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"Was the Doolittle Raid Worth It?" Topic


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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian10 Jan 2012 12:47 p.m. PST

The Doolittle Raid was a major morale booster for the U.S. in WWII, but at some cost in men and aircraft, substantial risk to U.S. carriers, and served to warn Japan of its vulnerability to carrier strikes.

In hindsight, was the Doolittle Raid worth it?

emckinney10 Jan 2012 12:54 p.m. PST

Well, the Japanese did start holding back a lot of aircraft and flak to defend the home islands. That alone may have made it worthwhile.

sharps54 Inactive Member10 Jan 2012 12:57 p.m. PST

My understanding is that it also provided a big morale boost. On the negative side it cost a quarter million Chinese their lives…

Jason
Stafford, VA

Personal logo richarDISNEY of the RDGC Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2012 1:00 p.m. PST

I'd like to think so…
beer

Mako11 Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2012 1:05 p.m. PST

Yes.

vojvoda Inactive Member10 Jan 2012 1:09 p.m. PST

Yes was large boost To the American public. My mother has talked about it a few times. It put us on the route to victory.
VR
James Mattes

vojvoda Inactive Member10 Jan 2012 1:12 p.m. PST

sharps54 10 Jan 2012 12:57 p.m. PST
My understanding is that it also provided a big morale boost. On the negative side it cost a quarter million Chinese their lives…

Jason, Please tell me how one raid did that?
VR
James Mattes

NoLongerAMember Inactive Member10 Jan 2012 1:16 p.m. PST

Yes, America needed the fillip at the time, much like the Dams raid for the British.

sharps54 Inactive Member10 Jan 2012 1:21 p.m. PST

sharps54 10 Jan 2012 12:57 p.m. PST
My understanding is that it also provided a big morale boost. On the negative side it cost a quarter million Chinese their lives…

Jason, Please tell me how one raid did that?
VR
James Mattes

I have read numerous places that in retaliation for the raid the Japanese killed a quarter million Chinese.

Now don't misunderstand me, the only people to blame for such a retaliation are the Japanese that did it.

Jason
Stafford, VA

Personal logo GreyONE Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Jan 2012 1:37 p.m. PST

My understanding is that it also provided a big morale boost. On the negative side it cost a quarter million Chinese their lives

I read that as well from several sources. The crews were proud of what they accomplished, but during an interview, one surviving crewman couldn't put into words what he felt about the quarter of a million lives lost due to Japanese retaliations. He tried, but it overwhelmed him. A difficult question to answer. I wonder if they known what the Japanese reaction would be, would the attack have been made? Hard to judge. A high price to pay, but it did accomplish a lot just by raising the morale of Allies. Not sure when the news broke about the Japanese retaliations, but would assume it was a few weeks/months after the fact.

fitterpete Inactive Member10 Jan 2012 1:41 p.m. PST

Yes.
James my mother has talked about it being a big morale boost too!

BCantwell10 Jan 2012 1:55 p.m. PST

The value of the raid penetrated far beyond a jump in the morale back home. Japanese reaction to the raid led to significant military decisions that ultimately worked against them. The shock of an attack on the home islands allowed those in the Japanese military favoring further expansion to gain sway (obstensibly to create a buffer against further attacks on the home islands). This expansion pushed the already Japanese further beyond their already far overextended logistics capability and brought them into the battle at Midway and the meat grinders at Guadalcanal and new Guniea, theaters which eventually destroyed the cream of Japanese aviation as well as ground units and irreplacable shipping.

The retaliation against the Chinese was an unfortunate consequence of circumstances that no planner could have foreseen. It is foolish to weigh them into the calculation, sad and terrible as they were. The launching of the planes 100's of miles further away than originally intended due to a chance encounter with a Japanese picket led to the involvement of the Chinese under Japanese occupation. Had the aircraft simply flown over occupied China to bases held by the Chinese nationalists as planned, then there is no reason to assume any more Chinese would have been killed than would have otherwise. The Japanese in China seemed to seldom need much of an excuse for brutality

sharps54 Inactive Member10 Jan 2012 2:03 p.m. PST

BCantwell,

Great points. I probably should have worded my initial response differently. I don't think the planners could have forseen the retaliation but I think when we look back we do need to remember that it happened.

