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Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

Updated: Apr 3, 2019


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Date-Time Group: 03/18/1942-0300 Zulu Time - Sixteen United States Army Air Force B-25 Mitchell medium-range bombers cross the Japanese coastline and vector in on selected military targets in the cities of Yokosuka, Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe, Yokohama and Tokyo. This covert mission, a response to the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, is not designed to inflict severe damage to Japans military industrial manufacturing. Its main purpose is propaganda, to boost sagging American morale after a number of defeats in late 1941, and early 1942. It was also intended to send a message to Japan! You are not invulnerable to attack or defeat.



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Description & Discussion:


Led by Lieutenant-Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle and an all-volunteer crew of 79 airmen, the raid was a resounding success at almost every level. The B-25 Mitchell bomber was key to the mission’s success and was a first in aviation history. It was essential that the aircraft be able to carry a bomb payload of maximum destructive effect and have the flight range to hit their targets and then carry the aircrews to safety in western China . The Japanese knew that U.S. Naval attack aircraft had a range of only 250 miles so that was where their defensive stand ended. With modification, the B-25 had the range, the lift capacity and the payload capability to reach Japan launching from a distance of over 600 nautical miles. Never in aviation history had a medium sized bomber launched from an aircraft carrier, until now!


The attack made the Japanese military realign their defensive posture around their home islands which drained vital resources needed for offensive operations. It forced a decision by the Japanese Navy to speed up their plans to engage the U.S. aircraft carriers that remained a threat to Japanese expansion plans (the carriers were on an exercise at sea when Pearl Harbor was attacked). More importantly, the “Doolittle Raid” forced the “Battle of Midway” which changed the dynamic, and tone of the Pacific War.


As we look at the “The Archer & The Arrows” section of our leaders’ library, the “Doolittle Raid” would be a case study of task, talent, train and trust. LtCol. Doolittle was given the task by the Army at the direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to bomb Japan. As for talent, after selecting the B-25 Mitchell bomber as the most suitable aircraft, Doolittle searched for the best of the best of B-25 pilots in the U.S. Army. Training for short runway takeoffs, low-level flying and precision bombing runs lasted just over eight weeks prior to departing for California to get intelligence and security briefings. As for trust, LtCol. Doolittle had faith in his men, their aircraft and in the mission.

Decision, Design & Discipline:


I’ve always considered this military mission to be the epitome of planning, tactical intent and long-range strategy. It had an intended purpose, a well-conceived plan, a doable sequence of actions designed to achieve a distinct and measurable goal. Time and time again, I’ve fallen back on the “Doolittle Precepts” when preparing a plan that addresses intent, tactics and strategy. It’s a planning style that works with any event with a desired outcome.


By using a step-by-step approach, I am able to:

* Identify the decision to be made or make the right decision by recognizing the problem or opportunity .

* Collect information to decide a course of action, and use the facts/data available to make the decision.

* Determine what information is relevant, and ascertain what you need to know to make the right decision.

* Always identify alternative solutions to determine the best course of action.

* Always assess the evidence and evaluate the feasibility of alternative solutions.

* Weigh the pros and cons and select the option with the highest chance of success.

* When making a decision, be sure that you understand the risks involved.

* Create a plan to implement your decision by identifying the resources needed

* Put the right people in the right place, train those people and then trust your plan and your people.

·* Get other stakeholders onboard with your decision, they are key component of executing your plan.

* Be prepared to address questions or concerns people will have.

· Review your decision after the issues are resolved.

*NOTE - This process is often-overlooked, but it's important in the decision-making process to evaluate your decisions for effectiveness and to ask yourself what you did well and what you can do better next time.




For more on the Doolittle Raid, please visit our Download section.




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