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Bob Jones Air Force JROTC re-creates 1942 Doolittle Raid

JROTC students using flight simulation software in their study of the Doolittle Raid are Jonah Jenkins, from left, Nickolas Simmons, Christian Weiss and Richard Carr. (CONTRIBUTED)
JROTC students using flight simulation software in their study of the Doolittle Raid are Jonah Jenkins, from left, Nickolas Simmons, Christian Weiss and Richard Carr. (CONTRIBUTED)
Richard Carr, third from left, points out a photograph of an aircraft in the Doolittle Raid to fellow students Nickolas Simmons, from left, Jonah Jenkins and Christian Weiss. (CONTRIBUTED)
Richard Carr, third from left, points out a photograph of an aircraft in the Doolittle Raid to fellow students Nickolas Simmons, from left, Jonah Jenkins and Christian Weiss. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON — On April 18, Air Force Junior ROTC students at Bob Jones High School will commemorate the 72nd anniversary of a heroic World War II raid.

In 1942, aircrews completed the Doolittle Raid, responding to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor four months earlier. (An officer named Doolittle led the raid.)

JROTC students have researched the flight’s historical impact and technical aspects, retired Lt. Col. Randy Herd said. He instructs aerospace science.

Herd wants students to appreciate “the daring, sacrifice and skill of the Doolittle Raiders and understand flying techniques, such as aircraft characteristics, navigation and carrier take-off.”

The Doolittle Raid involved 16 stripped-down B-25 bombers launched from the USS Hornet, 650 nautical miles from Japan. After bombing Tokyo and several mainland targets, the bombers attempted to fly to safety in non-occupied China. Aircrews realized their mission was risky but believed they would meet in China.

“Every aircraft was lost,” Herd said. “Seven of 80 aircrew members died” when aircraft ran out of fuel or were executed by the Japanese.

The raid’s targets received minimal damage. “Yet, the raid is considered instrumental in raising American morale and causing Japan to rethink its homeland defense strategy,” Herd said.

On April 18 at Bob Jones, six ‘pilots’ will ‘take off’ from the USS Hornet around 8 a.m., hit Japanese targets around noon and approach China by early evening. They’ll ‘fly’ about 13 hours. Their flight simulation equipment includes six computer stations running Microsoft Flight Simulator 9 and 10.

“Each computer is attached to a flying yoke (steering wheel) and pedals, allowing students to move ailerons, rudder and elevator,” Herd said. The screens offer cockpit perspective. Like WWII soldiers, “our pilots will navigate by dead reckoning, using aircraft compass, clock and a chart.”

To prepare, students watched the film, “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.” Student Andrew Smith said the movie “really illustrated the mission’s impact, magnitude and its successes.”

They also read Craig Nelson’s “The First Heroes.” “I was impressed with the number and desire of American pilots to volunteer for such a dangerous mission,” student Steven Sparks said.

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