Plane #13 on the Jimmy Dolitte Raid‏

Long read but worth every bit. God bless our veterans.
Aircraft #13 on the  Doolittle Raid

For you  historians,  this is an interesting account of  the Doolittle raid on the mainland of Japan in early WW ll.  Enjoy!

This is a really excellent firsthand account by the pilot of  aircraft #13 on the Doolittle Raid off the Hornet in 1942. Take the time and enjoy a bit of history.

My  name is  Edgar McElroy. My friends call me “Mac”. I was  born and  raised in Ennis , Texas the youngest of  five children, son of Harry and  Jennie McElroy.  Folks say that I was the quiet one. We lived at    609 North Dallas Street and attended the  Presbyterian Church.
My dad had  an auto  mechanic’s shop downtown close to the  main fire station. My family was  a hard working  bunch, and I was expected to work at dad’s  garage  after school and on Saturdays, so I grew  up in an  atmosphere of  machinery, oil and  grease. Occasionally I would hear a lone plane   fly over, and would run out in the street and  strain my eyes  against the sun to watch it.  Someday, that would be me up there!

I really like  cars,  and I was always busy on some project, and  it wasn’t long before I  decided to build  my  very own Model-T out of spare parts. I   got an engine from over here, a frame from over  there, and  wheels from someplace else, using  only the good parts from old cars  that were  otherwise shot. It wasn’t very pretty, but it  was all  mine. I enjoyed driving on the dirt  roads around town and the feeling  of freedom and  speed. That car of mine could really go fast, 40   miles per hour!

In high school I   played football and tennis, and was good enough  at football to  receive an athletic scholarship  from Trinity University in Waxahachie.  I have to  admit that sometimes I daydreamed in class, and  often  times I thought about flying my very own  airplane and being up there  in the clouds. That  is when I even decided to take a correspondence   course in aircraft engines.
Whenever I got  the  chance, I would take my girl on a date up to  Love Field in Dallas . We  would watch the  airplanes and listen to those mighty piston   engines roar. I just loved it and if she didn’t,  well that was  just too bad.

After my  schooling, I  operated a filling station with my  brother, then drove a bus, and  later had a job  as a machinist in Longview , but I never lost my   love of airplanes and my dream of flying. With  what was going on  in Europe and in Asia , I  figured that our country would be drawn into  war  someday, so I decided to join the Army Air Corps  in November  of 1940. This way I could finally  follow my  dream.

I reported for   primary training in California . The training  was rigorous and  frustrating at times. We  trained at airfields all over California . It   was tough going, and many of the guys washed  out. When I finally  saw that I was going to make  it, I wrote to my girl back in Longview ,   Texas  . Her name is Agnes Gill. I asked her to come  out to   California for my graduation. and oh  yeah, also to marry me.

I graduated on  July  11, 1941. I was now a real,  honest-to-goodness Army Air Corps pilot.  Two  days later, I married “Aggie” in Reno , Nevada .  We were  starting a new life together and were  very happy. I received my orders  to report to   Pendleton , Oregon and join the 17th Bomb Group.   Neither of us had traveled much before, and the  drive north  through the Cascade Range of the   Sierra Nevada ‘s was interesting and  beautiful.

It was an exciting   time for us. My unit was the first to receive  the new B-25  medium bomber. When I saw it for  the first time I was in awe. It  looked so huge.  It was so sleek and powerful. The guys started   calling it the “rocket plane”, and I could  hardly wait to get my  hands on it. I told Aggie  that it was really something! Reminded me of  a  big old scorpion, just ready to sting!   Man, I could  barely  wait!

We were  transferred  to another airfield in Washington   State , where we spent a lot a time  flying  practice missions and attacking imaginary  targets. Then,  there were other assignments in   Mississippi and Georgia , for more  maneuvers and  more practice.
We were on our way back to    California on December 7th when we got word of a  Japanese attack  on Pearl Harbor . We listened  with mixed emotions to the announcements  on the  radio, and the next day to the declaration of  war. What  the President said, it just rang over  and over in my head, “.With  confidence in our  armed forces, with the un-bounding determination   of our people, we will gain the inevitable  triumph. So help us  God.” By gosh, I felt as  though he was talking straight to me! I  didn’t  know what would happen to us, but we all knew  that we  would be going somewhere now.

