Book Review: Target Tokyo by James Scott

On April 18, 1942, 75 years ago, Jimmy Doolittle and 79 men took off from the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet not in fighters but in B-25 bombers. These men were on a super secret mission to bomb military installations in the city of Tokyo.

The dust had hardly settled on the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor when the outlandish plan had been conceived to fly medium range bombers off of a carrier. By the time April had rolled around, the United States really needed some good news. First, they had been humiliated by the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Second, after a three-month struggle, the allied forces had to surrender the Philippines.  Japan had complete control over Southeast Asia. Moral in the United States was poor.

The Doolittle raid was so secretive that most of the 79 men had no idea what they were training for. When these men were recruited, they were told that they were volunteering for a mission that they could be killed. They did not know if they were going to Europe or going to the Pacific. Secrecy was so strict that Doolittle told the men that they were not even allowed to guess what the mission might be.

All these 79 men knew is that they had to be able to take off on a very short runway. In fact, it was not until they were on the U.S.S. Hornet a few miles out to sea before they were told their target, Tokyo. The men let out a loud cheer. They were going to be bombing the enemy where it hurt the most.

This book, Target Tokyo, is the story of Jimmy Doolittle and his 79 men who risked their lives. Doolittle had tested two B-25s to ensure that they could take off of an aircraft carrier. However, none of the 16 pilots, including Doolittle, had ever flown off an aircraft carrier prior to April 18, 1942.


Target Tokyo properly develops the character of Jimmy Doolittle. You read about his formative years where he discovered that his small stature did not stop him from being the best pugilist on the playground. You will learn that Jimmy met his future wife, Josephine “Joe” Daniels, in High School. However, she wanted nothing to do with a “C” student who was constantly in fights. However, Jimmy was a fighter and over the years he learned how to fight for the heart of Joe. Jimmy Doolittle was married to Joe during World War 1. During the first World War, Jimmy taught young men how to fly. It really upset Jimmy that he was training boys to go and be heroes and he was stuck in the United States.

However, this is not a story of just Jimmy Doolittle, it is the story of the Doolittle Raid. As we all know, the Doolittle Raid had to start several hundred miles further out than was originally plan because the carrier task force had been spotted by the Japanese. Because of this early departure, the chances of the crews successfully landing at the designated airport in China was greatly reduced. In fact, not one of the 16 bombers landed at the designed airbase.

In this book, we read the stories of the 16 bomb crews as they parachuted or crashed their planes into China (1 crew diverted and landed in Russia). Two crews were captured by the Japanese. Several of Doolittle’s men had heroic stories as they made their way to safety through Japanese-held territory.

The Doolittle Raid did not win World War II, but it was an important battle that turned moral in the United States. These brave men of the Doolittle Raid took great risks to their lives in order to take the fight to the Japanese. I highly recommend that you read Target Tokyo to better understand the sacrifices made by Doolittle’s men on April 18, 1942.


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