Jimmy Doolittle


James Harold “Jimmy” Doolittle
American aviation pioneer, General in USAAF, commander of Doolittle’s Raid in WWII

“The first lesson is that you can’t lose a war if you have command of the air, and you can’t win a war if you haven’t.”

December 14, 1896
Alameda, California

Death/death place:
September 27, 1993
Pebble Beach, California

Josephine “Joe” E. Daniels

During World War II, there was one event that will, forever, stand out as exceptional, courageous, daring, and remarkable. Four months, and eleven days, after the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack against the United States, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, 80 very brave men, flying 16 medium, twin engine Army bombers, were able to attack the Japanese homeland. This so remarkable because they did it by flying their twin engine bombers off of an aircraft carrier. Twin engine bombers and aircraft carriers, at that point in time, were never designed to operate together. The bombers required one half of a mile, 2,500 feet, to get airborne. This mission required them to get off in less than 500 feet. Further, the bombers were one ton over weight when they did it.

Curtiss R3C-2 Racer
B-25 bomber and P-51 fighter during WWII
Doolittle flew 265 different types of airplanes and accrued 10,000 hours of flying time.

: Don Houk
Don is a retired Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force Reserve and former airline pilot with 5,000+ flying hours. He has spent seventeen years in airline ground operations. In addition, he is a former trade show director with the United States Air & Trade Show, the sixth largest in the world, and past President of the Volunteer Group at the Frontiers of Flight Museum. Colonel Houk has given this presentation to over 4,500 attendees – to date.


  • Doolittle enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley to study mining engineering.
  • He never completed his studies (several years later he was awarded a bachelor’s degree, however), for in September 1917 he enrolled in the Signal Corps of the U.S. Army hoping to become a pilot.
  • Doolittle saw no overseas duty during World War I, but remained in the service after the war ended and received a first lieutenant’s commission in the Regular Army in 1920.
  • Doolittle emerged as a public figure in 1922 when he flew from Pablo Beach, Florida, to San Diego in less than 22 hours flying time, the first to span the continent in less than 24 hours.
  • Nine years later, in the course of winning the Bendix Trophy race, he recorded the first transcontinental flying time of less than 12 hours.
  • During the 1920s and early 1930s Doolittle, both as a student and as a pilot, made several important contributions to the advancement of aviation. Besides the two transcontinental speed records he established, he set additional speed records and in various ways added to the understanding of acceleration’s effects.
  • He became the first North American to fly across the Andes; and, perhaps most important, after further studies and research at the Full Flight Laboratory he made the first blind flight and landing on September 24, 1929.
  • Following the Doolittle Raid, Doolittle was given a rare double promotion to Brigadier General and then was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony.

Doolittle on his Curtiss R3C-2 Racer, the plane in which he won the 1925 Schneider Trophy Race.


  • 1925 Selected to be one of the first participants in the army’s new program in aeronautical engineering, he received a doctorate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • 1930 Given a major’s rank in the reserves, Doolittle left active military service to join the Shell Oil Company.
  • July 1, 1940 Doolittle re-entered uniformed service as a major assigned to straighten out aircraft production bottlenecks.
  • April 18, 1942 The 16 planes he commanded flew from the carrier Hornet to bomb assorted targets in Tokyo and a few other Japanese cities and then on to landings in China in the Doolittle Raid.
  • 1944 At 49, Doolittle was the youngest lieutenant general in U.S. service and the only reservist to reach that rank.
  • 1989 Doolittle was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush.

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