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Mission Ready Airmen Case Studies: Crew 13 with the Doolittle Raid

  • Published
  • By Joseph Gangemi
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

Air Education and Training Command is reviewing moments of aviation history to reflect the importance of Agile Combat Employment, in addition to the warrior mindset and mission readiness its Airmen must sustain while preparing for the future fight.

The Doolittle Raid, especially the actions of then-lieutenant Edgar McElroy and his team, marked a crucial moment in air power history. Precision bombing of the Japanese aircraft carrier Ryuho, significantly altered the course of the Pacific naval war.

The Raider’s attack specifically targeted slipways, construction equipment, and critical dock areas supporting the 16,600-ton carrier, causing a shocking setback that delayed the Ryuho’s deployment by over four months. This strategic blow underscored the adaptability and resourcefulness of the Mission Ready Airmen of the time.

Unlike Pearl Harbor, this attack on Japan's capital prompted immediate defensive measures, and although enemy fighters intercepted them, the B-25 Mitchell bombers, chosen for their speed, allowed them to outrun the enemy post-bombing.

The Japanese suffered defeats at Coral Sea and Midway within two months of the Doolittle Raid, nearly sealing their defeat in the war. Despite their short presence, the impact of Crew 13's bravery during World War II was lasting.

“Contentions that the Doolittle Raid only boosted morale and served no real strategic or military purpose are completely wrong,” said Gary Boyd, AETC historian. “The raid reset Japanese timetables and caused them to act rashly by overextending their lines of defense and logistics.”