Jimmy Doolittle

Dimitris Stamatios | September 27, 2022


James Harold Doolittle, also known as Jimmy Doolittle (December 14, 1896 – September 27, 1993) was an American pilot and pioneer in the development of aviation between the wars. A USAAF officer during World War II, he conceived and led a daring raid in April 1942 that bears his name, the Doolittle Raid – the first bombing of Tokyo by American forces.

He was born in Alameda, California on December 14, 1896. He spent his youth in Nome, Alaska. He attended school in Los Angeles before entering UC Berkeley where he studied at the School of Mines before taking a leave of absence to join the Signal Corps Reserve as a flying cadet in October 1917. Doolittle trained at the School of Military Aeronautics at Rockwell Field, California, and was appointed second lieutenant of the Signal Corps” Aviation Section in March 1918. During World War I, he remained in the United States as an instructor and did his wartime service in several U.S. Army camps in Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, etc. He also flew patrols in the U.S. and Canada. He also led patrols on the Mexican border after the American punitive expedition of 1916.

Qualified to remain in the army after the war, he was promoted to lieutenant on July 1, 1920, and attended air service mechanics school at Kelly Fields, Texas, and aeronautical engineering courses at McCook Field, Ohio. He then left to complete his training at Berkeley where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1922.

Between the wars, he became one of the most famous American pilots, pioneering many flights. Flying the De Havilland DH-4, which was equipped with the first navigational instruments, he made the first cross-country flight from Pablo Beach, Florida, to Rockwell Field in San Diego, California, in 21 hours and 19 minutes, stopping only once to refuel at Kelly Field. The US Army awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In July 1923, after serving as a test pilot and aeronautical engineer at McCook Field, Doolittle entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In March 1924, he conducted accelerated aircraft tests at McCook Field, which became the subject of his master”s thesis and earned him a second Distinguished Flying Cross. He received a Master of Science degree from MIT in June 1924. While the Army had given him two years to complete his degree, it took him only one. He immediately went on to earn a doctorate in aeronautics, which he received in June 1925. He indicated that he considered his master”s degree more significant than his doctorate.

After graduation, Doolittle underwent special training in high-speed seaplanes at Naval Air Station Anacostia, Washington. He also served in the Naval Test Office at Mitchel Field, New York, and was a familiar figure in New York area air record attempts. He won the 1925 Schneider Cup in a Curtiss R3C-2 at an average speed of 232 miles per hour. For this feat he was awarded the Mackay Trophy in 1926.

In April 1926, Doolittle obtained a leave of absence from the army to go to South America to perform demonstration flights. In Chile, he broke both ankles but performed aerial maneuvers with his Curtiss P-1 Hawk despite his ankles being in plaster. He returned to the United States where he was confined to Walter Reed General Hospital for his injuries until April 1927. Doolittle was then assigned to McCook Field for experimental duties in addition to his work as an instructor pilot with the 385th Bomber Squadron of the Air Reserve Corps. During this period, he was the first to perform an outside loop.

On-board instruments

His most important contribution to aviation technology was the development of flight instruments. In 1929, he became the first pilot to take off, fly, and land using only flight instruments with no visibility through the cockpit. Returning to Mitchel Field that September, he assisted in the development of fog flight equipment and helped develop the artificial horizon and directional gyro, now in universal use. He made a complete instrument flight. He attracted press attention for his “blind” flights and was later awarded the Harmon Trophy for conducting these experiments. These experiments made it possible for airlines to operate in all weathers.

In January 1930, he advised the Army on the construction of Floyd Bennett Airfield in New York. Doolittle resigned from active duty in the Army on February 15, 1930, and was appointed a major in the Reserve Specialist Corps a month later. He was appointed manager of the aviation department of the Shell Oil Company, which gave him the opportunity to conduct numerous aeronautical tests. He would then regularly spend periods in the Army conducting tests.

Doolittle enabled the Shell Oil Company to produce the first 100 octane aviation fuels. High-octane fuel was crucial for the high-performance aircraft being developed in the late 1930s.

In 1931, Doolittle won the Bendix Trophy by winning the Burbank (California) – Cleveland (Ohio) race in a Laird Super Solution biplane.

