I Was There! - Our Tokyo Raid Gave the Japs a Shock

The War Illustrated, Volume 6, No. 131, Page 29, June 26, 1942.

With the decorating of the man who led the American bombing raid on Tokyo on April 18, he was revealed as Brigadier-General James Doolittle, who have the following brief account of his exploit.

Every plane of our attacking force was specially equipped, and every man volunteered for the raid. They practised the plan of attack for weeks.

Extreme care was taken not to bomb non-military targets. We did not bomb the Imperial Palace. I gave special instructions not to bomb the palace, although there would have been no difficulty in doing so, had we desired.

The success of the raid exceeded our most optimistic expectations. Each plane was assigned specific targets, and the bombardiers carried out their expert duties with remarkable precision. Since the raid was made in fair weather in the middle of day and from a very low altitude no trouble whatever was experienced in finding the exact target.

Apparently there was no advance warning of the raid, as we experienced little hostile reaction. Not more than thirty Japanese pursuit planes were observed during the flight, and these were completely ineffective. Several we know were shot down. The pilots seemed somewhat inexperienced and were evidently not up to the standard of those encountered in active theatres.

We approached our objectives just over the housetops, but bombed at 1,500 feet. The target for one plane was the navy yard in South Tokyo, in reaching which it had passed over what apparently was a flying-school, as there were a number of planes in the air. One salve made a direct hit on a new cruiser or battleship under construction. It was left in flames. Another illuminated a tank factory.

After releasing our bombs we dived again to the tree tops and went to the coast at that altitude to avoid A.A. fire. Along the coastline we observed several squadrons of destroyers and some cruisers and battleships.

About 25 or 30 miles to sea our rear gunners reported seeing columns of smoke rising thousands of feet in the air. One of our bombardiers strewed incendiary bombs along a quarter of a mile of an aircraft factory near Nagoya.

Flying at such low altitude made it very difficult to observe results. We could see them strike, but our own field of vision was greatly restricted by our speed. Even so, one of our party observed a ball game in progress. The players and spectators had not started to run for cover until just as the field passed out of sight.

We would like to have tarried and watched later developments from fire and explosion, and even so we were fortunate to receive a fairly detailed report from the excited Japanese radio broadcasts. It took them several hours to calm down to deception and accusation.

In general, the objectives of the raid began north of Tokyo and extended south in an area about 40 miles long and 5 to 20 miles wide.

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