The first weeks of   the war, we were back in Oregon flying patrols  at sea looking  for possible Japanese submarines.  We had to be up at 0330 hours to  warm up the  engines of our planes. There was 18 inches of  snow  on the ground, and it  was so cold  that our engine oil congealed  overnight. We  placed big tarps over the engines that reached   down to the ground. Inside this tent we used  plumbers blow  torches to thaw out the engines. I  figured that my dad would be proud  of me, if he  could see me inside this tent with all this   machinery, oil and grease.  After about an  hour of this,  the engines were warm enough to  start.

We flew patrols  over  the coasts of Oregon and Washington from  dawn until dusk. Once I  thought I spotted a sub,  and started my bomb run, even had my bomb  doors  open, but I pulled out of it when I realized  that it was  just a big whale.

Lucky for me, I  would  have never heard the end of that!
Actually it was lucky for us  that the  Japanese didn’t attack the west coast, because  we just  didn’t have a strong enough force to  beat them off. Our country was in  a real fix  now,  and overall things looked pretty  bleak to  most folks. In early February, we were  ordered to report to Columbus ,   South Carolina .  Man, this Air Corps sure moves a fellow around a   lot! Little did I know what was coming   next!

After we got  settled  in Columbus , my squadron commander  called us all together. He told us  that an  awfully hazardous mission was being planned, and  then he  asked for volunteers. There were some of  the guys that did not step  forward, but I was  one of the ones that did. My co-pilot was   shocked. He said “You can’t volunteer, Mac!  You’re married, and  you and Aggie are expecting  a baby soon. Don’t do it!” I told him that  “I  got into the Air Force to do what I can, and  Aggie  understands how I feel. The war won’t be  easy for any of us.”

We that  volunteered  were transferred to Eglin Field near   Valparaiso , Florida in late  February. When we  all got together, there were about 140 of us   volunteers, and we were told that we were now  part of the  “Special B-25 Project.”

We set about our   training, but none of us knew what it was all  about. We were  ordered not to talk about it, not  even to our wives.
In early March, we were   all called in for a briefing, and gathered  together in a big  building there on the base.  Somebody said that the fellow who head of  this  thing is coming to talk to us, and in walks  Lieutenant  Colonel Jimmy Doolittle. He was  already an aviation legend, and there  he stood  right in front of us. I was truly amazed just to  meet  him.
Colonel  Doolittle  explained that this mission would be  extremely dangerous, and that  only volunteers  could take part. He said that he could not tell   us where we were going, but he could say that  some of us would  not be coming  back.

There was a silent   pause; you could have heard a pin drop. Then  Doolittle said that  anyone of us could withdraw  now, and that no one would criticize us  for this  decision. No one backed out! From the outset,  all  volunteers worked from the early morning  hours until well after  sunset. All excess weight  was stripped from the planes and extra gas  tanks  were added. The lower gun turret was removed,  the heavy  liaison radio was removed, and then  the tail guns were taken out and  more gas tanks  were put aboard. We extended the range of that   plane from 1000 miles out to 2500 miles.

Then I was  assigned  my crew. There was Richard Knobloch the  co-pilot, Clayton Campbell the  navigator, Robert  Bourgeous the bombardier, Adam Williams the   flight engineer and gunner, and me, Mac McElroy  the pilot. Over  the coming days, I came to  respect them a lot. They were a swell bunch  of  guys, just regular All-American   boys.

We got a few ideas   from the training as to what type of mission  that we had signed  on for. A Navy pilot had  joined our group to coach us at short   takeoffs  and also in shipboard etiquette.  We began our  short takeoff practice. Taking off  with first a light load, then a  normal load, and  finally overloaded up to 31,000 lbs. The   shortest possible take-off was obtained with  flaps full down,  stabilizer set three-fourths,  tail heavy, full power against the  brakes  and  releasing the brakes simultaneously as  the  engine revved up to max power. We pulled  back gradually on the stick  and the airplane  left the ground with the tail skid about one   foot from the runway. It was a very unnatural  and scary way to  get airborne! I could hardly  believe it myself, the first time as I  took off  with a full gas load and dummy bombs within just  700  feet of runway in a near stall condition. We  were, for all practical  purposes, a slow flying  gasoline bomb!

