Doolittle, James

Doolittle, James (Harold)

(1896–1993) aviator; born in Alameda, Calif. Commissioned in the Army Air Corps in 1920, he pioneered instrument landing techniques as a test pilot during the 1920s. Doolittle resigned from the regular service in 1930 to join the Shell Oil Company as an executive. Pursuing his interest in aircraft development, he set a world speed record in 1932. Recalled to active duty in 1940, Doolittle led the famous 1942 attack on Tokyo and other Japanese cities by 16 B-25 bombers flying off the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, a daring operation that gave a terrific boost to morale on the home front. He commanded the 12th Air Force during the North Africa campaign (1942–43), the 15th Air Force in Italy (1943), and the 8th Air Force during the intensive bombing offensive against Germany (1944–45). Doolittle returned to Shell after the war and was a vice-president and director of the company until his retirement in 1959.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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