Doolittle, James

views updated

Doolittle, James (1896–1993), Army Air Force Officer.Doolittle, a man of brilliant scientific ability, received one of the first U.S. doctorates in aeronautical engineering from MIT in 1925. He also possessed immense physical and moral courage. After joining the air service in 1917, he transferred to the reserves in 1930. He pioneered instrument flying and won several airplane races. In the 1930s, as a manager in Shell Petroleum, “Jimmy” Doolittle pushed the development of high‐octane aviation fuels, which permitted the creation of the advanced piston engines powering World War II U.S. combat aircraft. He continued to fly as a test and racing pilot, establishing flight time and speed records. After returning him to active duty in 1940, the Army Air Forces in January 1942 selected him to lead the first bombing mission against Japan. The “Doolittle Raid” on Tokyo by B‐25 bombers launched from U.S. aircraft carriers earned him a jump in rank to brig. general and a Medal of Honor. It helped convince the Japanese to launch their disastrous Midway.

In November 1942, Doolittle led the U.S. Twelfth Air Force into North Africa, and in November 1943 he headed the Fifteenth Air Force in Italy. In January 1944, he took command of the Eighth Air Force in Britain, which he controlled until V‐E Day. His promotion of aggressive fighter escort tactics gained the Americans air superiority over Germany. After the war, he served on numerous government commissions.


Lowell Thomas and and Edward Jablonski , Doolittle: A Biography, 1976.
James H. Doolittle, with and Carroll V.
Glines , I Could Never Be So Lucky Again: An Autobiography by General James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, 1991.

Richard G. Davis