Seventy-five years ago Tuesday, people in Tokyo, Japan, looked up and saw something they had been assured was not possible: American B-25 bombers flying low as bombs spilled from them onto the city.
Japan’s surprise attack at Pearl Harbor was supposed to have been the kickoff of an unstoppable sweep across the Pacific. The soft, unmilitaristic Americans would be pushovers, many Japanese hoped.
But on April 18, 1942, their Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s prediction materialized out of the sky. Yamamoto worried the Pearl Harbor attack would merely awake a sleeping giant.
The Tokyo attack was the brainchild of the man who led it, Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle. He and 79 other airmen did something many considered impossible: They launched their bombers from the deck of an aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet, which had cruised to within striking distance of Japan.
Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, about a dozen of the few surviving B-25 bombers flew over as part of a memorial service centered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Watching them was the only survivor of the Doolittle Raiders. He is retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, 101.
Tuesday’s ceremonies honored not just the 80 Doolittle Raiders, but also the spirit of America’s fighting men and women, then and now.
Our nation’s enemies would do well to take note. It is not easy to arouse the courage, anger and dedication of Americans. But once the sleeping giant is awakened, he becomes the most fearsome foe the world has ever seen.