Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Doolittle Raiders

A man who was among the Doolittle Raiders, 80 men who led America's first air raid on Tokyo, conducted April 18, 1942, has died. The raid used B-25 Mitchell bombers launched from an aircraft carrier. The B-25's were land based bombers that many though could not be used on an aircraft Carrier.

Col. Jack A. Sims, a decorated World War II veteran, died Saturday in Naples, Fla., after a long illness. He was 88.

Sims was called ``Kalamazoo's first flying hero'' in the 1940s for being among the pilots who conducted the Tokyo raid under the direction of Gen. Jimmy Doolittle. Exploits of the raiders, who flew many additional missions over Europe during World War II, served as a morale booster for the United States.

Since the war, the raiders have gathered yearly at reunions around the country. Their numbers have dwindled, and at their 65th reunion in April, only seven or eight were present.

Following the raid, the planes flew on to China, some of it occupied by the Japanese, The Japanese were able to capture eight men from two planes' crews. Three of these prisoners of war, Second Lieutenants Dean E. Hallmark and William G. Farrow and Sergeant Harold A. Spatz, were executed at Shanghai by the Japanese government in October 1942. Another, Lieutenant Robert J. Meder, died in prison more than a year later.

The raid did little damage to Japan but was a moral booster for the United States in the days after Pearl Harbor and was a beginning of the pay back for Pearl Harbor and later for the "Bataan Death March" that culminated when the United States dropped the bomb on Hiroshima to end the war.