Doolittle Room at Oakland Aviation Museum-Oakland Aviation Museum (OAM)

General James Doolittle Room

Visit the OAM Doolittle Room - housed together with the exhibition of 8th Air Force to give the visitor a great experience.

Collection Items of Interest
• USS Hornet Replica     • Models     • Artifacts
• Certificates     • Awards     • And More

ne of the best known of California's aviators is James Harold Doolittle. Doolittle was one of the pioneers of instrument flying and of advanced technology, while also being an outstanding combat leader, commanding the Twelfth, Fifteenth, and Eighth Air Forces during World War II.

Born at Alameda, California, on December 14, 1896, Doolittle was a junior at the University of California when the United States entered World War I. He enlisted as a flying cadet in the Army Signal Corps. He spent the war as a flying instructor in the United States.


Remaining in the Army after the war, he earned a B.A. degree in 1922 and then studied aeronautical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he received both a Masters and Doctors degree in science. He took a leave of absence from the Army in the period before World War II, but returned to active duty when the war began.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor, and was promoted from Colonel to Brigadier General for leading the first carrier-based bomber attack on mainland Japan in 1942. His citation, presented personally by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, reads,in part: "With the apparent certainty of being forced to land in enemy territory or perish at sea, Colonel Doolittle personally led a squadron of Army bombers, manned by volunteer crews, in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland."

General Doolittle died in California on September 27, 1993 and was buried in Section 7-A of Arlington National Cemetery, with his high school sweetheart, Josephine Daniels Doolittle (May 24, 1895-December 24, 1988).

James Harold Doolittle   Nickname: Jimmy
Born - 12/14/1896 - Alameda, CA
Died - 9/27/1993 (age 96) - Pebble Beach, CA
Place of burial - Arlington National Cemetery
Years of Service   1917 - 1959

    Twelfth Air Force, Fifteenth Air Force, Eighth Air Force
    Medal of Honor
    Distinguished Service Medal
    Silver Star
    Distinguished Flying Cross

The Doolittle Raid

A month after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt asked his senior military leaders to find a way to strike back at Japan. At this grim point in the Pacific War, he believed that an air attack against Japan was the best way to bolster American morale.

The problem seemed unsolvable until an idea came to Captain Francis S. "Frog" Low, the operations officer on the staff of Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief U.S. Fleet. Captain Low told Admiral King that when he was taking off from Norfolk, Virginia, on a flight back to Washington, he had noticed the outline of a carrier flight deck painted on the runway of the naval airfield used to train Navy pilots. "I saw some Army twin-engine planes making bombing passes at this simulated carrier deck. I thought, if the Army had some twin-engine bombers with a range greater than our [carrier planes], it seems to me a few of them could be loaded on a carrier and used to bomb Japan."

On January 17, Low and Air Operations Officer Captain Donald B. Duncan, outlined the idea to General Arnold, who immediately agreed to the proposal. Duncan and Low proposed a test takeoff of twin-engine B-25 Mitchell bombers from the aircraft carrier HORNET, then at Norfolk, Virginia. Arnold assigned three B-25s to try some short-field takeoffs, and on February 2 two of them were lifted aboard the HORNET by crane and spotted - one forward and one aft - as if they were two of 15 tightly arranged on the flight deck. The carrier steamed out into the Atlantic, and the Army pilots easily took off. But there was a great difference between two bombers taking offwith little fuel and no bombs, and perhaps a dozen fully loaded planes in the rough seas of the North Pacific.

Meanwhile, Arnold had assigned Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle to assemble a group of volunteer pilots and planes for the raid - modify the planes with extra gas tanks and other features, and start a training program - all quickly and with the utmost secrecy.

Under secret orders, Doolittle's bombers flew from their training site, Eglin Field in Florida, to McClellan Field in Sacramento, California. After a final series of checks, the B-25s then flew to Alameda Naval Air Station near Oakland, California. Sixteen twin-engine bombers were loaded by crane onto the deck of the HORNET - the maximum number that Doolittle, Duncan and Low felt could be safely flown off. Doolittle met secretly with Halsey in San Francisco to go over the final steps of the plan, and on April 2 the HORNET steamed out of San Francisco Bay.

On the morning of April 18, the planes were loaded with bombs and ammunition, fueled, and spotted on the HORNET's deck for takeoff. Halsey gave the order to go, sent by flashing light from ENTERPRISE to the HORNET -


At 8;20 A.M., 770 miles east of Japan, Doolittle, in the lead bomber, took off from the HORNET. In just over an hour all 16 of the planes had been launched, each flown by a crew of five.

Beginning at 12:15 P.M. the first of thirteen planes struck Tokyo. The other planes hit Kobe, Nagoya, and Yokohama, all with little opposition. When the smoke cleared, bomb damage was minimal. But the daring one-way mission of April 18, 1942 electrified the world and gave America's war hopes a terrific lift. As did the others who participated in the mission, Doolittle had to bail out, but fortunately landed in a rice paddy in China near Chu Chow. Some of the other flyers lost their lives on the mission. Doolittle and, eventually, 63 other fliers who came down in China made their way back to the United States.

It would be more than two years before another bomb would fall on Japan and several months after that before another would strike the capital of Tokyo. Still, the "Doolittle Raid" was the first step on the long and bloody road of retribution for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. And as the Pacific War raged on, both American and Japanese leaders would wonder if that road would ultimately lead to the shore of Japan itself. The "Doolittle Raid" had proved that the home islands were indeed vulnerable to air and sea attack.