History of Doolittle's Raiders

History of Doolittle's Raiders

On December 7, 1941, the nation of Japan conducted a surprise attack on the US Military forces at Pearl Harbor. A little over four months later the surprise attack known as the Doolittle Raid was carried out against the nation of Japan. It had not taken long for the United States to pick itself up and dust itself off.

The Doolittle Raid > Air Education and Training Command > News 

The Doolittle Raid

Reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt and the American people wanted to retaliate against Japan. There would be naval battles to come, but an assault against the homeland of Japan at that point in time meant a bombing raid would need to be conducted. Since there were no air bases close enough to Japan to do the job, the raid would have to be launched from an aircraft carrier.

Bomber aircraft were big and heavy, so it would require a special effort to launch them from a carrier. It was determined the B-25 was the plane best-suited for such an undertaking. The job of organizing and conducting this mission was given to Army Air Corps Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle.

The men and planes were drawn from the 34th, 37th and 95th Bomb Squadrons and the 89th Attack Squadron. Doolittle trained the men, planned the mission, and would participate in the mission.

The bombers did not have the fuel capacity to return to the carrier after bombing Japan, so the plan was to complete the mission and then land on air fields in China.

The Doolittle Raid | Commemorative Air Force Airbase Arizona 

On April 18, 1942, the 16 B-25's with 80 men aboard took off from the flight deck of the USS Hornet and began their daring attempt to strike the enemy.

After completing their bombing runs, the planes continued westward in their attempt to reach China. Fifteen planes crashed in China and one landed in the Soviet Union. Eight men were captured by Japanese soldiers, and of these, three were executed. All the others survived.

All 80 men were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and Doolittle was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.


The 34th Bomb Squadron

Participating in the Doolittle Raid were members of the 34th Bomb Squadron. This squadron is nicknamed the World Famous Thunderbirds, and is today a proud unit of the US Air Force stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.

The 34th was established on May 10, 1917. The squadron served in England and France during World War I, but did not see combat.

During World War II, volunteers from the squadron flew with Doolittle. The squadron as a whole served most of the war in North Africa and Europe. Their service included bombing raids against Germany as the war was being won in 1945.

In the Korean War the squadron was stationed in Pusan, South Korea, and flew missions against the North Korean forces.


The squadron was not deployed against North Vietnam, but did provide personnel to other units conducting raids against that enemy.


During the continuous unrest in the Middle East, the squadron has been called upon to conduct various missions, including participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.


Whether with bi-planes or the B-1 bomber, the 34th Bomb Squadron has always stepped forward when their service was required.

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