Given the choice to make the raid or not with the information they had I would have given it a go.

Jason
Stafford, VA

14Bore10 Jan 2012 2:13 p.m. PST

It wasn't like they (Japanese Command) were going to play nice without the raid. Brutality was happening with or with out it. Yes it was worth it.

ancientsgamer Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2012 2:14 p.m. PST

Dittos to BCantwell….

The Japanese didn't need much of an excuse to kill Chinese. They did this quite readily. Seems as though they remembered the Kublai Khan invasion quite well.

Greylegion10 Jan 2012 2:14 p.m. PST

Yes, It was the raid that signaled to the Japanese that they were now, not out of reach, of allied forces. It burst the bubble of propaganda the Japanese people had been being fed that they were winning the war.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian10 Jan 2012 2:20 p.m. PST

It burst the bubble of propaganda the Japanese people had been being fed that they were winning the war.

Actually, at that point, they were winning the war…

kyoteblue Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2012 2:27 p.m. PST

Yes.

emckinney10 Jan 2012 2:31 p.m. PST

I have to wonder where the quarter-million number comes from. The Japanese were incredibly brutal, but I doubt that they put out a press release. I'm not sure how anyone else could gather data on killings over a wide area, and which might have unrelated causes. My senses immediately make me suspect propaganda pulling a number more or less from thin air. No, that's not excusing that Japanese or saying that "punishment" killings didn't happen, it's an interest in historical accuracy.

sharps54 Inactive Member10 Jan 2012 2:39 p.m. PST

emckinney,

That is an excellent question. I have seen it many places including the National Museum of the US Air Force: link but I haven't seen an explanation of where the number comes from. That said I have no problem believing it.

Jason
Stafford, VA

CPT Jake10 Jan 2012 3:39 p.m. PST

I strongly suspect the Japanese would have found another reason to take many of the lives they did. No way the 250k all lived happily ever after if the radi did not occur.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2012 3:48 p.m. PST

I don't know how many Chinese were massacred as a result
of the Doolittle raid.

I do know that Nanking ('The Rape of Nanking,' remember?)
and other, less publicized atrocities visited upon the
Chinese, had already happened.

Raid on.

Tgunner Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2012 3:52 p.m. PST

"Actually, at that point, they were winning the war…"

But not as comprehensively as they were claiming. They inflicted heavy defeats on the Allies, but with that said, they didn't throw any knock-out blows either.

I do think that the raid was very sobering to many circles in the Japanese command. They realized that the allies still had offensive forces and were willing to aggressively use them. That may have caused them to move forward with their Coral Sea and Midway offensives in an effort to cut off Australia as an offensive base and to try to lure the US fleet into an ambush. One effort was repulsed and the other backfired on them.

So assuming that the raid led to the loss of the 1st Airfleet I would say yes, the raid was well worth it.

Finally, how many Chinese would have died if the IJN wasn't defeated at Midway? Would it have been 1943 before the US/Allies really went on the offensive? 1944 even?

Sundance Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2012 3:59 p.m. PST

It served a very real purpose at the time that we could scarcely claim to truly understand 69 years later. And yes, I would say that it was worth it.

Tankrider10 Jan 2012 4:39 p.m. PST

"There is only one tactical principle which is not subject to change; it is to use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wounds, death, and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time."

As that's all we had going at the time, heck yea hit 'em!

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2012 4:41 p.m. PST

Morally speaking, I cannot be responsible for the sins committed by someone else.

So, yes. I believe the raid was worth it. It lead to the Japanese keeping many forces at home that could have been better used defending the perimeter.

vojvoda Inactive Member10 Jan 2012 4:56 p.m. PST

sharps54 10 Jan 2012 1:21 p.m. PST wrote:


I have read numerous places that in retaliation for the raid the Japanese killed a quarter million Chinese.

Now don't misunderstand me, the only people to blame for such a retaliation are the Japanese that did it.

Jason
Stafford,

Jason I do not for a minute think they could have done that I just had not heard that story and was looking for references.
VR
James Mattes

Dynaman878910 Jan 2012 5:46 p.m. PST

The raid was worth it, it led almost directly to Midway.

