Jimmy Doolittle: "The Guy"

          Nowadays, you buy your ticket online, take a webcheck-in and board modern aircrafts (most of the time), aircraft with Glasscockpits, guided by Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). These aircraft fly in any weather conditions, of course, within safety standards! But in the first decades of aviation, more precisely between 1903 and 1929, things were not like that. To fly, the sky had to be blue, clean, no wind, otherwise there was no flight!

          When a plane enters a layer of cloud, we lose all visual references, there that expression "what the eyes do not see, the heart does not feel!", Because the turbulence inside a cumulus cloud can be so severe as to lose the aerospace perception. But at that time there was a North American pilot who would change the concept of flying in just fine weather. His name: James Harold "Jimmy" Doolittle.

          In 1929, he was the first airman to make a solo flight based only on instruments, with no vision of what was happening outside the cabin, taking flight, flying for a few minutes, and landing next. He also developed two of the most accurate and useful air navigation instruments, common today, the artificial horizon and the directional gyroscope, attracting world attention by performing the first complete 'blind flight'. He drew great attention newspaper with this feat of flying "blind" and later received the Harmon Trophy for conducting the experiments. These achievements made for all climates practical air operations.

          In January 1930, he advised the Army on the construction of Floyd Bennett Field in New York. Doolittle resigned on February 15, 1930, and became a major in the US Air Force reserve a month later, when he was appointed manager of the aviation department of Shell Oil Company, where he conducted several tests of aviation. While in the Reserve, he also returned to temporary duty with the Army frequently for testing.

          Doolittle helped the Shell Oil Company to produce the first 100 octane amounts of Avgas (high octane fuel), that was crucial to the high performance aircraft that were developed in the late 1930s. In 1931, Doolittle won the Bendix Trophy race from Burbank, Calif., to Cleveland, in a Laird Super Solution biplane.

          In 1932, Doolittle broke the high-speed world record for ground planes at 296 miles per hour at Shell Speed Dash. He later "took" the Thompson Trophy race in Cleveland as a pilot on the notorious Gee Bee R-1 aircraft with an average speed of 252 miles per hour. After winning the three major air races, Schneider, Bendix, and Thompson, with record speeds and times, he officially retired from the air contest stating, "I still have to hear anyone involved in this work die of old age."

          In April 1934, Doolittle was selected to be a member of the Baker Council. Chaired by former Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, the council was summoned during the Air Mail scandal to study Air Corps organization. In 1940, he became president of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences.

          Doolittle returned to active duty at USAAC on July 1, 1940 with Major's patent. He was appointed as assistant district supervisor for the Central Acquisition District of USAAC in Indianapolis and Detroit where he worked with major automakers on converting their plants to aircraft production. The following August he went to England as a member of a special mission and brought back information about the air forces of other countries and military preparations.

          Doolittle was promoted tha lieutenant colonel on January 2, 1942, and assigned to the USAAF (United States Army Air Force) to plan the first air strike of retaliation in the Japanese homeland. He volunteered and received the approval of General H. H. Arnold to lead the secret attack with 16 North American B-25 Mitchell mid-bombers of the USS Hornet aircraft carrier, with targets in Tokyo, Kobe, Yokohama, Osaka, and Nagoya. But the B-25 was too heavy to operate on an aircraft carrier. So the solution was to decrease the amount of armor of the aircraft and its defense system (cannons and machine guns). Doolittle followed the modifications to the point where they were able to adjust the weight of the aircraft for takeoff and landing on the USS Hornet aircraft carrier.

          Following the attacks on Japanese cities, fifteen of the planes headed for their recovery landing field in China, while a team chose to land in Russia because of the exceptionally high fuel consumption of their bombers. As did most of the other crew members who participated in the mission, Doolittle's crew were safely rescued over China when their bomber ran out of fuel. By then they had flown about 12 o'clock, it was night, the weather was stormy, and Doolittle was unable to locate his landing field. Doolittle fell on a rice plantation (economy of an ankle previously injured from breaking) near Chuchow (Quzhou). He and his crew were aided after the rescue through Japanese lines by Chinese guerrillas and the American missionary John Birch. Other crews were not so lucky. Although most finally arrived safely with the help of the friendly Chinese force, four crew members lost their lives as a result of being captured by the Japanese and three due to the aircraft crash. Doolittle went on to fly more combat missions as the commander of Air Force 12 in North Africa, for which he was awarded four aviation medals. The other surviving members of the attack also went on to new assignments.

          Doolittle received President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Medal of Honor in the White House for planning and leading his invasion in Japan. His quote reads: "For visible leadership above and beyond the call of duty, involving personal courage and intrepidity to a danger extreme for life with the apparent certainty of being forced to land in enemy territory or perishing at sea, Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle personally led a squadron of Army bombers, manned by volunteers, in a highly destructive attack on the Japanese mainland ". The invasion of Doolittle is seen by historians as a major morale-building victory for the United States. Although the damage caused to the Japanese war industry was minor, the attack showed the Japanese that their homeland was vulnerable to an air strike, and forced them to withdraw several units of fighter from the front line of Pacific war zones for the defense of the homeland.

          On May 10, 1946, Doolittle was dispensed from the Army Air Forces as lieutenant general, a rarity on days when almost all other reserve officers were confined to the rank of Major General or Rear Admiral, a restriction which did not end in the United States military until the 21st century. In September 1947, its reserve commission as a general-officer would be transferred to the newly created United States Air Force. Doolittle returned to Shell Oil as vice president, and later as director.

Doolittle is awarded a fourth star, set by President Ronald Reagan.

          In addition to his medal of honor for the attack in Tokyo, Doolittle also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, two Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star, three Illustrious Flying Crosses, the bronze star, four air medals, and decorations the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Poland, China and Ecuador. He was the first person to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Medal of Freedom, two of the country's highest honors. Doolittle was awarded the Public Health Medal of the National Academy of Sciences in 1959. In 1983 he was awarded the Thayer Sylvanus Award by the United States Military Academy. He was inducted into the American Motorsports Hall of Fame as the only member of the air race category in the inaugural edition in 1989 and the Aerospace Walk of Honor in the inaugural 1990 edition. The headquarters of the Air Force Academy Diplomat Association of the United States (AOG) on the foundations of the United States Air Force Academy, Doolittle Hall, is named in his honor.
          James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle died at the age of 96 in Pebble Beach, California, on September 27, 1993, and was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, near Washington, DC, with his wife. In honor of the funeral, there was Miss Mitchell, a solitary B-25 Mitchell, and eight USAF bombers from the Barksdale air base, Louisiana. After a brief funeral ceremony, fellow of the Doolittle Raid, Bill Bower began the final homage on the bugle.

          On May 9, 2007, the new Combined Air Operations Center 12th CAOC, Building 74, at Davis-Monthan in Tucson, Arizona, was named in its honor as the "General James H. Doolittle Center." Several surviving members of Doolittle's invasion were present during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Photos: Wikipedia

Rene Maciel / Rock Aircraft
Editor and Private Pilot.

In the year 2012 there was a great homage to the Doolittle and its historic achievement!

Matéria em Português aqui:⬇
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