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Doolittle with crew in China
Doolittle with crew in China
Photograph courtesy U.S. Naval Historical Center


“Our target was a cinch to find,” Stork says. “It was a big chemical factory, and right at the base of the Sumida River, which enters into the Bay of Tokyo.” (Pilots had specific orders not to bomb the Imperial Palace.)

After dropping their 500-pound (225-kilogram) bombs, Stork and his crew headed out to sea, to convince Japanese observers that the raiders were heading back to their carrier. Then, 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the end of the Japanese coast, the bomber headed west.

“And as we turned west across the Yellow Sea, the navigator said, ‘I think we’re going to have to ditch about 25 miles [40 kilometers] off the coast, because we’re getting pretty slim on the gas. He called back about 20 minutes later and he said, ’Good news! We’ve picked up a 22-mile-an-hour [35-kilometer-an-hour] tailwind. And that’s the only reason on God’s green Earth we were able to get our planes in over China. We got about 70 [113 kilometers] inland before we had to bail out.”

In the evening darkness Stork “just dropped out of the bottom of the airplane and hoped to God the parachute opened.” Alone, unaware of the fate of his fellow fliers, he hid out until dawn, then cautiously walked into a small village.

The village magistrate took him in and became one of many Chinese who helped Stork and the other survivors of the raid pass through China and into India, where their journey finally ended.

Fifteen of the planes crash-landed in China and one landed at a Soviet base in Siberia. Of the 75 fliers who crashed in China, 3 died accidentally and 8 were captured by Japanese searchers. After show trials the Japanese executed three men; one died in prison. The other fliers who landed in China returned to the United States.

The five-person crew that landed in the Soviet Union was interned for 14 months and then released--along with a bill for their food, to be paid for by the United States. The Soviets did not return that crew’s B-25.


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