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.