|Doolittle Artwork from The Official Website of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders|
Eighty Army Airmen formed the sixteen crews known as the Doolittle Raiders who bombed the Japanese homeland in April of 1942. Many consider this operation to be a turning point in WWII because it boosted the morale of the allies and humbled the Japanese at a time when they had seemed invincible.
After bombing Japan, three of the Raiders died during crash landings and bailouts in China, eight were captured by the Japanese (three were put to death and one died of starvation), five landed in the Soviet Union and were interned until they escaped through the Middle East one year later, and the rest were assisted inland by the Chinese.
So what happened to these airmen after their infamous raid and escape from China?
|Crew #5 - Davey Jones, 2nd from the left|
Courtesy of the National Museum of the US Air Force
Former Plane 5 pilot Davey Jones participated in the invasion of North Africa. Leading a dozen P-38 fighters in a B-26, he landed at the airfield in Oran, Algeria, during fighting. They had to land from every direction, straddling bomb craters and avoiding wrecked airplanes. Two or three hundred planes parked there, and the men lived by their airplanes and built fires for cooking. After a few days they all moved to Algiers. From there they ran bombing raids without ground crews. They refueled with five-gallon tins and loaded their 250-pound bombs by sheer muscle.
|North Africa Campaign - Courtesy of Naval-History.net and the Late Gordon Smith|
In November of 1942, Eisenhower started the offensive against Tunis, which was defended by thirty thousand German troops. Davey Jones led a raid on the port of Bizerte, twenty miles north of Tunis. They were forced to bomb at twelve hundred feet because they didn’t have any bomb sights. Jones’ plane was hit and the left engine knocked out. He also lost the trim and engine instruments and was forced to land along the coast between two little sand mounds which took their wings off.
The crew set off walking and ran into a line of German skirmishers. Jones pointed at his pistol and one of the Germans pulled it out. He said, "'For you, the war is over.'" He and another guy were taken to the command post where the blond, Aryan-type commander who spoke reasonable English gave him a deck chair, cheese, and wine and asked him not to run away that night.
Jones was sent to Sicily and on to Rome for interrogation where he was in solitary for two weeks. From there he traveled by train in a group to Stalag Luft III, 125 miles southeast of Berlin. He arrived on his birthday. The camp was run by the Luftwaffe instead of the Gestapo or SS and grew to hold around 10,000 captive Allied aviators. In camp, Davey Jones was given the moniker "Tokyo" Jones because of his Raider experience.
The POWs put each other to work "'building things, hiding things or ‘working to escape’-type things.'" In the spring of 1943, Davey and others moved to the north camp where they built the big tunnel featured in the book and movie, The Great Escape. The dug the tunnel thirty feet down through sand, using their hands or a small trowel and shored up the tunnel with bed boards. They used a little tin with margarine for a lamp but had to keep sending it up to be relit before they realized there wasn’t enough oxygen to support it. They had "a guy word a pump to bring air into the tunnel with beg bellows, and eventually they ran electric lights."
After the tunnel was dug a hundred feet out, they built a two-foot by fifteen inch cart and put in two wooden rails so the guys could ride out to the face and haul the sand back in. They removed the sand in two-pound lots, and the airmen wore little bags inside their pant legs that allowed them to disperse the sand after they pulled a little pin.
The Nazi’s built more prisons to accommodate the rising number of captured Allied airmen, and the Americans were moved out of Luft III, and they didn’t participate in the actual escape. Being moved likely saved Jones’s life because many of those who escaped were recaptured and executed. Jones stayed in the service after the war ended and later had the opportunity to test fly the Mach-2 supersonic bomber in 1955. He lived to be 95.
|Crew #14 - Herb Macia, 3rd from the left|
Courtesy of the National Museum of the US Air Force
After the capture of Davey Jones and Ross Greening, U.S. Army officials worried that the Germans would hand over any captured Raiders to the Japanese, so they stopped most of the Raiders from flying and sent them home. Plane #14 navigator/bombardier Herb Macia from Tombstone, Arizona, missed the recall and crewed more than seventy sorties all the way to April 1945. He amassed more WWII combat missions than any other Raider. He lived to 93.
|Crew #2 - Lieutenant Travis Hoover, 2nd from the left|
Courtesy of the National Museum of the Air Force
Former Plane 2 pilot Lt. Travis Hoover was assigned to train crews for a new squadron of B-25s. Before they were combat ready, they were sent to North Africa to bomb the tank forces under Rommel. Hoover flew missions over Sicily and Italy and then volunteered to fly B-24’s, "doing runs on Romania’s Ploesti oil fields, which were the major source of fuel for the Nazis." Instead of being sent home after flying about fifty missions, Hoover received permission from Doolittle to stay on as a fighter pilot. He survived the war and lived to the age of 86.
The First Heroes: The Extraordinary Story of the Doolittle Raid—America’s First World War II Victory by Craig Nelson (Viking, 2002)
Cindy Stewart, a high school social studies teacher, church pianist, and inspirational historical fiction author, semi-finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2017 Genesis contest, and won ACFW’s 2014 First Impressions contest in the historical category. Cindy is passionate about revealing God’s handiwork in history. She resides in North Georgia with her college sweetheart and husband of thirty-seven years and near her married daughter, son-in-law, and three adorable grandchildren. She’s currently writing a fiction series set in WWII Europe.