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James H. Doolittle

 

Lt. Gen. USAF

Engineer-Test Pilot

Renowned Commander

Born Alameda, California

December 14, 1896—

James Harold Doolittle, Jr. constructed his own glider from magazine plans in 1910-12. He received his degree in Mining Engineering from the University of California in 1922 and Doctorate in Aeronautical Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1925. He entered the U.S. Army Air Service in 1917 and was rated a Military Aviator in early 1918, serving out the war as a gunnery and flight instructor. His high skill and fearlessness as a pilot marked him early as a leader, and with his engineering background brought him naturally into experimental test flying at the Air Corps Test Center at McCook Field, Ohio in 1922.

His achievements during the golden age of aviation were legion. In 1922, he was the first to fly across the U.S. in a single day, from Pablo Beach, Florida, to San Diego, California. In 1925, in a Curtiss P-1 pursuit plane, he performed the first outside loop. As winner of the 1925 Schneider Trophy Race, he established a world record speed of 245 MPH. His greatest contribution to the advance of aviation during this period was his work with the Guggenheim Full Flight Laboratory, in the development of instruments for flight in adverse weather. On September 24, 1929, in complete zero conditions from take off to landing, he made the first blind flight in history.

Believing he could contribute more to the advance of aviation outside the service, he left active duty in 1930 to become Manager of Shell Oil Company's Aviation Department, where he furthered the development of high-octane aviation fuel. In promoting aircraft engine-fuel developments, he became the dominant air race figure. Winning the Bendix Trophy Race, he established a new land-plane speed record of 252 MPH.

"Jimmie" Doolittle was recalled to active duty in 1940 to assist in the accelerated build up of American air power. In 1942, he was selected to organize and command a most daring operation against Japan. In the early hours of April 18, 1942, launching several hundred miles early because the Task Force had been detected, Lt. Col. Doolittle led 16 Mitchell bombers off the pitching deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet to bomb industrial targets in Tokyo and other cities. This "Tokyo Raid" provided a much needed morale boost in the bleak early days of WW II and a grateful nation awarded him a much deserved Medal of Honor for his valor, promoting him to the rank of Brigadier General.

Placed in command of U.S. Air Forces in North Africa, he again demonstrated his talent for leadership, personally participating in combat operations with his units. In 1944, he was chosen to lead the mighty Eighth Air Force in England during the crucial period of the invasion of Europe. Much honored by his country and the Allied Nations, Lt. Gen. Doolittle retired from the Army Air Forces in 1946 and returned to his position at Shell Oil.

His "retirement" in 1959 did not foretell a slowing-down for this dedicated man. Today he continues to serve his country and the aerospace world as a sage advisor and advocate.

Invested 1966 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984

*General Doolittle passed away on September 27, 1993.  The investiture document was written while he was still alive.


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Updated: March 12, 2004