Aviation Pioneers


During World War II, the use of airplanes in combat was crucial as it meant another dimension that you could gain advantage on. However, not any airplane would suffice as the pilot operating the craft was far more important than the craft itself. In United States of America’s case, one considerable pilot was James Harold Doolittle, who has been known as a pioneer in aviation.

Education and Early Career

James Doolittle was in California and raised in Alaska. He first studied Arts, then later earned a doctorate in aeronautics. Doolittle was an exceptional pilot, as he pioneered the use of “blind flying”, a technique where the pilot solely depends on the flight instruments. He earned the Harmon Trophy. The award made him the world’s most outstanding aviator of the year. Another feat of his pioneering was when he flew a DH-4. The flight was the first cross-country flight from Florida to California, which took 21 hours and 19 minutes. Doolittle managed this long flight with only a single refueling stop at Kelly Field. This historic feat of his resulted in the military rewarding Doolittle with a Distinguished Flying Cross.

james Harold Doolittle
James Harold Doolittle

Career in the Army

James H. Doolittle’s aviation career in the army goes back to World War I, when he served as a flying instructor. However, his active military duty was in World War II.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt held a meeting with the Chief of Staff of the United States Army on December 21, 1941, at the White House. After the Pearl Harbor disaster, the morale of the American people was adversely affected. During the war, he wanted an airstrike on Mainland Japan as soon as possible. The main idea was to raise the morale and provide an effective response.

In 1942 Doolittle planned the first aerial raid on Japan. He volunteered to lead this raid with 16 B-25 medium bombers from the aircraft carrier Hornet. This raid conducted by the Air Force targeted Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, and Nagoya. An important point of this raid was that it gave America’s hope in the war a great uplift.

James Doolittle
Pearl Harbour Illustration

Military Recognition

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself presented the Medal of Honor to James H. Doolittle at the White House for his feats in the war, stating: “For conspicuous leadership above and beyond the call of duty, involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life. With the apparent certainty of being forced to land in enemy territory or to perish at sea, Lt. Col. Doolittle personally led a squadron of Army bombers, manned by volunteer crews, in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland.”

Doolittle’s rank in the military only rose with time as he was appointed a special assistant to the Air Force chief of staff in 1951, until his retirement from his Air Force duties in 1959. However, Doolittle’s aviation career was not over with the end of his military career. He continued serving his country as a chairman of the board of Space Technology Laboratories.

Even at the old age of 88, Doolittle was advanced to the full General rank on the Air Force retired list by the United States Congress. With a long aviation career under his belt, Doolittle’s achievements were so exceptional that he became the first person to wear four stars in Air Force reserve history, after President Ronald Reagan and Senator Barry Goldwater pinned on his four-star insignia.


< https://www.af.mil/About-Us/Biographies/Display/Article/107225/general-james-harold-doolittle/ >

< https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Doolittle >

< https://www.britannica.com/biography/James-H-Doolittle >

< https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/james-h-doolittle >