In 1932, he set the land speed record with 296 miles per hour in the Shell Speed Dash. That same year he won the Thompson Trophy in Cleveland in the Gee Bee R-1 with an average speed of 252 miles per hour. After winning the three major trophies of his time, the Schneider, the Bendix and the Thompson, he officially retired from air racing, stating, “I have yet to hear anyone engaged in this work dying of old age.

In April 1934, Doolittle became a member of the Baker Board. Chaired by former Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, the board was designed during the Air Mail scandal to study the organization of the Army Air Corps. A year later, Doolittle joined the Air Corps Reserve. In 1940, he became president of the Institute of Aeronautical Science. He returned to active duty on July 1, 1940, as a major and assistant district supervisor of the Central Air Corps Procurement District in Indianapolis and Detroit, where he worked with the major automobile manufacturers in converting their plants to aircraft production. In August he was a member of a special mission sent to England to learn about foreign air forces and their military development.

Raid on Japan

Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and the entry of the United States into the war, Doolittle was promoted to lieutenant colonel on January 2, 1942 and went to Army Air Force headquarters to plan the first air raid against Japan. He volunteered and received approval from General H.H. Arnold to lead the attack of 16 B-25 bombers from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet on April 18, 1942 targeting Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka and Nagoya, Doolittle”s raid. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for this achievement.

War in the Mediterranean and Europe

In July 1942, as Brigadier General – he was promoted two ranks the day after the raid on Japan, skipping the rank of colonel – Doolittle was assigned to the nascent 8th USAAF and on September 23rd 1942 became the commander of the 12th USAAF in North Africa. He was promoted to Major General in November 1942 and in March 1943, he became the commander of the Northwest African Strategic Air Forces, a unified command of US Army Air Forces and Royal Air Force units. In November 1943, he became commander of the 15th USAAF, still in the Mediterranean theater of operations. He took part in an attack mission on guns at Pantelleria as pilot of a B-26 Marauder and flew a few other times, despite the risks involved, especially that of being captured by the enemy.

On January 3, 1944, he took his most important command, that of the 8th USAAF based in England. On March 13, he was promoted to Lieutenant General, the highest rank ever attained by a reserve officer in the US Army. Together with General Spaatz, he profoundly modified the tactics of strategic bombing over the Reich. The two men were behind the implementation of the Big Week, a week of bombing raids on the Reich”s aeronautical industry sites, aimed at reducing the German aeronautical potential as much as at forcing the German fighter to fight against Allied fighters and destroy them. This tactic was repeated two weeks later with the week-long bombing of Berlin.

Its main contribution will be to free the American fighters from a tight protection of the bomber fleets, pushing them to engage the German fighters and to pursue them, but also allowing the pilots of the American P-38s, P-47s and P-51s of escort to take advantage of their fuel autonomy to also attack the enemy airfields and means of transport, especially during their return to their base, thus contributing greatly to the Allied air supremacy over Europe from April-May 1944.

Several actors have played the role of James H. Doolittle in various dramas based on the story:


  1. James H. Doolittle
  2. Jimmy Doolittle
  3. ^ Fogerty, Robert P. (1953). “Biographical Data on Air Force General Officers, 1917-1952, Volume 1 – A thru L” (PDF). Air Force Historical Research Agency. pp. 476–480. USAF historical studies: no. 91. Archived (PDF) from the original on August 31, 2021. Retrieved November 9, 2021.
  4. « Je n”ai pas entendu dire que les gens qui font ce métier meurent de vieillesse. »
  5. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/jdoolitt.htm
  6. [[https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerzy_Gotowa%C5%82a%7CJerzy Gotowala Andrej Przedpelski]], 100 Jaar Luchtvaart. Rebo Productions, Lisse (2004), pp. 46 – 47. ISBN 90 366 1567 4.
  7. 1 2 James Harold Doolittle // Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana (кат.) — Grup Enciclopèdia Catalana, 1968.
  8. 1 2 James H. Doolittle // Munzinger Personen (нем.)
  9. Samantha L. Quigley. Detroit Defied Reality to Help Win World War II (англ.). United Service Organizations. Дата обращения: 2 марта 2019. Архивировано 16 ноября 2018 года.
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