In addition to   take-off practice, we refined our skills in day  and night  navigation, gunnery, bombing, and low  level flying. We made cross  country flights at  tree-top level, night flights and navigational   flights over the Gulf of Mexico without the use  of a radio.  After we started that short-field  takeoff routine, we had some pretty  fancy  competition between the crews. I think that one  crew got  it down to about 300 feet on a hot day.  We were told that only the  best crews would  actually go on the mission, and the rest would   be held in reserve. One crew did stall on  takeoff, slipped back  to the ground, busting up  their landing gear. They were eliminated  from  the mission. Doolittle emphasized again and  again the  extreme danger of this operation, and  made it clear that anyone of us  who so desired  could drop out with no questions asked. No one   did.
On one of  our cross  country flights, we landed at  Barksdale Field in Shreveport , and I  was able  to catch a bus over to Longview to see Aggie. We  had a  few hours together, and then we had to say  our goodbyes. I told her I  hoped to be back in  time for the baby’s birth, but I couldn’t tell   her where I was going.  As I walked away, I  turned and  walked backwards for a ways, taking  one last look at my beautiful  pregnant Aggie.

Within a few days  of  returning to our base in Florida we were  abruptly told to pack our  things. After just  three weeks of practice, we were on our  way.   This was it. It was time to go. It  was the middle of March 1942,  and I was 30 years  old. Our orders were to fly to McClelland Air   Base in Sacramento , California on our own, at  the lowest  possible level. So here we went on  our way west, scraping the tree  tops at 160  miles per hour, and skimming along just 50 feet   above plowed fields. We crossed North Texas and  then the  panhandle, scaring the dickens out of  livestock, buzzing farm houses  and a many a barn  along the way. Over the Rocky Mountains and   across the Mojave Desert dodging thunderstorms,  we enjoyed the  flight immensely and although  tempted, I didn’t do too much dare-devil  stuff.  We didn’t know it at the time, but it was good  practice  for what lay ahead of us. It proved to  be our last fling. Once we  arrived in Sacramento  , the mechanics went over our plane with a   fine-toothed  comb. Of the twenty-two  planes that made it,  only those whose pilots  reported no mechanical problems were allowed  to  go on. The others were shunted aside.

After having our   plane serviced, we flew on to Alameda Naval Air  Station in   Oakland . As I came in for final  approach, we saw it! I excitedly  called the rest  of the crew to take a look. There below us was a   huge aircraft carrier. It was the USS Hornet,  and it looked so  gigantic! Man, I had never even  seen a carrier until this moment.  There were  already two B-25s parked on the flight deck. Now  we  knew! My heart was racing, and I thought  about how puny my plane would  look on board this  mighty ship. As soon as we landed and taxied off   the runway, a jeep pulled in front of me with a  big “Follow Me”  sign on the back. We followed it  straight up to the wharf, alongside  the towering  Hornet. All five of us were looking up and just  in  awe, scarcely believing the size of this  thing. As we left the plane,  there was already a  Navy work crew swarming around attaching cables   to the lifting rings on top of the wings and the  fuselage. As we  walked towards our quarters, I  looked back and saw them lifting my  plane up  into the air and swing it over the ship’s deck.  It  looked so small and lonely.
Later that  afternoon,  all crews met with Colonel Doolittle  and he gave last minute  assignments. He told me  to go to the Presidio and pick up two hundred   extra “C” rations. I saluted, turned, and left,  not having any  idea where the Presidio was, and  not exactly sure what a “C” ration  was. I  commandeered a Navy staff car and told the  driver to take  me to the Presidio, and he did.  On the way over, I realized that I had  no  written signed orders and that this might get a  little  sticky. So in I walked into the Army  supply depot and made my request,  trying to look  poised and confident. The supply officer asked   “What is your authorization for this request,  sir?” I told him  that I could not give him one.  “And what is the destination?” he  asked. I  answered, “The aircraft carrier, Hornet, docked  at   Alameda .” He said, “Can you tell me who  ordered the rations, sir?”  And I replied with a  smile, “No, I cannot.” The supply officers   huddled together, talking and glanced back over  towards me. Then  he walked back over and assured  me that the rations would be delivered  that  afternoon. Guess they figured that something big  was up.  They were right. The next morning we all  boarded the ship.

