On April 18, 1942, from a position at sea 668 miles from Tokyo, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8) launched 16 B-25s of the 17th AAF Air Group led by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy H. Doolittle, for the first attack on the Japanese homeland.
On the morning of the attack, while still 650 nautical miles from Japan, a Japanese picket boat sighted the U.S. forces and immediately radioed a warning to headquarters in Japan. U.S. forces immediately launched the strike – 12 hours earlier and 150 nautical miles farther from Japan than planned. Although none of the B-25 pilots, including Doolittle, had ever taken off from an aircraft carrier before, all 16 planes were launched safely in one hour.
This mission occurred just four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and demonstrated the newly discovered air wing capabilities of the carrier.
This feat signified that carrier “presence matters” to ensure U.S. readiness around the world. Carriers are at the highest operational tempo since WWII and so it is even more important than even that an 11-carrier fleet is maintained through the carrier midlife modernization process. As history proved in 1942, aircraft carriers capabilities are always evolving to current mission needs making them the preeminent ships in the sea.
Photo Credit: U.S. Navy