I started my Air Force career as an imagery intelligence analyst (also known as a “1N1X1” or a “squint”). It was my job to examine images taken by any of a plethora of “overhead” military platforms (U2 spy planes, as one example) and determine what was going on in them. American intelligence collection capability is truly amazing, and the origins of airborne intelligence collection were simultaneously humble and revolutionary.
The value of airborne intelligence gathering was pretty well evident in the earliest days of aviation. Only months following the first human’s ascension in a hot air balloon into the sky near Versailles in 1783, the French incorporated a balloon unit into its military. However, despite the notable contributions made during successive European battles, by 1802 the aérostiers were retired.[i] So by the time the US Civil War erupted in 1861, manned balloons had remained almost entirely outside of military operations for the better part of six decades.
At the outset of the conflict, experienced balloonists (called “aeronauts”) like Thaddeus Lowe, John La Mountain, and John Wise petitioned the US government for the opportunity to serve the country with the unique capabilities afforded by their aerial platforms. And while La Mountain was able to establish balloon operations in beleaguered Fort Monroe, Virginia, Lowe distinguished himself from his professional competitors by demonstrating the unique capabilities offered by aerial intelligence directly to President Lincoln. On 16 June, 1861, Lowe ascended in a balloon which was tethered near the White House. He then, using a telegraph machine in the basket, telegraphed what he saw directly to Lincoln’s office.
“This point of observation commands an area near fifty miles in diameter. The city with its girdle of encampments presents a superb scene,” reported Lowe in what could be described, using today’s military concepts, as an exercise intelligence report.[ii] Lincoln was impressed, and appointed Lowe head of the Union’s new Balloon Corps.
From the earliest days of the war through early 1863, the Balloon Corps demonstrated the unique capability afforded by aerial intelligence. An early example of this is actually on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, in Dayton, Ohio. Set up in the front of the Early Years Gallery is a hand-drawn map. In April 1861, Union forces at Fort Monroe in Virginia were isolated thanks to Virginia’s secession. John La Mountain managed to get his equipment and a single balloon into the old fort, which was bracing for a possible assault similar to Fort Sumter. Major General Benjamin Butler, in command at Monroe at the time, needed intelligence, and La Mountain was the man to get it for him. On 10 August, La Mountain ascended in his balloon to 3500 feet. From that vantage, he was able to identify troop camps and naval activity. He also provided General Butler with this map, possibly the first example of aerial intelligence mapping.[iii]
The use of these military balloons not only advanced military intelligence collection capabilities, but the Union army was forced to devise new technologies to deploy the assets in the field. Thaddeus Lowe created a mobile hydrogen gas generator, as well as directed the conversion of a Navy vessel into a specialized balloon deployment asset. This vessel, the USS George Washington Parke Custis – a coal barge- was fitted with the special hydrogen generator, and the deck was cleared to allow for balloon inflation. This gave the Union the ability to tow the balloon along the Potomac and adjacent waterways, expanding the range and flexibility of aerial intelligence collection.[iv]
Arguably then, the first military aviation platforms commissioned by the US Army were intelligence collection platforms. Yes, they were used for artillery spotting, but one of the primary drivers for President Lincoln to approve the creation of a Balloon Corps was the promise of real-time intelligence collection and transmission to commanders on the ground. It was not uncommon for an officer (at times, the commander) to ascend with Lowe to get a sense of the land and enemy disposition. The Confederates were vexed by the balloons, and tried to destroy them whenever they were observed rising.
Photographs would not be used with balloons, although some experiments of aerial photography (using kites and balloons) had been conducted by civilians around this time. However, the methodical use of professional intelligence gathering by specially trained aeronauts during the US Civil War is clear milestone (if not the first milestone) in the evolution of American aerial intelligence capabilities. A whole new dimension of warfare was emerging.
[i] I’m not going to pretend that my research into French ballooning goes beyond the reading of a few secondary sources at this point. Charles M. Evans, in War of the Aeronauts, gives a brief overview of the earliest days of ballooning as he lays the ground work for his in-depth telling the use of balloons in the US Civil War. But I found a fascinating and concise article on the subject in All the Year Round, a British periodical and literary journal edited by none other than Charles Dickens. All the Year Round, Volume 1; Volume 21 (27 Feb, 1869) pp297-299.