Trying to remember  my  naval etiquette, I saluted the Officer of the  Deck and said “Lt.  McElroy, requesting  permission to come aboard.” The officer returned   the salute and said “Permission granted.” Then I  turned aft and  saluted the flag. I made it,  without messing up. It was April 2, and  in full  sunlight, we left San Francisco Bay . The whole  task  force of ships, two cruises, four  destroyers, and a fleet oiler, moved  slowly with  us under the Golden Gate Bridge . Thousands of   people looked on. Many stopped their cars on the  bridge, and  waved to us as we passed underneath.  I thought to myself, I hope there  aren’t any  spies up there waving.
Once at sea,  Doolittle  called us together. “Only a few of you  know our destination, and you  others have  guessed about various targets. Gentlemen, your   target is Japan !” A sudden cheer exploded among  the men.  “Specifically, Yokohama , Tokyo ,   Nagoya , Kobe , Nagasaki and Osaka .  The Navy  task force will get us as close as possible and  we’ll  launch our planes. We will hit our targets  and proceed to airfields in   China .” After the  cheering stopped, he asked again, if any of us   desired to back out, no questions asked. Not on  did, not one.  Then the ship’s Captain then went  over the intercom to the whole  ship’s company.  The loudspeaker blared, “The destination is    Tokyo !” A tremendous cheer broke out from  everyone on board. I  could hear metal banging  together and wild screams from down below  decks.  It was quite a rush! I felt relieved actually.  We finally  knew where we were  going.

I set up quarters   with two Navy pilots, putting my cot between  their two bunks.  They couldn’t get out of bed  without stepping on me. It was just  fairly cozy  in there, yes it was. Those guys were part of  the  Torpedo Squadron Eight and were just swell  fellows. The rest of the  guys bedded down in  similar fashion to me, some had to sleep on   bedrolls in the Admiral’s chartroom. As big as  this ship was,  there wasn’t any extra room  anywhere. Every square foot had a  purpose… A  few days later we discovered where they had an  ice  cream machine!
There were  sixteen  B-25s tied down on the flight deck, and  I was flying number 13. All  the carrier’s  fighter planes were stored away helplessly in  the  hangar deck. They couldn’t move until we  were gone. Our Army mechanics  were all on board,  as well as our munitions loaders and several   back up crews, in case any of us got sick or  backed out. We  settled into a daily routine of  checking our planes. The aircraft were  grouped  so closely together on deck that it   wouldn’t take  much for them to get damaged.  Knowing that my life depended on this  plane, I  kept a close eye on her.
Day after  day, we met  with the intelligence officer and  studied our mission plan. Our  targets were  assigned, and maps and objective folders were   furnished for study. We went over approach  routes and our escape  route towards China . I  never studied this hard back at Trinity. Every   day at dawn and at dusk the ship was called to  general quarters  and we practiced finding the  quickest way to our planes. If at any  point  along the way, we were discovered by the enemy  fleet, we  were to launch our bombers immediately  so the Hornet could bring up  its fighter planes.  We would then be on our own, and try to make it   to the nearest land, either Hawaii or Midway   Island .
Dr. Thomas  White, a  volunteer member of plane number 15,  went over our medical records and  gave us  inoculations for a whole bunch of diseases that   hopefully I wouldn’t catch. He gave us training  sessions in  emergency first aid,  and  lectured us at length about water  purification  and such. Tom, a medical doctor, had learned how  to  be a gunner just so he could go on this  mission. We put some new tail  guns in place of  the ones that had been taken out to save    weight. Not exactly functional, they were two  broom  handles, painted black. The thinking was  they might help scare any Jap  fighter planes.  Maybe, maybe not.

On Sunday, April  14,  we met up with Admiral Bull Halsey’s task  force just out of Hawaii and  joined into one big  force. The carrier Enterprise was now with us,   another two heavy cruisers, four more destroyers  an another  oiler. We were designated as Task  Force 16. It was quite an impressive  sight to  see, and represented the bulk of what was left  of the  U.S. Navy after the devastation of Pearl  Harbor . There were over  10,000 Navy personnel  sailing into harm’s way,  just to deliver   us sixteen Army planes to the Japs, orders of  the  President.

As we steamed  further  west, tension was rising as we drew  nearer and nearer to Japan .  Someone thought of  arming us with some old …45 pistols that they   had on board. I went through that box of 1911  pistols, they were  in such bad condition that I  took several of them apart, using the  good parts  from several useless guns until I built a  serviceable  weapon. Several of the other pilots  did the same. Admiring my “new”  pistol, I held  it up, and thought about my old Model-T.

Colonel Doolittle   called us together on the flight deck. We all  gathered round, as  well as many Navy personnel.  He pulled out some medals and told us how  these  friendship medals from the Japanese government  had been  given to some of our Navy officers  several years back. And now the  Secretary of the  Navy had requested us to return them. Doolittle   wired them to a bomb while we all posed for  pictures. Something  to cheer up the folks back  home!

