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As the USS Hornet task force approached the Japanese coast, they were spotted by an enemy ship and decided to launch their aircraft early. Just after 8am on 18th April 1942, sixteen B-25 bombers lifted off the relatively short deck of USS Hornet and set course for Japan – this would be the first time that any of these airmen had taken off from the deck of an aircraft carrier at sea. Flying at extremely low level, the raiders had a six-hour flight ahead of them before reaching their targets, almost certain that they would be intercepted by enemy fighters. If they managed to complete their mission, they would then fly on to China, but it would be very much a case of every man for himself.
Just as the Spitfires of the Battle of Britain are revered by British enthusiasts, America are rightly proud of the achievements of the Doolittle Raiders and their B25 Mitchell bombers. Striking at the heart of Japan just four months after the Pearl Harbor attack, these aircraft announced that America was very much in this war and determined to defeat her enemies. - Michael Clegg, Flight Specialist
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