[ii] Lincoln, Abraham. Abraham Lincoln papers: Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833 to 1916: Thaddeus S. C. Lowe to Abraham Lincoln, Sunday,Telegram from balloon. 1861. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mal1031300/.
[iii] Evans, Charles M, War of the Aeronauts, a History of Ballooning (Stackpole Books, Mechanichsville, PA, 2002), 96-98.
I wrote an earlier version of this article for Yahoo! News several years ago. At the time, the media were reporting on some purported American intelligence failures in the Middle East. The appropriateness (and the conclusions being drawn) aside, I was motivated to highlight some of the significant (acknowledged) successes that American and Allied intelligence agencies had accomplished over the past 75 years or so.
Today, with the Intelligence Community facing political assaults here at home, I thought it’d be a good time to dust off the article and share it again. The American Intelligence Community has a proud history, and while thorough scrutiny of that community is essential in a democracy, those who would undercut the professionals dedicated to the defense of the nation for political gain need to be rebuked at the ballot box.
But I digress.
When the public hears about the CIA, NSA or military intelligence, it’s often not a good thing. Often, we find ourselves uncomfortable with the very idea of secret intelligence, as it seems at odds with the ideals of an open democratic republic. So when questions about data collection against US citizens arise, a shadow is cast over the intelligence community as a whole. In addition, as I alluded to above, significant intelligence failures (e.g., the September 11 attacks), can shake public confidence in our intelligence apparatus. And frankly, questions about the scope of intelligence collection, and whether the IC is fully capable of meeting today’s evolving threats are right and proper. However, we should never lose sight of the fact that the IC has a record of achievement second to none, and that’s just with what is known and acknowledged. Successful intelligence collection and analysis has been instrumental in turning the tide of war, and in some cases has aided in the shifting of the global balance of power.
I’ve collected here five success stories from modern history, each of which demonstrates the critical role that intelligence played in preserving national security. This list is, of course, subjective, and in no particular order. In every conflict, intelligence plays a vital role in victory. I chose these particular examples because of the relatively clear strategic impact these definable intelligence victories had. Also note that this is not a “top 5 of all time” kind of thing. I’ll work on that project sometime later.
Cracking Enigma (World War II): The German military‘s machine-based cryptographic system called Enigma had a ciphering capability that was theoretically unbreakable. And for the early part of the war, it was. Cracking Enigma took a combination of old fashioned spy work, signals collection (meaning the interception of radio transmissions), and cryptography. Polish breakthroughs combined with a German traitor provided by the French resulted in the first successes against Enigma. The British and Americans were able to expand this success into breaking the even more resilient Enigma machines used by the German Navy.
Result: Deep penetration of Hitler’s military movements. Cracking Engima helped save the vital support that the US was sending by ship to Britain by helping to counter the brutal German U-boat attacks. According to Ms. Wilcox, many historians believe that the success against Enigma shortened World War II by as much as two years.
The Battle of Midway (World War II): The U.S. Navy pretty much had one last chance to contain the burgeoning Imperial Navy, and that was at Midway. What transpired from roughly early March – June 4 1942 was a game of cryptographic cat and mouse. But through a mix of diligent signals collection and cryptographic analysis, the US Navy was able to forecast not only the timing of the impending attack on Midway, but also the direction it would come from. In his book Intelligence in War, John Keegan cites a source that describes this as “the most stunning intelligence coup in all naval history.”
Result: Despite the shortcomings of intelligence collection, the U.S. Navy was able to crack Japanese encryption, enabling them to concentrate on defending Midway, giving American forces this most critical of victories in the Pacific Theater.
Further reading: Intelligence in War, by John Keegan.
The Cuban Missile Crisis (Cold War): Leading up to the discovery of the construction of Russian Medium Range Ballistic Missile installations in Cuba, U.S. intelligence had observed a rash of surface to air missile sites popping up at various locations across the island. While this Russian military build-up had been detected using various maritime and other intelligence methods, the smoking gun that brought the world closer to nuclear war than it has even been was uncovered by American U2 imagery intelligence collection in mid-October 1962. Armed with this intel, President John F. Kennedy and his Administration took the evidence public a week later, beginning the tense confrontation that many feared would end in war.
Result: Caught red handed, the Soviets backed down and withdrew the missiles. This prevented the USSR from having the ability to reach the U.S. with its intermediate range nuclear missiles.
