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James Doolittle.

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It comprised of taking 16 B bombers off of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, bombing several sites in the Japanese mainland, and then flying the bombers to China. The bombers would land and be picked up by Chinese soldiers who would return them to the United States. All of this was planned and prepared in total secrecy, with the true target of the raid not even revealed to the aircrews until they were only a few days from launching. Everything was going according to plan until the morning of April 18, , when the American ship group was discovered by Japanese picket ships.

After being discovered, it was decided to launch the bombers from their current location, about miles from Japan, instead of the planned distance of miles. The bombers took off and proceeded to Japan. Once over Japan, they bombed numerous military factories and other installations before turning south to head to China.

WWII vets remember Doolittle raid, 70 years later

Having launched so much sooner than expected, many of the bombers did not have the required fuel to make it all the way to their designated landing field in China. Most of the crews had to bail out of their planes and ended up being helped by the local Chinese villages before linking up with Chinese military forces. Of the almost 80 aircrew members, 12 were killed or were taken prisoner by the Japanese during the mission. How did the planning and implementation of the Doolittle Raid help develop important relationships and operational skill sets within all branches of the U.

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Richard Cole, , on June 23, Cole is the last living veteran of the Doolittle Raid in after David Thatcher, 94, passed away on June 22, David Thatcher and Richard Cole lived more than seven decades after theirs. The raid injected morale into the American public still reeling from the Pearl Harbor attack that left thousands dead and a crippled fleet at the ravaged base in Hawaii.

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Thatcher passed away Wednesday from a stroke at the age of 94 in Missoula, Montana, leaving Cole, , as the last surviving member of what could be called the most audacious and risky mission in American military history. It is difficult to understate the importance of the raid, planned and executed by Lt. James Doolittle, who led the mission that made almost no tactical gains but contributed to victory in the Pacific, according to Naval historians. There would be no triumphant return to the aircraft carrier for the crews.

The best case scenario for all the men was to survive hard landings in hostile territory as Japanese units dominated the ocean and land for hundreds of miles in each direction.

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The BBs were chosen for optimal fuel and payload capacity, though bombs had to be modified to account for the weight over the long flying time, according to a book written by the raider historian, Col. Carroll V.

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But first they had to survive feet of runway on the Hornet as the planes faced a headwind for a maneuver some people called impossible and too risky. No one had ever attempted to fly bombers off an aircraft carrier meant for small fighter planes. The first bomber up: Lt.

Doolittle and his crew, including his co-pilot, Lt. Bravery was not a factor, he said. The raid was launched a day earlier than planned, after a Japanese vessel spotted the Hornet.

Doolittle Raid

The distance grew to miles to their objectives, far more than the original plan of miles — making it more clear that safe landings in China were even less likely. Doolittle and Cole dropped incendiary bombs to mark targets for other bombers, including a steel mill. Two raiders drowned and one was killed after bailing out over China. Another three were captured and executed by Japanese troops in China, and one died of disease while others remained captive.

One crew landed in the Soviet Union and were interned for 13 months before escaping through Iran.

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The raid accomplished few military objectives, if any. But the mission signaled to the Allies that Japan, for its isolation and distance from the United States, was not out of reach of military strikes. The raid famously boosted morale back home, which was part of the objective, Cole said.