James H. Doolittle Collection

Permanent URI for this collectionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10735.1/1334

James Harold “Jimmy” Doolittle was born December 14, 1896 in Alameda, California. Spending time growing up in Alaska and Los Angeles, Doolittle became interested in flying when he attended the Los Angeles Aviation Meet in 1913. Doolittle pursued further education in engineering, as well as meeting Josephine Daniels (often called Jo), who he would marry in 1917.

1918 found Doolittle in the army and undergoing flight training at Rockwell Field near San Diego, CA. Doolittle continued to set a number of speed records with his flying including winning the Schneider Trophy Race in 1925. In 1929, Doolittle made his first major contribution to aviation by pioneering blind flight of aircraft. Flying a modified Consolidated NY-2 Trainer, Doolittle demonstrated that an airplane could take off and land by instruments only, and won the Guggenheim Prize.

In 1929, Doolittle took a job flying for Shell Oil Company, while continuing to set speed records, including winning the 1932 Thompson Trophy in his Gee Bee 1 Racer. Events of the 1930s caused Doolittle to desire his return to active duty with the U.S. Army. He was first put in charge of figuring out problems with the Martin B-26 Marauder. Then after Japan attacked the United States in 1941, and the US entered the war, Doolittle was put in charge of a special mission. He, along with eighty volunteers, learned to take off in an extremely short distance with a North American B-25 Mitchell bomber. The bombers were then loaded onto the USS Hornet and in April of 1942 set off for Japan. The plan was to take off from the carrier, bomb Japan, and then land in China. However, the fleet was detected and the decision was made to launch the attack 400 miles early. The planes were able to hit their targets in Japan, but were forced down short of the landing fields in China. Eventually Doolittle and his surviving men were found by friendly Chinese and returned to allied hands. For his part in the raid, Doolittle received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Franklin Roosevelt.

After the raid, Doolittle continued to serve the Army Air Corps in World War II, including a morale raising tour of defense facilities, serving as the commander of the 12th Air Force in North Africa, the 8th Air Force in Europe, and finally being transferred to the Pacific Theater for the end of World War II. In 1947, Doolittle threw a party for the surviving raiders, and this became the nucleus of the Doolittle Raider’s Association and their yearly reunions. After the war, Doolittle retired from the Army and took a job with Mutual of Omaha.

He spent a lot of time touring the country giving speeches, and received numerous awards and honors. He also found time to pursue his passion for hunting, including going on Safari in Africa and completing several hunting feats. He traveled as well, visiting both the Soviet Union and Antarctica. He remained active in politics, playing a major role in Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Presidential Campaign. Doolittle continued his association with the men who participated in the raid, attending the reunions held by the Doolittle Raider’s Association. He was often asked questions about the raid as well as his aviation experiences, and provided his expertise to numerous articles, interviews, and television documentaries. In 1991 Doolittle collaborated with Col. C.V. Glines USAF (ret.) on his autobiography I Could Never Be So Lucky Again. James H. Doolittle passed away on September 27, 1993 at the age of ninety-six.


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