This is the fourth installment of Tokyo at Dawn, an after action report created using GMT’s Enemy Coast Ahead: The Doolittle Raid. Where a word appears in bold, it references a game mechanic or rule. The first three articles of the Tokyo at Dawn series can be found here, here, and here. Another of Chris’ fantastic InsideGMT articles, “Walking the Distant Plain” can be found here.
SOMEWHERE WEST OF JAPAN – April 19th, 1942
Hearts racing and engines roaring, the remaining 14 aircraft made haste towards China, fearing Japanese interceptors in hot pursuit with a raised alert level. They had left multiple targets in Tokyo and Nagoya burning as dawn approached Japan. So far, the mission has been a success. Now it was time to find their way home.
Several hours of flight time still remained but fuel was going to be a problem. The planned launch point was further out than anticipated and winds had turned sour. The planes battled the crosswinds as the pilots tried to jockey for favorable position.
Fortunately, the Japanese response never materialized and the planes arrived over the Chinese mainland by 4:00 a.m. Flight Four, however, ran dangerously low on fuel over the Yellow Sea, forcing Hilger to ditch his aircraft in the ocean. With the landing sites so close, the pilots pushed their planes to the limit, taking a chance with the crosswinds to find a wind to their back. The intense training paid off and most of the crews managed to minimize the amount of fuel guzzled. But nearly every plane was literally flying on fumes.
Only the skills of the crewmen managed to keep the planes in the air for so long. The pilots not only struggled against the wind and fuel, but also against the aircraft’s mechanical problems themselves. A faulty compass made it more difficult to find the landing sites and a fuel leak heightened everyone’s alarm.
However, not every crew managed to make it to the landing sites. Four more planes ran out of fuel, with McElroy and Farrow ditching in Shanghai, and Hackney and Gray doing the same in China.
Another misfortune struck the squadron. Without explanation, the landing site beaconsdisappeared, probably by removed by locals for one reason or another. This made it difficult to acquire the landing sites. Out of fuel and with no way to find the landing sites in the vastness of the Chinese mainland, the decision was made to ditch all the planes together.
At 6:00 a.m., just as the sun was rising over the horizon, the remainder of the crews ditched their aircraft in China: Doolittle, Jones, Lawson, Daniel, Watson, Hinman, Klein, and Bower.
Stepping out of his wrecked B-25, its landing gear destroyed in the rough landing in a Chinese patty, Doolittle felt as sense of relief. He never felt so good being back on the ground. His fellow crew-members approached him, the rising sun shining on their faces; grins appearing all around. They had survived. Now, only two questions remained: how do get back home? Was the risk and loss worth it?