b. 14/12/1896 Alameda, California. d. 27/09/1993 Pebble Beach, California.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 18/04/1942 over Tokyo, Japan.
Doolittle was born in Alameda, California, and spent his youth in Nome, Alaska, where he earned a reputation as a boxer. His parents were Frank Henry Doolittle and Rosa (Rose) Cerenah Shephard. By 1910, Jimmy Doolittle was attending school in Los Angeles. When his school attended the 1910 Los Angeles International Air Meet at Dominguez Field Doolittle saw his first airplane. He attended Los Angeles City College after graduating from Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, and later won admission to the University of California, Berkeley where he studied in The School of Mines. He was a member of Theta Kappa Nu fraternity, which would merge into Lambda Chi Alpha during the latter stages of the Great Depression. Doolittle took a leave of absence in October 1917 to enlist in the Signal Corps Reserve as a flying cadet; he ground trained at the School of Military Aeronautics (an Army school) on the campus of the University of California, and flight-trained at Rockwell Field, California. Doolittle received his Reserve Military Aviator rating and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Signal Officers Reserve Corps of the U.S. Army on March 11, 1918.
During World War I, Doolittle stayed in the United States as a flight instructor and performed his war service at Camp John Dick Aviation Concentration Center (“Camp Dick”), Texas; Wright Field, Ohio; Gerstner Field, Louisiana; Rockwell Field, California; Kelly Field, Texas and Eagle Pass, Texas.
Doolittle was one of the most famous pilots during the inter-war period. In September 1922, he made the first of many pioneering flights, flying a de Havilland DH-4 – which was equipped with early navigational instruments – in the first cross-country flight, from Pablo Beach (renamed Jacksonville Beach), Florida, to Rockwell Field, San Diego, California, in 21 hours and 19 minutes, making only one refueling stop at Kelly Field. The U.S. 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. In March 1924, he conducted aircraft acceleration tests at McCook Field, which became the basis of his master’s thesis and led to his second Distinguished Flying Cross. He received his M.S. in Aeronautics from MIT in June 1924. Because the Army had given him two years to get his degree and he had done it in just one, he immediately started working on his Sc.D. in Aeronautics, which he received in June 1925. His doctorate in aeronautical engineering was the first ever issued in the United States. He said that he considered his master’s work more significant than his doctorate.
In 1932, Doolittle set the world’s high speed record for land planes at 296 miles per hour in the Shell Speed Dash. Later, he took the Thompson Trophy race at Cleveland in the notorious Gee Bee R-1 racer with a speed averaging 252 miles per hour. After having won the three big air racing trophies of the time, the Schneider, Bendix, and Thompson, he officially retired from air racing stating, “I have yet to hear anyone engaged in this work dying of old age.”
Doolittle returned to active duty in the U.S. Army Air Corps on July 1, 1940 with rank of Major. He was assigned as the assistant district supervisor of the Central Air Corps Procurement District at Indianapolis, and Detroit, where he worked with large auto manufacturers on the conversion of their plants for production of planes. The following August, he went to England as a member of a special mission and brought back information about other countries’ air forces and military build-ups.
Doolittle was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on January 2, 1942, and assigned to Army Air Forces Headquarters to plan the first retaliatory air raid on the Japanese homeland. He volunteered for and received General H.H. Arnold’s approval to lead the top secret attack of 16 B-25 medium bombers from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, with targets in Tokyo, Kobe, Yokohama, Osaka and Nagoya. Doolittle received the Medal of Honor from President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House for planning and leading his raid on Japan.
Maj Gen Doolittle took command of the Fifteenth Air Force in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in November 1943. On June 10, he flew as co-pilot with Jack Sims, fellow Tokyo Raider, in a B-26 Marauder of the 320th Bombardment Group, 442nd Bombardment Squadron on a mission to attack gun emplacements at Pantelleria. Doolittle continued to fly, despite the risk of capture, while being privy to the Ultra secret, which was that the German encryption systems had been broken by the British. From January 1944 to September 1945, he held his largest command, the Eighth Air Force (8 AF) in England as a Lieutenant General, his promotion date being March 13, 1944 and the highest rank ever held by an active reserve officer in modern times.
On 10 May 1946, Doolittle reverted to inactive reserve status in the Army Air Forces in the grade of Lieutenant General, a rarity in those days when nearly all other reserve officers were limited to the rank of Major General or Rear Admiral, a restriction that would not end in the US armed forces until the 21st century. In September 1947, his reserve commission as a general officer would be transferred to the newly established United States Air Force. Doolittle returned to Shell Oil as a vice president, and later as a director.
In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower asked Doolittle to perform a study of the Central Intelligence Agency; The resulting work was known as the Doolittle Report, 1954, and was classified for a number of years.
On April 4, 1985, the U.S. Congress promoted Doolittle to the rank of full 4-star General (O-10) on the U.S. Air Force retired list. In a later ceremony, President Ronald Reagan and U.S. Senator and retired Air Force Reserve Major General Barry Goldwater pinned on Doolittle’s four-star insignia.
In addition to his Medal of Honor for the Tokyo raid, Doolittle also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, two Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star, four Air Medals, and decorations from Great Britain, France, Belgium, Poland, China and Ecuador. He was the first person to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s two highest honors. Doolittle was awarded the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in 1959. In 1983, he was awarded the United States Military Academy’s Sylvanus Thayer Award. He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America as the only member of the air racing category in the inaugural class of 1989, and into the Aerospace Walk of Honor in the inaugural class of 1990. The headquarters of the United States Air Force Academy Association of Graduates (AOG) on the grounds of the United States Air Force Academy, Doolittle Hall, is named in his honor.
Doolittle married Josephine “Joe” E. Daniels on December 24, 1917. At a dinner celebration after Jimmy Doolittle’s first all-instrument flight in 1929, Josephine Doolittle asked her guests to sign her white damask tablecloth. Later, she embroidered the names in black. She continued this tradition, collecting hundreds of signatures from the aviation world. The tablecloth was donated to the Smithsonian Institution. Married for exactly 71 years, Josephine Doolittle died on December 24, 1988, five years before her husband.
The Doolittles had two sons, James Jr., and John. Both became military officers and pilots. James Jr. was an A-26 Invader pilot in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II and later a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force in the late 1940s through the late 1950s. He died by suicide in 1958, aged 38. At the time of his death, James Jr. was a Major and commander of the 524th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, piloting the F-101 Voodoo.
The other son, John P. Doolittle, retired from the Air Force as a colonel, and his grandson, Colonel James H. Doolittle III, was the vice commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle died from a stroke at the age of 96 in Pebble Beach, California, on September 27, 1993, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, near Washington, D.C., next to his wife. In his honor at the funeral, there was also a flyover of Miss Mitchell, a lone B-25 Mitchell, and USAF Eighth Air Force bombers from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. After a brief graveside service, fellow Doolittle Raider Bill Bower began the final tribute on the bugle. When emotion took over, Doolittle’s great-grandson, Paul Dean Crane, Jr., played Taps.
For conspicuous leadership above the call of duty, involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life. With the apparent certainty of being forced to land in enemy territory or to perish at sea, Gen. Doolittle personally led a squadron of Army bombers, manned by volunteer crews, in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland.
BURIAL LOCATION: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA.
SECTION 7A, GRAVE 110
LOCATION OF MEDAL:
NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION, WASHINGTON DC ;
TENNESSEE MUSEUM OF AVIATION, SEVIERVILLE, TENNESSEE ;
MCDERMOTT LIBRARY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT DALLAS, DALLAS, TEXAS.