I don’t remember the Doolittle raid. It happened long before I was born, April 1942.
The raid involved launching a bunch of Army bombers off an aircraft carrier and attacking the Japanese mainland. Pretty bold stunt considering the Japanese Navy controlled virtually all the Pacific Ocean at that time. The leader of the team, Jimmy Doolittle, piloted the first plane off the carrier and flew into the history books — a hero.
Although I wasn’t there, I feel like I got a front row seat — a first hand account of the event. You see, I was lucky enough to attend a “living history” talk at the Wright-Patterson, Air Force Base museum back in the early 1990s.
The speakers that evening were two men who did remember the raid. They remembered it as if it happened yesterday. They remembered it with amazing clarity. They spoke with unadulterated authority.
Why were these men such authorities? What gave them the credibility to stand up in front of a packed out auditorium and discuss the Doolittle Raid?
Because they were there. They participated in the event. They were Doolittle Raiders.
One was a pilot, the other a navigator.
I wish I had written this article the day after they gave their talk so I could remember more. I wish I took notes. It’s been many years now and much of what they said has seeped into the far corners of my memory. Not sure if I can bring it back out of deep storage.
But, I remember enough to want to share what I learned about the Doolittle Raid during this incredible “living history” discussion. So, as you read my account, keep in mind it’s been many years and my memory may be playing tricks on me.
If you’re looking for all the “facts” about the Doolittle Raid, then this is not the article for you. But, the good news is there are plenty of resources where you can get all the facts.
Instead, this account is about what I heard that evening in Dayton, Ohio. What I remember these two participants in the Doolittle Raid telling us; their stories told their way.
Will I get it exactly right? Probably not. Will I capture the essence; the emotion; the sense of pride these men had in sharing their stories? I hope so.