As for the 250K killed in China, sounds fishy at best – Chinese resistance was already in full swing in the area, the Japanese did not need any excuse to kill Chinese, and any reason given would be just that, an excuse.

Pedrobear Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2012 6:31 p.m. PST

I dunno… In retrospect the A-bomb just makes everything… moot?

Etranger10 Jan 2012 7:03 p.m. PST

Worth it.

The one downside to the raid was its use in the plot for the debacle that was the movie Pearl Harbor

Personal logo J Womack 94 Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2012 8:10 p.m. PST

Worth. It.

Shagnasty10 Jan 2012 8:29 p.m. PST

Absolutely worth it.

Personal logo McKinstry Supporting Member of TMP Fezian10 Jan 2012 9:00 p.m. PST

The raid goads the IJN into going after Midway in the Central Pacific instead of putting their full weight into the Coral Sea to potentially take Port Moresby at far less risk to their assets. Worth it.

Kaoschallenged Inactive Member10 Jan 2012 11:05 p.m. PST

On the subject interesting enough I found this surfing the Internet. Robert

"Ryozo Asano, left, spokesman for a group of diversified Japanese family enterprises called the Zaibatsu, inspects the wreckage of his steel plant in Tokyo, after the first U.S. air raid (Doolittle) on Japan's capital, April 18, 1942. He is accompanied by an unidentified aide. Thirteen targets were struck, including an oil tank farm, a steel mill, and an aircraft carrier under construction. Some 50 Japanese lost their lives."
link
link

Personal logo Dances with Clydesdales Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2012 4:10 a.m. PST

Absolutely worth it.

Personal logo elsyrsyn Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2012 5:09 a.m. PST

The retaliation against the Chinese was an unfortunate consequence of circumstances that no planner could have foreseen. It is foolish to weigh them into the calculation, sad and terrible as they were.

Regardless of whether or not an outcome was (or could reasonably have been) foreseen, in my mind it absolutely DOES have to be included in the calculations, if it did happen as a result of the action taken. To do otherwise is to be like a child saying he should not have to consider the broken glass on the floor, because he did not know that the bottle would break when he pushed it off of the table. Even if he really did NOT know, he still caused the effect.

That said, there is probably no real way to know if the raid caused a significant incremental increase in Chinese civilian casualties over what would have occurred without it. On the other hadn, it is almost certain that the raid helped lead to Midway, which helped turn the Pacific war around. Given that death and misery throughout Asia would without doubt have been worse had the Japanese won the war, or even if it had been prolonged further, I'd say the raid was almost certainly worth it, regardless of any morale boost in the United States.

Doug

sharps54 Inactive Member11 Jan 2012 5:18 a.m. PST

Doug,

You made my point better then I did, thank you. I don't think the Japanese retaliation is a reason to say the raid wasn't a success, I just think we have an morale obligation to admit that it happened.

Would those Chinese have been killed by the Japanese anyhow? Probably. Still I think because the Japanese stated it was in retaliation I believe we had an obligation after the war to hold the Japanese accountable for those deaths.

According to Wikipedia (I know, I know): link

Shunroku Hata, the commander of Japanese forces involved in the massacre of the 250,000 Chinese civilians, was sentenced in 1948 in part due to his "failure to prevent atrocities". He was given a life sentence but was paroled in 1955.

If I get a chance tomorrow I'll go over to the Gray Research Center (big library) here on Quantico and see how early a reference I can find to these events.

Jason
Stafford, VA

Personal logo x42brown Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2012 5:25 a.m. PST

Morale is important for that alone it was worth it.

x42

Femeng2 Inactive Member11 Jan 2012 6:09 a.m. PST

It resulted in half of our carrier force being unavailable for the Battle of the Coral Sea. Imagine the results if four carriers had been present. Also prevented the Hornet from shaking down its air group, which went far astray at Midway. Also done over the fierce objections of Nimitz for these reasons.

Midway was already in the planning at the time, so there was no effect there.

The Chinese loss was during the advance to take additional teritory to prevent future missions by US out of China. Does anyone believe that the Japanese weren't going to take additional territory anyway?

