Doolittle, James “Jimmy”
Engineer/Military Strategist/Record Setter/Test PilotEnshrined 1967 1896-1993
Following the Tokyo raid, Doolittle returned to Washington D.C. and was picked up in a staff car by Henry “Hap” Arnold and Army Chief of Staff George Marshall. As the car headed downtown, Doolittle asked where they were going. The question provoked stares from Marshall and a grin from Arnold. Doolittle broke the silence. “I think there’s something going on that I don’t know about. I’m not a very smart fellow and if it involves me I think somebody had better tell me so they won’t be embarrassed.” “Jimmy,” Arnold said, “we’re on our way to the White House. The president is going to give you the Medal of Honor.”
- In 1922, made the first air crossing of the U.S. in under 24 hours. Then he served on various governmental aviation advisory boards.
- Made the first outside loop in 1927.
- Made the world’s first totally blind flight on September 24th, 1929.
- Won the Thompson Trophy in 1932 flying the Gee Bee R-1 at a speed of 296 mph saying it was the most dangerous airplane he ever flew.
- Set many speed records and won many important races in the 20s and 30s including the Schneider in 1925 and the Bendix in 1931.
- Lead the famous B-25 Tokyo raid in April 1942 from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet for which he received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
- During World War II he commanded the 12th Air Force in North Africa and the Eighth Air Force in England from 1944 to 1945.
After winning his wings during World War I, Doolittle flew with the border patrol. He attended the air service mechanical school at Kelly Field, and then entered the engineering school at McCook field, where he later directed experimental flying. In 1922 he made the first transcontinental flight in less than a day’s time.
After receiving a master’s degree and doctorate of science in aeronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Doolittle won the Schneider Cup Seaplane Race in 1925 and made the first outside loop in 1927. He pioneered in the science of instrumental “blind flying” in 1929 when he took off, flew a set course, and landed, without seeing the ground. In the 1930s, he flew in the National Air Races, winning the Transport, the Bendix, and the Thompson Trophy races. Returning to active duty in 1940, he helped plan for warplane production. During World War II, he led a flight of carrier-based bombers in a historic raid against Tokyo, for which he received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Afterwards, he commanded and led the 12th, the 15th, and the Eighth Air Forces to victory. Retiring as a lieutenant general, he continued to serve the Air Force and the nation and to participate in aerospace developments. For his achievements, he received almost every major aviation honor.
Jimmy Doolittle died on September 27th, 1993.
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