I began to pack my   things for the flight, scheduled for the 19th. I  packed some  extra clothes and a little brown bag  that Aggie had given me, inside  were some toilet  items and a few candy bars. No letters or   identity cards were allowed, only our dog-tags.  I went down to  the wardroom to have some ice  cream and settle up my mess bill. It  only  amounted to $5 a day and with my per diem of $6  per day, I  came out a little ahead. By now, my  Navy pilot roommates were about  ready to get rid  of me, but I enjoyed my time with them. They   were alright. Later on, I learned that both of  them were killed  at the Battle of Midway. They  were good men. Yes, very good   men.

Colonel Doolittle  let  each crew pick our own target. We chose the  Yokosuka Naval Base about  twenty miles from   Tokyo . We loaded 1450 rounds of ammo and four   500-pound bombs… A little payback, direct from  Ellis County,  Texas! We checked and re-checked  our plane several times. Everything  was now  ready. I felt relaxed, yet tensed up at the same  time.  Day after tomorrow, we will launch when we  are 400 miles out. I lay in  my cot that night,  and rehearsed the mission over and over in my   head. It was hard to sleep as I listened to  sounds of the ship.

Early the next   morning, I was enjoying a leisurely breakfast,  expecting another  full day on board, and I  noticed that the ship was pitching and  rolling  quite a bit this morning, more than normal. I  was  reading through the April 18th day plan of  the Hornet, and there was a  message in it which  said, “From the Hornet to the Army – Good luck,   good hunting, and God bless you.” I still had a  large lump in my  throat from reading this, when  all of a sudden, the intercom blared,  “General  Quarters, General Quarters, All hands man your  battle  stations!  Army pilots, man your  planes!!!” There was instant  reaction from  everyone in the  room and food trays went   crashing to the floor. I ran down to my room  jumping through the  hatches along the way,  grabbed my bag, and ran as fast as I could   go  to the flight deck. I met with my crew  at the plane, my  heart was pounding.   Someone said, “What’s going on?” The word  was  that the Enterprise had spotted an enemy  trawler. It had  been sunk, but it had  transmitted radio messages. We had been found   out!

The weather was   crummy, the seas were running heavy, and the  ship was pitching  up and down like I had never  seen before. Great waves were crashing  against  the bow and washing over the front of the deck.  This  wasn’t going to be easy! Last minute  instructions were given. We were  reminded to  avoid non-military targets, especially the  Emperor’s  Palace. Do not fly to Russia , but fly  as far west as possible, land  on the water and  launch our rubber raft. This was going to be a   one-way trip! We were still much too far out and  we all knew  that our chances of making land were  somewhere between slim and none.  Then at the  last minute, each plane loaded an extra ten  5-gallon  gas cans to give us a fighting chance  of reaching China .

We all climbed   aboard, started our engines and warmed them up,  just feet away  from the plane in front of us and  the plane behind us. Knobby,   Campbell ,  Bourgeois and me in the front, Williams, the  gunner  was in the back, separated from us by a  big rubber gas tank. I called  back to Williams  on the intercom and told him to look sharp and   don’t take a nap! He answered dryly, “Don’t  worry about me,  Lieutenant. If they jump us,  I’ll just use my little black broomsticks  to  keep the Japs off our tail.”

The ship headed  into  the wind and picked up speed. There was now  a near gale force wind and  water spray coming  straight over the deck. I looked down at my   instruments as my engines revved up. My mind was  racing. I went  over my mental checklist, and  said a prayer? God please, help us! Past  the  twelve planes in front of us, I strained to see  the flight  deck officer as he leaned into the  wind and signaled with his arms for  Colonel  Doolittle to come to full power. I looked over  at Knobby  and we looked each other in the eye.  He just nodded to me and we both   understood.

