top of page

James Howard Doolittle


General James Harold “Jimmy” Doolittle was a pioneering pilot, aeronautical engineer, combat leader and military strategist whose career stretched from World War I to the height of the Cold War.

He is most famous for leading a daring bombing raid over Tokyo, the first American attack on the Japanese mainland. Doolittle’s 16 planes dropped their bombs and then, lacking fuel to return to their carrier, flew on to crash-land in China and the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for personal valor and leadership as commander of the Doolittle Raid. This long-range retaliatory air raid on the Japanese main islands on April 18, 1942, four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor was a major morale booster for the United States, and Doolittle was celebrated as a hero.

James Harold Doolittle was born December 14, 1896 in Alameda,CA. He spent his youth in Nome, AK where he earned a reputation as a boxer. His parents were Frank Henry Doolittle and Rosa (Rose) Cerenah Shephard. He made early coast-to-coast flights, won many flying races and most significantly, and helped develop instrument flying.

General Doolittle received a B.A. Degree from University of California, Berkeley, graduating in 1922. He earned a doctorate in aeronautics from M.I.T. in 1925. General Doolittle was a flying instructor during WWI, and a Reserve officer in the United States Army Air Corps. Doolittle was recalled to active duty during World War II.

He was promoted to LT General and commanded the Twelfth Air Force over North Africa, the Fifteenth Air Force over the Mediterranean, and the Eighth Air Force over Europe. After WWII he left the Air Force. He remained active in various technical fields. President Ronald Reagan promoted James Doolittle to general in 1985.

General Doolittle’s most important contribution to aeronautical technology were his experiments with and implementation of instrument flying. In 1929, he became the first pilot to take off, fly and land an airplane using only instruments, without a view outside the cockpit.


bottom of page