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James Harold Dolittle (1896 - 1993)

Aviation Legend

Lt. General James H. Doolittle, was born the son of a carpenter in Alameda, California, in 1896. He sought gold in Nome, Alaska and was the first ever to receive an aeronautical engineering degree from MIT. With support from the Guggenheim Foundation, he gained early fame for his experiments in flight.

Beginning in the 1920's, "Jimmy" Doolittle compiled an impressive record as an air pioneer. He initially earned national attention in September, 1922 when he made the first transcontinental crossing of the United States in a single day, travelling two thousand and one hundred miles in twenty-one hours. In 1927 Doolittle was the first pilot to complete an "outside loop," a gravity-defying maneuver many considered impossible.

In 1928 Doolittle was released by the Army to head the Full Flight Laboratory. He became involved in projects developing instrument flying to combat the difficulties associated with poor visibility and the menace of fog. Newly developed radio aids, in conjunction with the Sperry gyro-horizon and directional gyro, gave Doolittle the equipment he needed to succeed. On September 24, 1929, flying in the hooded cockpit of a Consolidated NY-2 biplane, Lieutenant Doolittle was able to take off in a dense fog, fly a specific course, and land without reference to the earth.

General Doolittle is probably most remembered for his Tokyo raid during World War II (1939-1945). He led sixteen B-25 Mitchell medium bombers against the Japanese home islands in April 1942. That same year, as a brigadier general, he commanded the U.S. aviation forces invading North Africa, and from 1944 to 1946 he commanded the Eighth Air Force. He was promoted to lieutenant general in 1944.

After the war Doolittle returned to private business, but continued to serve on many advisory boards and commissions. In 1950 he was named "Aviator of the Decade" by the Harmon International Aviation Awards Committee.