Further reading: Trust But Verify: Imagery Analysis in the Cold War, by David T. Lindgren.
Operation Desert Storm: From January 15 to February 24, 1991, Coalition aircraft hammered Iraqi Military and Command and Control targets. On some days, there were as many as 2,500 sorties. These attacks were not random, and except for military equipment found out in the open, were not typically targets of opportunity. The attacks were designed to “cut off the head of the snake.” Logistics lines and Republican Guard command centers were destroyed or evacuated for fear of bombing.
Result: When ground operations initiated on 24 February, it took only 100 hours to completely liberate Kuwait. But an even more far reaching impact wouldn’t become clear until December of that year. Some historians believe that the complete routing of the Iraqi military, which was trained and equipped by the Soviet Union, was the final nail in the USSR’s coffin. Iraq’s overwhelming loss completely discredited Soviet air and ground defense doctrines and weapons systems.
Eliminating Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (Operation IRAQI FREEDOM): As the war in Iraq started shifting into sectarian chaos, the mysterious al-Zarqawi led the way. The leader of what would eventually be called Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQIZ), this brutal terror leader declared war on Western forces and Shi’a Iraqis in a bid to incite country-wide civil war. He also became one of the most wanted men in the country. He eluded Coalition forces for some time, but eventually, through the work of the intelligence community and a special US military task force, this key leader of the Iraqi insurgency was eliminated on June 7, 2006 by a targeted air strike.
Result: While of course, Iraq continues to face instability and had to deal with ISIS in recent years, the death of al-Zarqawi delivered a body blow to the Iraqi insurgency, threw AQIZ off balance, and likely magnified the effects of the soon to come military surge. It proved that the nascent Iraqi Government, the US-led Coalition, and reginal allies (Jordanian intelligence reportedly helped locate Zarqawi) were determined to oppose the ethnic warfare being waged by AQIZ.
Of course, there’s so much more that we outside of this world don’t get to see. But I think it does us good to see from time to time what kind of return out tax dollars are getting from our significant investment in national intelligence.
Recently I’ve started doing something that I’ve wanted to do for years: I’ve become a volunteer at the Museum of the United States Air Force, located in Dayton, Ohio.* Once or twice per month, I get to spend several hours within this fine institution, walking among the legacies of the men and women who created modern air power. It’s an incredible experience, and if you haven’t visited, you need to make time to do so. The museum is truly a national treasure, comparable to the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.
My time spent within the museum has spurred a number of article ideas and projects that I intend to pursue. But before I get into one of them, I’m going to highlight an exciting upcoming event: on 17 May 2018, the museum will unveil the Memphis Belle to the public, the storied B-17 Flying Fortress that became the first U.S. heavy bomber to complete 25 bombing runs over Europe. The date selected for this is quite purposeful: it will mark the 75th anniversary of the final mission flown by the crew, on 17 May 1943. After months of careful restoration, the Memphis Belle will be presented amid a celebration from the 17th to the 19th. Check out the official web page, and the flyer below:
Apart from this, I’ve started to outline a blog series on airborne (and eventually space-borne) intelligence capabilities. The series is directly inspired by my time in the museum. The collections on display are divided into four massive hangars: Early Years/World War I, Southeast Asia/Korea, Cold War, and the newest, Space/Experimental/Presidential aircraft. With so much history within its walls, there are countless stories and themes one can explore. My interest in military intelligence has led me to start examining the displays that speak to the evolution of air intelligence capabilities. While there are many intelligence-specific exhibits, I hope to present a cohesive narrative of the milestones that have led to the breathtaking capabilities the US Air Force possesses today, starting with the humble balloon.
More to come.
*This is a good time to emphasize that, although I am fortunate to volunteer at the Museum of the USAF, I do not represent them. Everything posted to this blog is my opinion and analysis, and in no way represents the Museum.
In the summer of 1862, Captain Milton Graham began to recruit men to form a new volunteer cavalry regiment to defend the Commonwealth of Kentucky from rebellion. He set up camp at Harrodsburg, Kentucky shortly before 11 July 1862. Company A was one of the first four companies of the 11th Kentucky Cavalry (along with D, C, and F).  Volunteers assigned to Company A enrolled primarily between 18 and 22 August (probably after relocating to Louisville), coming mostly from the surrounding Garrand (30 men) and Madison (36 men) Counties, although a handful from Washington, Lancaster, and Boyle Counties were also assigned to the company.