With the deck  heaving  up and down, the deck officer had to  time this just right. Then I saw  him wave  Doolittle to go, and we watched breathlessly to  see  what happened. When his plane pulled up  above the deck, Knobby just  let out  with,  “Yes! Yes!” The second plane, piloted by Lt.    Hoover , appeared to stall with its nose up and  began falling  toward the waves. We groaned and  called out, “Up! Up! Pull it up!”  Finally, he  pulled out of it, staggering back up into the  air,  much to our relief!  One by one, the  planes in front of us took  off. The deck pitched  wildly, 60 feet or more, it looked like. One   plane seemed to drop down into the drink and  disappeared for a  moment, then pulled back up  into sight. There was sense of relief with  each  one that made it. We gunned our engines and  started to roll  forward. Off to the right, I saw  the men on deck cheering and waving  their  covers! We continued inching forward, careful to  keep my  left main wheel and my nose wheel on the  white guidelines that had  been painted on the  deck for us. Get off a little bit too far left   and we go off the edge of the deck. A little  too  far to  the right and our wing-tip will  smack the island of the ship. With the    best seat on the ship, we watched Lt. Bower take  off in  plane number 12, and I  taxied up to  the starting line, put on my  the brakes and  looked down to my left.  My main wheel was   right on the line. Applied more power to the  engines, and I  turned my complete attention to  the deck officer on my left, who was  circling  his paddles. Now my adrenaline was really  pumping! We  went to full power, and the noise  and vibration inside the plane went  way up. He  circled the paddles furiously while watching  forward  for the pitch of the deck. Then he  dropped them, and I said, “Here We  Go!” I  released the brakes and we started rolling  forward, and  as I looked down the flight-deck  you could see straight down into the  angry  churning water. As we slowly gained speed, the  deck  gradually began to pitch back up. I pulled  up and our plane slowly  strained up and away  from the ship. There was a big cheer and whoops   from the crew, but I just felt relieved and  muttered to myself,  “Boy, that was  short!”

We made a wide  circle  above our fleet to check our compass  headings and get our bearings. I  looked down as  we passed low over one of our cruisers and could   see the men on deck waving to us. I dropped down  to low level,  so low we could see the whitecap  waves breaking. It was just after  0900, there  were broken clouds at 5,000 feet and visibility  of  about thirty miles due to haze or something.  Up ahead and barely in  sight, I could see  Captain Greening, our flight leader, and Bower   on his right wing. Flying at 170 mph, I was able  to catch up to  them in about 30 minutes. We were  to stay in this formation until  reaching  landfall, and then break on our separate ways.  Now we  settled in for the five hour flight.   Tokyo , here we come!

Williams was in  the  back emptying the extra gas cans into the  gas tank as fast as we had  burned off enough  fuel. He then punched holes in the tins and   pushed then out the hatch against the wind. Some  of the fellows  ate sandwiches and other goodies  that the Navy had put aboard for  us… I wasn’t  hungry. I held onto the controls with a firm  grip  as we raced along westward just fifty feet  above the cold rolling  ocean, as low as I dared  to fly. Being so close to the  choppy  waves  gave you a true sense of speed. Occasionally our   windshield was even sprayed with a little  saltwater. It was an  exhilarating feeling, and I  felt as though the will and spirit of our  whole  country was pushing us along. I  didn’t  feel too  scared, just anxious. There was a lot  riding on this thing, and on   me.

As we began to  near  land, we saw an occasional ship here and  there. None of them close  enough to be  threatening, but just the same, we were feeling   more edgy. Then at 1330 we sighted land, the  Eastern shore of   Honshu . With Williams now on  his guns in the top turret and Campbell  on the  nose gun, we came ashore still flying low as  possible,  and were surprised to see people on  the ground waving to us as we flew  in over the  farmland. It was beautiful countryside.

Campbell, our   navigator, said, “Mac, I think we’re going to be  about sixty  miles too far north. I’m not  positive, but pretty sure.” I decided  that he  was absolutely right and turned left ninety  degrees,  went back just offshore and followed  the coast line south. When I  thought we had gone  far enough, I climbed up to two thousand feet to   find out where we were. We started getting fire  from  anti-aircraft guns. Then we spotted Tokyo   Bay , turned west and put  our nose down diving  toward the water. Once over the bay, I could see   our target, Yokosuka Naval Base. Off to the  right there was  already smoke visible over Tokyo  . Coming in low over the water, I  increased  speed to 200 mph and told everyone, “Get    Ready!”

When we were close   enough, I pulled up to 1300 feet and opened the  bomb doors.  There were furious black bursts of  anti-aircraft fire all around us,  but I flew  straight on through them, spotting our target,  the  torpedo works and the  dry-docks. I saw  a big ship in the  dry-dock just as we flew over  it. Those flak bursts were really  getting close  and bouncing us around, when I heard Bourgeois   shouting, “Bombs Away!” I couldn’t see it, but  Williams had a  bird’s eye view from the back and  he shouted jubilantly, “We got an  aircraft  carrier! The whole dock is burning!” I started  turning  to the south and strained my neck to  look  back and at that  moment saw a large  crane blow up and start falling over!…    Take that! There was loud yelling and clapping  each other  on the back. We were all just  ecstatic, and still alive! But there  wasn’t much  time to celebrate. We had to get out of here and   fast! When we were some thirty miles out to sea,  we  took  one last look back at our target,  and could still see huge billows of  black   smoke. Up until now, we had been flying for  Uncle  Sam, but now we were flying for   ourselves.

