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    Doolittle’s granddaughter recounts raid on Tokyo, encourages other veterans to tell their stories

    Granddaughter of Gen. Jimmy Doolittle recounts the raid on Tokyo

    Photo By Nicole Woods | Joanna Doolittle Hoppes, granddaughter of Gen. James ‘Jimmy’ H. Doolittle, shares...... read more read more



    Story by Nicole Woods 

    Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling

    WASHINGTON – Joanna Doolittle Hoppes, granddaughter of Army Air Corps Gen. James "Jimmy" H. Doolittle, recently told her grandfather’s story of the raid on Tokyo and the moments leading up to it, at the 2014 Air Force Association Air and Space Conference held at the National Harbor Gaylord Convention Center.

    Most people know Doolittle as the pilot who led the raid on Tokyo, but according to Hoppes, there was a lot more to him than that.

    Doolittle was born in Alameda, California, in 1896 before moving with his family to Nome, Alaska, where he’d spend a portion of his childhood, before moving back to California.

    Hoppes recalls the stories her grandfather shared about his childhood, especially the ones that took place during the long, dark, winter days in Alaska, when the gymnasium was one of the few places that kids could play, which was very important to Doolittle, who loved acrobatics and tumbling.

    She described him as the kid who got picked on for being “too short,” and the kid that pushed the limit with his teachers, landing him in detention from time to time, where he’d have to write on the board 25 times, “Jimmy Doolittle is the smallest boy in Nome.”

    Those childhood moments would later become significant in the way Doolittle lived his life. He made sure he didn’t let his small stature stop him from accomplishing the things he wanted to do in life.

    By 1908, Doolittle and his mother moved back to Los Angeles, after the separation of his parents. He continued with gymnastics and later got into professional boxing. He also met his wife, Josephine "Jo" Elsie Daniels, a kind and thoughtful woman, who would play a major role in his career and legacy.

    Doolittle eventually joined the U.S. Army Air Signal Corps as a flying cadet, something he’d been interested in doing for years. It was no surprise when he began setting records for long-distance flying, because “he was determined to be the best at whatever he did,” explained Hoppes.

    With a desire to fly overseas in England and in Europe during WWI, Doolittle’s unit decided to keep him in the states as a flight instructor at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. He was disappointed with the assignment, but he made the most of it by spending all of his time practicing.

    Known for his fearlessness, Doolittle used to hop in a plane with his buddy John and once in the air, he would climb out of the cockpit onto the wing and start performing some of his old tumbling tricks. In 1922 Doolittle became the first pilot to fly coast to coast in less than 24 hours, from Florida to California, with just one stop in Texas for a quick refuel.

    “He always pushed the limit,” said Hoppes.

    The first school that the Corps sent him to was mechanic school, where he learned how to take a plane apart and put it back together again, which he loved to do. He then attended engineering school, and he received his Bachelor of Science degree, before heading to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for a master’s degree. After just two years at MIT, Doolittle not only earned his degree, but also received a Doctorate of Science in aeronautical engineering, the first of its kind ever issued by the school.

    Hoppes also emphasized the importance of a strong, supportive military spouse, like Jo Doolittle, who would take care of the children all day and still dedicate her time to her husband and other military spouses in need.

    When he got home from school in the evenings, his wife would type his notes to help him study. Unbeknownst to Doolittle at the time, those notes would later become the first textbook MIT used for aeronautical engineering.

    Doolittle spent the next few years, between wars, testing the limits of planes, which then led to new developments that allowed pilots to fly in whiteout conditions, where visibility was low due to weather.

    He retired from the Army in February of 1930 for a better paying job with an oil company, adapting new and improved aviation fuel. During that time, Doolittle still flew passenger planes, with his wife as his official passenger.

    Around 1938 to 1940, Doolittle began to notice the issues that were ensuing in Germany, so he rejoined the service in July 1940.

    On Dec. 7, 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt called his chief of staffs together to request a retaliatory strike. This resulted in the Navy’s plan to take a medium, land-based bomber, the B-25 Mitchell, off of an aircraft carrier and attack Japan – known as the raid on Tokyo.

    On April 18, 1942, as planned, 16 B-25 Mitchell, twin-engine bombers, became the first American attack on the Japanese mainland. Before even taking off, the aircraft crews on those planes knew that they lacked the amount of fuel needed to return to the carrier so they planned to crash-land onto a mountainside in China, after dropping the bombs.

    Hoppes explained that this was not designed to be a suicide mission, and Doolittle was called in because of his expertise as a scientist, to lead the raid. The planes were stripped down to a minimum weight and then filled with as much fuel and bombs as possible, in addition to the five men that would operate each of the aircrafts. Doolittle ensured that his crew landed safely. Because of his quick thinking and leadership, Doolittle was awarded the Medal of Honor, which he accepted on behalf of all of the raiders on his team.

    “I will spend the rest of my life trying to deserve this medal,” Doolittle humbly responded upon receiving the award.

    At the time of the Tokyo raid, Doolittle was an Army Air Corps lieutenant colonel. He was promoted to brigadier general after the raid, skipping the rank of colonel. He retired as a lieutenant general, and in 1985 he was promoted to full general in the U.S. Air Force, by a special act of Congress.

    After a long and distinguished military career, Jimmy Doolittle passed away in 1993 at the age of 96.

    “My grandfather was a true patriot, he loved his country and he loved the Air Force,” said Hoppes. “I’m sure as he looks at what you all are facing; his spirit is right behind you the whole time. He would be so proud to serve with each of you today.”

    As the founder and executive director of the Doolittle Foundation, an organization dedicated to making US military history available to students, Hoppes is currently involved in developing lesson plans for teachers in public, private and homeschool settings. Their mission is to link veterans with local schools for lectures that encourage veterans to record their individual histories.

    “It is my hope that every single story out there is told, no matter how big or small,” she said. “Every single one of those stories blend together to tell our nation’s military history.”



    Date Taken: 09.30.2014
    Date Posted: 09.30.2014 14:45
    Story ID: 143811
    Location: WASHINGTON, DC, US 
    Hometown: ALAMEDA, CA, US

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