyers. This was REAL bravery.

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