Approximately 75 men (officers and enlisted) comprised Company A when the regiment was mustered into service on 22 September 1862 in Louisville. Interestingly, an additional 30 men were listed as “Within the enemy lines,” at the outset. What is meant by this is not entirely clear. One possibility is related to the first incursion into Kentucky by Confederate forces, which coincided with the formation of the 11th Kentucky. Then-Colonel John Hunt Morgan led several hundred troops north from Tennessee, and actually set up camp at one point outside of Harrodsburg. It was Morgan’s approach that prompted Graham to relocate to Lexington Kentucky on 22 July. In recounting the activity, historian Lowell Harrison notes that while in the area, Morgan boasted of capturing and paroling some 1,200 Union soldiers. It seems plausible that some of these were volunteers that never made it to officially joining the Union army. Their names were accounted for on the regimental muster rolls, but none of them were present when the regiment was officially mustered into service. Most of these would ultimately be removed from the rolls and some charged with desertion (although a handful eventually joined up with the company).
Captain John G. Pond commanded the company (more on him below), and John Milton Cotton (age 27 from Garrand County) and Reuben F. Scott (age 34, from Madison County) were his lieutenants. The average age of the company was 26.22 years at time of muster, somewhat older than I expected. Captain Pond himself was 50 years old in 1862.
Throughout the war, troops being AWOL was a problem. Of the 145 men who enrolled into Company A from 1862 – 1865, 21% (31 soldiers) would be documented as being AWOL at some point in their service. If we consider only the original 75 or so troops, the rate of AWOL remains about the same percentage (15 soldiers, roughly 20%). The desertion rate was even higher, with 39 (25%) of the total number of soldiers who enrolled in Company A being charged with desertion (14 of these were from the original 75, or 18%). As expected, there is plenty of overlap between those that went AWOL and those that deserted. Some of these soldiers eventually returned to the regiment, and after forfeiting pay and taking on extra duties, the charge was often eventually dropped.
The company suffered significant casualties over the course of the war. Of the 75 men present at the mustering in, at least 19 (25%) would be captured over the following 3 years. Over half of those (12) died in prison. At least 24 men from Company A (15%) in total perished before the war’s end. A good number of these casualties resulted from two significant engagements that occurred as part of General Ambrose Burnside’s East Tennessee expedition in October (Philadelphia, TN) and November (Maryville, TN) 1863.
John G. Pond: As mentioned above, the company was organized by Captain Pond, who is arguably the most prominent personality to have served in the company, and possibly the entire regiment. A preacher from Round Hill, in Madison County, he was 50 years old when he joined the 11th Kentucky Cavalry. Described as “eccentric” after the war, he was evidently a staunch abolitionist who was fiercely opposed to the Confederacy. “[M]y greatest difference with the administration is that it is too lenient with Rebels, especially in KY,” he wrote in 1864. Despite his age, he was not one to avoid combat. In July 1863, the 11th KY Cavalry was one of the many that took part in the pursuit of Confederate John Hunt Morgan as he raced across Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. Upon reaching Cincinnati, General Judah was forced to leave the bulk of the 11th behind due to a lack of fresh horses. Enough steeds were pulled together, however, to outfit a single company-sized element. This element was led by Captain Pond. Morgan was ultimately captured, and the 11th was there when it happened.
Eventually, his age bedeviled him toward the end of his service with the regiment. In his resignation letter, Pond stated “I am in my fifty second year and from a fever last fall that fell on my muscles I feel that I am gradually declining.” Interestingly, although Pond resigned from the 11th Kentucky Cavalry, he wasn’t finished with the war. Pond would quickly help found and lead the 117th Kentucky Colored Regiment Infantry as a Lieutenant Colonel in July 1864. Once the war concluded, he not only resumed preaching, but reportedly strove against the Ku Klux Klan in Madison County. He died in 1899, in Boyle County. Clearly, John Pond deserves more scholarly attention.