Personal logo Klebert L Hall Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2012 9:15 a.m. PST

It was entirely worth it to the US, as it only cost us a few men and aircraft. Not only were we willing to spend blood like water in WW2, but we knew it was a suicide mission from the get-go, so those losses were obviously acceptable.

As for the Chinese that were probably slaughtered (James Bradley, in his so far fairly mediocre book Flyboys attributes his accounts of this to Carroll V. Glines' 1988 The Doolittle Raid: America's Daring First Strike Against Japan)… well, I don't think America as a nation gave two hoots how many Chinese got slaughtered, and I doubt many Americans as individuals did either. We goaded Japan to war over China because we wanted to exploit it instead of them, not because we loved the Chinese people.

Was it worth it to China? I have no idea.
-Kle.

Altius Inactive Member11 Jan 2012 10:16 a.m. PST

The Japanese had already set a precedent for large-scale massacres of Chinese. As Ed Mohrmann already mentioned, the Nanking Massacre took place 5 years earlier and killed a similar number of people in just a few weeks. And that's not even considering the long-term abuse and casual killing that was going on since that time. I doubt the Japanese needed much of an excuse by this point and could probably muster up a large scale massacre at the drop of a hat.

sharps54 Inactive Member11 Jan 2012 10:36 a.m. PST

I don't think anyone has said we shouldn't have done it or that it was a failure/not worth it to us because of the retaliation. Those of us that have brought it have done so because it happened on "our watch" and was done against them "because of us". Those aren't reasons to condemn the Doolittle Raid, far from it, but I think the US had a moral responsibility to seek justice for those people after the war. It looks like charges were pressed and judgements passed (although they were light) so the government at the time did their job.

The important thing is that it happened and needs to be remembered when discussing the event. Remember the massacre of those Chinese is an indictment of the Japanese military not the US military.

Jason
Stafford, VA

Edit to add my point is that the quarter million dead Chinese are not something the US should feel defensive about.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Jan 2012 12:19 p.m. PST

It was an almost desperate act to show the Japanese--High Command and people--that the US was not out of the fight, and wanted VERY MUCH to hit them back.

That said, it was indeed the principal motivation to attack at Midway in order to kill off the rest of the US Navy, principally its remaining CV's. This consequence was not--could not be--anticipated by CincPac, but with our tenuous reading of the Japanese Naval Codes, we had created the perfect opportunity to counter-ambush the Japanese. A miracle or two later, we had done so at Midway, and began the voyage forward towards Tokyo.

The brutal Japanese occupation of China speaks for itself, and the deaths of that quarter-million figure simply bespeak that fact. How many Chinese in the occupied regions died of Japanese induced starvation and simple murder probably cannot ever be known with certainty, but the Japanese Occupation frankly enjoyed dominating their charges, and any excuse to lean on these people was fine with them.

If WW II in the Pacific were a Pulp story, the Doolittle Raid would be the implausible--but fun!--punch to the enemy's perfectly coiffed hair that enrages him to a self-destructive act to "prove" his invincibility.

Think Indiana Jones leading the first B-25 off the "Hornet's" deck, while Karen Allen is matching Tojo in a drink-for-drink duel in a bunker on Bataan, and you've got the spirit of the thing.

God Rest You, Col. Doolittle!

TVAG

vojvoda Inactive Member11 Jan 2012 4:49 p.m. PST

Lets not forget the comfort girls of Korea. I know two. What they did in Korea was nothing short of war crimes.

VR
James Mattes

Personal logo Klebert L Hall Supporting Member of TMP12 Jan 2012 12:17 p.m. PST

What they did in Korea was nothing short of war crimes.

Well, and lots of other places, too.
Though I don't like the concept of "war crimes", so I hate to use that label.

Imperial Japan certainly behaved badly though, not that most of us didn't to one degree or another.
-Kle.

Grizzlymc Inactive Member12 Jan 2012 6:48 p.m. PST

Of course it was worth it. Even if the US had known that the Japs were going to massacre huge numbers of civillians, it still should have gone ahead. If the enemy think that such an approach might be effective, they will carry it out even more.

The cold blookded murder of civillians in occupied territory should have been treated as a crime by the allied occupation authorities. Thankyou Dugout Doug for saving all those gallant Japs.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP12 Jan 2012 10:47 p.m. PST

Just for the record, there WAS/IS NO moral equivalency between the Japanese Empire and the United States.