We flew south over   open ocean, parallel to the Japanese coast all  afternoon. We saw  a large submarine apparently  at rest, and then in another fifteen  miles, we  spotted three large enemy cruisers headed for   Japan .  There were no more bombs, so we just let  them be and kept on going. By  late afternoon,   Campbell calculated that it was time to turn and   make for China . Across the East China Sea , the  weather out  ahead of us looked bad and overcast.  Up until now we had not had time  to think much  about our gasoline supply, but the math did not   look good. We just didn’t have enough fuel to  make it!

Each man took  turns  cranking the little hand radio to see if  we could pick up the promised  radio beacon.  There was no signal. This is not good. The  weather  turned bad and it was getting dark, so  we climbed up. I was now flying  on instruments,  through a dark misty rain. Just when it really   looked hopeless of reaching land, we suddenly  picked up a strong  tailwind. It was an answer to  a prayer. Maybe just maybe, we can make   it!

In total darkness  at  2100 hours, we figured that we must be  crossing the coastline, so I  began a slow, slow  climb to be sure of not hitting any high ground   or anything. I conserved as much fuel as I  could, getting real  low on gas now. The guys  were still cranking on the radio, but after  five  hours of hand cranking with aching hands and  backs, there  was utter silence. No radio  beacon!  Then the red light started   blinking, indicating twenty minutes of fuel  left. We started  getting ready to bail out. I  turned the controls over to Knobby and  crawled  to the back of the plane, past the now collapsed  rubber  gas tank. I dumped everything out of my  bag and repacked just what I  really needed, my  .45 pistol, ammunition, flashlight, compass,   medical kit, fishing tackle, chocolate bars,  peanut butter and  crackers. I told Williams to  come forward with me so we could all be  together  for this. There was no other choice. I had to  get us as   far west as possible, and then  we had to jump.

At 2230 we were up  to  sixty-five hundred feet. We were over land  but still above the  Japanese Army in China . We  couldn’t see the stars, so Campbell  couldn’t get  a good fix on our position. We were flying on  fumes  now and I  didn’t want to run out of  gas before we were ready to  go. Each man filled  his canteen, put on his Mae West life jacket and   parachute, and filled his bag with rations,  those “C” rations  from the Presidio. I put her  on auto-pilot and we all gathered in the   navigator’s compartment around the hatch in the  floor. We  checked each other’s parachute  harness. Everyone was scared, without a   doubt.  None of us had ever done this  before! I said,  “Williams first, Bourgeois  second, Campbell third, Knobloch fourth,  and  I’ll follow you guys! Go fast, two seconds  apart! Then count  three seconds off and pull  your rip-cord!”

We kicked open the   hatch and gathered around the hole looking down  into the  blackness. It did not look very  inviting! Then I looked up at Williams  and gave  the order, “JUMP!!!” Within seconds they were  all gone.  I turned and reached back for the  auto-pilot, but could not reach it,  so I pulled  the throttles back, then turned and jumped.  Counting  quickly, thousand one, thousand two,  thousand three, I pulled my  rip-cord and jerked  back up with a terrific shock. At first I   thought that I was hung on the plane, but after  a few agonizing  seconds that seemed like hours,  realized that I was free and drifting  down.  Being in the total dark, I was disoriented at  first but  figured my feet must be pointed   toward the ground. I looked down  through the  black mist to see what was coming up. I was in a   thick mist or fog, and the silence was so eerie  after nearly  thirteen hours inside that noisy  plane. I could only hear the whoosh,   whoosh  sound of the wind blowing through  my shroud lines,  and then I heard a loud  crash  and explosion. My   plane!

Looking for my   flashlight, I groped through my bag with my  right hand, finally  pulled it out and shined it  down toward the ground, which I still  could not  see. Finally I picked up a glimmer of water and   thought I was landing in a lake. We’re too far  inland for this  to be ocean. I hope! I relaxed  my legs a little, thinking I was about  to splash  into water and would have to swim out, and then  bang.  I jolted suddenly and crashed over onto my  side. Lying there in just a  few inches of water,  I raised my head and put my hands down into   thick mud. It was rice paddy! There was a  burning pain, as if  someone had stuck a knife in  my stomach. I must have torn a muscle or  broke  something.

