Today, April 18, marks the 75th Anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. The mission, named for its organizer and leader James “Jimmy” Doolittle, caused minor damage to its targets, but accomplished a great deal by boosting the morale of Americans still affected by the attack at Pearl Harbor and early Japanese victories.
Flying 16 US Army B-25 twin motor bombers, 80 volunteers took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, a feat never attempted before. Their targets were Japan’s capital Tokyo and the industrial cities of Yokohama, Nagoya, Kanagawa, Kobe and Osaka. Given the distance of the raid, the planes were unable to make it to their designated airfields. A majority of the crews crash-landed in China and were aided by locals. One crew diverted to the Soviet Union and were interned for a period of time before crossing over the Iranian border. Another three planes crashed into the sea off the coast of China, two soldiers drowned as a result. The remaining eight soldiers were taken Prisoner of War by the Japanese who executed three on October 15, 1942. Another POW died from poor health in December, 1943. The other captured airmen remained POW’s until liberation by American troops in August of 1945.
News of the Doolittle Raid spread to the American public through newspapers, radio broadcasts and newsreels. Newsreels, shown at movie theaters before feature films, were one of the most common ways to spread news during WWII. One newsreel, United News, covers Allied activities from June 1942 through September 1946. Each weekly release averages nine minutes in length and presents information with a propaganda-type narration.
The United News segment covering the Doolittle Raid can be seen below. Other topics presented in this newsreel include, a visit by United States diplomats to Latin America and the continued buildup of Allied Forces.