Solomon Calhoun: This solider caught my attention both because of his colorful name and because his records hint that he may have been either an adventurer or a patriot with a taste for action, or some blending of the two. A 27 year old farmer born in Pulaski County, Kentucky, he enlisted with the 11th Kentucky Cavalry late in the war, during a recruiting push in Louisville in February 1865. The blue eyed, fair-skinned soldier enrolled as a private, and was quickly promoted to corporal. However, the soldier’s status became mired in some controversy, as he was discovered to have previously deserted from the 3rd Kentucky Infantry. In that unit, he started in September 1861 with the rank of sergeant, although he was dinged for losing his musket. His presence with the regiment is unclear until 11 August 1862, when he was given “recruiting duty,” something that lasted several months (at least into December 1862) and was certainly something of a break from combat operations. Evidently he wasn’t quick to report back, as by 1 January 1863 he was listed as AWOL, which was changed to “deserted” status on 31 July 1863. Interestingly, a note on his deserter’s form states that he was “probably to be found in 1st Ky. Cav. Supposed to be in KY.” Another note, dated 20 February 1864, clarifies “Probably to be found with Wolfords Cav.” In other words, he was suspected of abandoning his infantry unit so he could fight with a cavalry unit (this alone begs for some additional research). He was dropped from the 3rd Kentucky Infantry’s rolls 1 November 1863. It was at this point that Sergeant Calhoun was demoted and listed as “Private Calhoun.” Inexplicably, he returned in August of 1864 and was allowed to rejoin his unit, with forfeiture of pay.  On 13 October, 1864, he was mustered out of the regiment. Within four months, he would be with the 11th Kentucky Cavalry.
William P. Pierce: This 20-year old from Garrand County managed to secure the rank of sergeant at the outset, but he wouldn’t remain enlisted for long. Evidently resourceful, he became the acting adjunct for the company within weeks of the regiment mustering into service. This meant he was acting in the capacity of a first lieutenant, which wasn’t officially recognized until May 1865 (backdated to 1 October 1862). On 14 November 1863, he was one of 8 others of the company captured at Marysville, TN, but he was paroled 30 April 1864. After a few weeks of leave, he accepted a promotion to Captain on 6 August, to fill the vacancy created by Captain Pond’s resignation.
The above only scratches the surface of the preceding soldiers, and there are so many others I’d love to highlight. I’ve marked a few more for additional research. I’m trying to block off time this month (September) to visit the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Military History Museum in Frankfort. They have some research materials there that I hope will provide further insights into the shaping of this regiment, and perhaps into the men who fought within it
This is the first part of a company-by-company look at the Union’s 11th Kentucky Cavalry Regiment. These should be considered works in progress, to which much will be added over the coming months (plus, I need to clean up my footnotes, as some aren’t in proper CMS format). Once we’ve had a chance to look at each company, we’ll roll it all up together to see what we can learn of the regiment as a whole, from the individual soldier on up. We’re kicking off this study with, appropriately enough, Company A.
Methodology: I queried the National Park Service’s (NPS) Civil War Soldiers and Sailors data to extract all soldiers identified as serving under the 11th Kentucky Cavalry (this is how I have this data), then copied the data into a spreadsheet. To make sure I had as complete a roster as possible, I then compared the names in the database query to the roster listing published in The Union Regiments of Kentucky. This helped to clean up the data, as the NPS database contains some duplicate entries and plenty of spelling errors (e.g. one solider was represented 4 times as his name was spelled 4 different ways). The raw NPS data provided great information on each soldier, such as “first name,” “last name,” “Rank in,” “Rank Out,” etc. Then, stepping soldier by soldier through Fold3, I added additional columns to capture data points not contained in the NPS database. This was a mix of demographic data (e.g. age, where the soldier entered service, whether they were part of the original regiment mustered into service, were they captured and/or killed). I’ve posted the combined data into a spreadsheet here. Note on the Fold3 data: you’ll either need an account with them (they charge a fee) or you’ll need to go through a library or university if you want to follow the Fold3 addresses where I pulled the info.
After pulling what insights I could from the NPS and Fold3 databases, I switched gears into old-fashioned historical research, pulling together what I could find for the regiment in general and Company A in particular from the Official Records as well as additional primary and secondary sources. The articles that follow will be updated continuously, as additional primary source research will almost certainly provide expanded insights. Each article will present the statistics gleaned from the database information, then conclude with a few soldier vignettes, where I introduce you to these soldiers mostly obscured by time. My ultimate goal is to produce a scholarly regimental history that captures the stories of as many of the individual soldiers as possible.
 Thomas Speed, R.M. Kelly, and Alfred Pirtle, The Union Regiments of Kentucky, Volume 1 (Louisville: Courier-Journal Job Printing Company, 1887), 224
 County of origin determined by review of Company A member muster rolls.
