On This Day in Aviation History

April 18, 2012

Doolittle Raid Scores First US Revenge on Japan, Boeing Changes its Name: April 18th in Aviation History

One of the 16 US Army Air Forces B-25 Mitchell bombers that took off from the USS Hornet for the Doolittle Raid. (Photo by US Navy)

1986 – Marcel Dassault, founder of French aircraft builder Dassault Aviation, dies at the age of 94.

1967 – Japan Airlines and Aeroflot jointly launch Moscow-Tokyo flights.

1958 – US Navy Lieutenant-Commander George Watkins flies a Grumman F11F-1 Tiger to a world record absolute altitude of 76,932 feet.

1952 – A prototype Convair YB-60 bomber makes its first flight at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. A competing design from Boeing, which is 100 mph faster and offers better handling than the Convair wins the US Air Force contract: the B-52 Stratofortress.

1948 – The keel of what was meant to be the first US Navy supercarrier, the USS United States, is laid at Newport News, Virginia, only to see the program cancelled five days later. Secretary of the Navy John Sullivan resigns immediately.

1944 – 969 allied bombers attack the Nazi naval base on Germany’s Heligoland island.

1943 – Isoroku Yamamoto, commander-in-chief of Japan’s Imperial Navy and the man responsible for the Pearl Harbor attack, is killed when the plane he is on is shot down by US P-38 Lightning fighter planes over the Solomon Islands.

1942 – US bombers carry out the first bombing runs on the Japanese mainland in what would become known as the Doolittle Raid named after its architect, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle. In an unprecedented mission, 16 US Army Air Force B-25 Mitchell bombers crewed by 80 airmen take off from the carrier USS Hornet — the first and only time Air Force planes have launched from aircraft carriers in combat. Since the B-25s are too large to land back on the carrier, they are to continue flying to an airfield in China. None have enough fuel to make the destination field. Fifteen of the planes crash land on or near the Chinese coast. Three airmen die while ditching. Four others are captured by the Japanese, who execute three of them, while the other dies of disease. The 16th plane safely lands in Russia but its crew is interned for a year. Overall, the raid is a propaganda victory for the United States: While it did not cause significant damage to the Japanese, it was the first symbolic revenge for the Pearl Harbor attack about five months earlier.

1919 – Compagnie des Messageries Aériennes (CMA) begins freight and mail service between Le Bourget Airport in Paris and Lesquin Airport in Lille, France.

1917 – William Boeing’s Pacific Aero Products Company is renamed the Boeing Airplane Company.

1915 – French aviator Roland Garros is shot down, but glides to a landing in German territory, where he is held prisoner until his escape in 1918.



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