I laid there dazed   for a few minutes, and after a while struggled  up to my feet. I  dug a hole and buried my  parachute in the mud. Then started trying to   walk, holding my stomach, but every direction I  moved the water  got deeper.  Then, I saw  some lights off in the distance. I  fished around  for my flashlight and signaled one time. Sensing   something wrong, I got out my compass and to my  horror saw that  those lights were off to my  west. That must be a Jap patrol! How dumb  could  I be! Knobby had to be back to my east, so I sat  still and  quiet and did not move.

It was a cold dark   lonely night. At 0100 hours I saw a single light  off to the  east. I flashed my light in that  direction, one time. It had to be  Knobby! I  waited a while, and then called out softly,  “Knobby?”  And a voice replied “Mac, is that  you?”. Thank goodness, what a  relief!   Separated by a wide stream, we sat on opposite   banks of the water communicating in low voices.  After daybreak  Knobby found a small rowboat and  came across to get me. We started  walking east  toward the rest of the crew and away from that   Japanese patrol. Knobby had cut his hip when he  went through the  hatch, but it wasn’t too awful  bad.

We walked together   toward a small village and several Chinese came  out to meet us,  they seemed friendly enough. I  said, “Luchu hoo megwa fugi! Luchu hoo    megwa fugi!” meaning, “I am an American! I am an   American!” Later that morning we found the  others. Williams had  wrenched his knee when he  landed in a tree,  but he was limping  along  just fine. There were hugs all around. I have  never   been so happy to see four guys in  all my life!

Well, the five of  us  eventually made it out of China with the help  of the local Chinese  people and the Catholic  missions along the way. They were all very  good  to us, and later they were made to pay terribly  for it, so  we found out afterwards. For a couple  of weeks we traveled across  country. Strafed a  couple of times by enemy planes, we kept on   moving, by foot, by pony, by car, by train, and  by airplane. But  we finally made it to India .

I did not make it   home for the baby’s birth. I stayed on their  flying a DC-3  “Gooney Bird” in the  China-Burma-India Theatre for the next several   months.  I flew supplies over the Himalaya  Mountains, or as  we called it, over “The Hump”  into China . When B-25s finally arrived  in India  , I flew combat missions over Burma , and then  later in  the war, flew a B-29 out of the   Marianna Islands to bomb Japan again  and again.

After the war, I   remained in the Air Force until 1962, when I  retired from the  service as a Lt. Colonel, and  then came back to Texas , my beautiful   Texas  .  First moving to Abilene and then we  settled in   Lubbock , where Aggie taught school  at MacKenzie Junior High. I worked  at the S  & R Auto Supply, once again in an atmosphere  of  machinery, oil and grease.

I lived a good life and raised two wonderful sons that I am very proud of.  I feel blessed in many ways. We have a great country, better than most folks know. It is worth fighting for. Some people call me a hero, but I have never thought  of myself that way, no. But I did serve  in the company of heroes. What we did, will never leave  me. It will always be there in my fondest  memories. I will always think of  the fine and  brave men that I was privileged to serve with.   Remember us, for we were soldiers once and  young. With the loss  of all aircraft, Doolittle believed that the raid had been a failure, and  that he would be court-martialed upon returning  to the states. Quite to the contrary, the raid proved to be a tremendous  boost to American morale, which had plunged following the Pearl Harbor attack. It also caused serious doubts in  the minds of Japanese war planners. They in turn recalled many seasoned  fighter plane units  back to defend the home islands,  which  resulted in Japan’s weakened air capabilities at the upcoming  Battle of Midway  and other South Pacific campaigns.

Edgar  “Mac” Mc Elroy,  Lt. Col., U.S.A.F.  (Ret.)  passed away at his residence in Lubbock, Texas early on the morning of Friday, April 4, 2003.

About Republic of Texas (Conservative/Libertarian state)

Apostolic/Christian, Conservative/Libertarian, Husband & Father, Hunter, Mountain biker, hiking, camping, outdoors love em. Business man etc.
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1 Response to Plane #13 on the Jimmy Dolitte Raid‏

  1. beachbody says:

    A speech does not need to be eternal to be immortal.

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