And yes, all armies have War Crimes committed to some varying levels by their member soldiers in all conflicts. Whether or not these characterize an army is the real question, and the Wehrmacht in Russia (and elsewhere) and the Japanse Army (everywhere) are both so characterized.

The US Army/Marine Corps is NOT so characterized.

TVAG

Personal logo Klebert L Hall Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2012 6:05 a.m. PST

Just for the record, there WAS/IS NO moral equivalency between the Japanese Empire and the United States.

In WW2, only a vague moral equivalency.
Counting things we did before that? Quite a solid one.
-Kle.

sharps54 Inactive Member14 Jan 2012 4:22 a.m. PST

Kle,

No one is going to defend things like the intentional distribution of small pox infected blankets but it isn't fair to compare apples and oranges. If we can pick an nation's policy from anytime in history I think most if not all nations will be found lacking at some point.

Getting back to WW2, you might be able to make a case against the firebombing that we did (as Robert McNamara does) but you have to judge the actions by the standards of the time. There is no question that what the Nazis and Japanese did was contrary to the moral standards of that time.

Jason
Stafford, VA

Personal logo Klebert L Hall Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2012 7:58 a.m. PST

Kle,

No one is going to defend things like the intentional distribution of small pox infected blankets but it isn't fair to compare apples and oranges.

I was thinking more early 20th century, such as our policies in the Philippine Insurrection.

If we can pick an nation's policy from anytime in history I think most if not all nations will be found lacking at some point.

Absolutely. When a country wants something enough, they tend to behave like animals to get it. Once a country has most of the things and places they really want, they tend to pretend they are all very moralistic and high-minded.

Getting back to WW2, you might be able to make a case against the firebombing that we did (as Robert McNamara does) but you have to judge the actions by the standards of the time.

Sure, the firebombing was ugly, and directly in opposition to our hypocritical previous condemnation as "inhuman and monstrous" of similar, less effective Axis tactics. It was quite militarily effective though, and thus sort of easily justified.

I was thinking more of the numerous instances of ordering troops to take no prisoners, the widespread and un-condemned practice of taking trophies from the bodies of slain enemies, and the utterly inexcusable rounding up of US citizens in detainment camps, none of which served any military function whatsoever.

There is no question that what the Nazis and Japanese did was contrary to the moral standards of that time.

Sort of, if you only count Western moral standards. Especially the Western moral standards publicly espoused by the eventual victors.
When the Imperial Japanese military did monstrous things, they were often exemplifying the ideals they were taught in service, and to a somewhat lesser extent in their general society. Moreover, their method of war against China was basically the same as they way China made war against them, when they had the rare opportunity of greater strength. Nobody ever condemns the Chinese "war crimes".

Moreover, judging people after the fact under a set of laws and moral assumptions they were not party to nor operating under is sort of perverse. If an asteroid had hit the continental United States in 1943, thus allowing Japan to somehow win, would we have thought it "just" for Japan to have treated our POWs under their laws and assumptions? By their thinking, they should all have been executed for surrendering… Of course after the war, we executed some POWs for the crime of having executed POWs, which just compounds the perversity.

I have no qualms about any of the things we did fighting WW2, really. I just don't like the general feeling that we (the US) are pure as the driven snow, and that Imperial Japan was unutterably monstrous. We generally didn't do things that were quite as bad, and we didn't do them as regularly, nor on such a large scale. However, the things we did were in much greater opposition to the stated ideals and codes of behavior of our culture which really can't be stressed enough IMO.

While I don't mind the ugly things we did during the war, I am shamed and disgusted by the post war "war crimes trials".

If you hate and loathe your defeated enemy, and want to take revenge upon him, I really think you should just go ahead and avenge yourself. It might not be something to be overly proud of, but at least it's honest and direct. Setting up a mealy-mouthed, self-justifying kangaroo court to tell yourself it's okay to do to your enemy the exact same thing you complained about them doing to you just makes it obvious that you don't have the strength of your own convictions. It also tends to highlight your hypocrisy… where were the trials of Allied "war criminals"? Apparently, the only real crime is losing.
-Kle.

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