While the raid had no strategic value, it nevertheless gave the American nation a tremendous morale boost.
On April 18, 1942, eighty Americans and sixteen B-25 bombers carried out the first attack on the Japanese Islands following Pearl Harbor. The participants began training for the mission in Columbia. After the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt directed his military leaders to find a way to strike back. The assignment was given to Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, an aircraft pioneer who was one of the nation’s preeminent flyers in the 1930s. He was authorized to select and train sixteen crews to fly land-based B-25s off the deck of an aircraft carrier, a first in aviation history.
In early February most of the crews assembled at Columbia Army Air Base, where they volunteered for the secret mission. After preliminary flight tests, the crews flew to Eglin Air Base in Florida for six weeks of intensive instruction and flight training. On April 1 the Raiders and their planes left the West Coast aboard the carrier Hornet. Seventeen days later they flew off the carrier deck to strike Japan. They all reached their targets and then headed to China. While the raid had no strategic value, it nevertheless gave the American nation a tremendous morale boost. Most of the Raiders made it to the mainland but ran out of fuel before they could land, forcing them to bail out or crash with their aircraft. Three died and eight were captured, three of whom were executed. The other five were sentenced to life imprisonment. The rest made it back to friendly lines despite some close encounters with Japanese pursuers.
Two of the Raiders were South Carolina natives. Lieutenant Horace Crouch from Columbia graduated from the Citadel in 1940 and served as navigator aboard Plane Ten. He survived, served the remainder of the war in the Far East, and returned home to continue his military career and later teach. Lieutenant William Farrow from Darlington, a former student of the University of South Carolina, piloted Plane Sixteen. He was captured and executed by the Japanese on October 15, 1942.
Cohen, Stan. Destination, Tokyo: A Pictorial History of Doolittle’s Tokyo Raid, April 18, 1942. Missoula, Mont.: Pictorial Histories, 1983.
Maxey, Russell. Airports of Columbia: A History in Photographs & Headlines. Columbia, S.C.: Palmetto Publishing, 1987.
Schultz, Duane. The Doolittle Raid. New York: St. Martin’s, 1988.