Imagination and innovation: together they can deliver enormous advantage to America and its partners and allies.
With the 75th anniversary of VJ Day fast approaching, Doolittle's Raiders provide a terrific example of U.S. warfighters imagining creative ways of employing weapons systems to simultaneously deliver tactical, operational and strategic effects.
After the shock of Pearl Harbor, the United States entered World War II with a focus on North Africa and Europe. But what Americans really wanted was to avenge the attack on our primary base in the Pacific.
By January 1942, war planners were asking, "what if we used Army Air Corps bombers, launched off Navy carriers, to strike industrial and military targets on the Japanese mainland?"
Chief of the Army Air Forces Gen. Hap Arnold tapped Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle to lead the team to develop the tactics, techniques and procedures to pull off the daring raid. The B-25B, the medium-range bomber selected for the mission, had a normal take-off run of 1,400 feet. On the Navy's new aircraft carrier, Hornet, Doolittle's Raiders would have less than 500 feet. Modifications to the B-25B included adding collapsible fuel tanks to one of the bomb bays and, in what might be the first example of "in-flight refueling," using five-gallon containers to add fuel to the tanks during the mission. To lower weight, Doolittle's team removed machine guns, the radio and the Norden bombsight. Surprise would have to provide protection, communication silence was mission-critical, and if the Japanese did shoot down a bomber, U.S. leaders did not want them reverse engineering the Norden.
The Raiders also installed new propeller blades, spark plugs and carburetors to ensure maximum fuel efficiency for the one-way flight. The Raiders knew they could not land a B-25B on a carrier deck and they knew the carriers would need to exit the area quickly after aircraft launch to avoid attack from ground- and sea-based Japanese fighters.
Mission planning and execution were characterized by exceptional coordination between the Army Air Corps and the Navy. A Navy lieutenant designed and led carrier take-off practice at Eglin Air Corps Proving Ground in Florida, and Adm. William Halsey, then commander of the South Pacific Area, led the task force overseeing the joint mission.
Doolittle and his hand-picked crew of 80 airmen--16 five-man crews--drilled in procedures and carefully inspected and maintained their aircraft to ensure the...