As a lead-in to a more analytical article I plan on posting here toward the end of the month (hopefully), I thought it’d be useful to highlight this wonderful tool. The National Park Service’s Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database (CWSS) is a thing of beauty. With a little info on a relative or subject of interest (say, a surname, a state, and on what side the subject fought), one can find service data on anyone who fought in the US Civil War. This includes what regiment they fought with, what company assigned to, rank in, and rank out. For me, it probably helped that “Greenberry Shanks” is a fairly unique name, because the CWSS immediately gave me the right data.
Then, to add context to this service, one can follow the link to the regiment. This leads to a fantastic summary of major engagements, such as this for the 11th Kentucky Cavalry.
You’ll note that many of these engagements are themselves hyperlinked to even more detail. I selected the first conflict at Saltsville:
The other kind of cool functionality that has one massively frustrating limitation, at least for researchers interested in unit data, is the link under the regiment’s history, View Battle Unit’s Soldiers. This brings you to a page where soldiers are listed alphabetically. That’s okay, if you’re unsure of how a name was spelled and need to page through 20 soldiers at a time.
I first discovered the CWSS through a blog post from another Civil War blog (Dead Confederates). In his post, which was published a couple of years ago, he highlighted another fantastic capability: there was an export button that allowed you to download an excel spreadsheet of the entire regiment. This was very exciting to me, since I’m currently taking a close look at the people who made up the regiment that my ancestor belonged to. So it was pretty aggravating when I went to the CWSS last year and discovered that this feature had been removed for some reason. I searched everywhere, and even emailed the site administrators and the NPS, but unfortunately never heard back.
Well, I was determined to get this data one way or another. I started scouring the National Archives and the farthest reaches of my search engines for anyone who may have stored it somewhere. All I found were broken links. On May 4 of this year, however, I had a breakthrough. After searching the corners of the Google-verse, I eventually turned up the data files used by the CWSS. The search was maddening, at least for me, as it was quite hard to find. I don’t even remember how I finally found it. I just tried to find it again, and the only way I could was to go back into my browser history and locate the download address. Here it is, if you’re interested:
Keep in mind, this is the raw data, over 800 MB of historical goodness, but not anything that is quickly used. Fortunately, I have a little background in SQL and excel, so I converted the data into a SQL table, and now I’m able to query the data in a number of ways. I’m trying to figure out how I can make this data available on my website, but I’m not sure this blog is the right medium. Until I crack that nut, feel free to ask for regimental soldier queries, as I’d be happy to help.
Speaking of which, my next article will be on Company A of the 11the Kentucky Cavalry. I’m using the CWSS data as a starting point to give me the name and rank of each member of the company, and then cross referencing those names in Fold3. Using that, I’m adding additional data to the names: their ages, the county where they’re from, occupations (if known), casualty data, and a few more data points.
This will allow me to get a feel for the men who made up the company, as well as how they fared throughout the conflict. I’m almost a third of the way through the Company A roster (I’m trying to finish one company per month), and I’ve been fascinated with what I’ve learned so far. I look forward to sharing it with you.
In early morning on April 18, 1942, a small Japanese vessel detected a large American
naval force powering toward Tokyo. That the Americans were intent on attacking the Empire was without question: the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, scarcely 4 months prior, was still a recent, searing memory. However, the fleet was still 600 miles from the coast. Because of the limited range of conventional carrier-borne aircraft, detection at such a distance normally would have given the Japanese ample time to intercept the invaders. Yet this invasion was far from conventional.
Shortly after detecting the Japanese vessel, 16 highly modified Army Air Forces (AAF) B-25 bombers took off in rapid succession from the USS Hornet. Led by Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, the aircraft skirted over Tokyo at mid-day, dropped their bombs, and egressed toward China without immediate loss. Unable to reach landing strips on mainland China, they were forced to ditch their aircraft. Eight airmen were ultimately captured by the Japanese, with three being executed. One crew, accidentally landing in Russia, were detained there. The rest returned safely.
April 18th 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of this most amazing military feat. As part of the commemoration, 17 B-25s touched down at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, behind the Museum of the United States Air Force, early this morning on the 17th. I walked among the restored aircraft, took pictures, and marveled at the thought of that daring, and highly symbolic, mission. Doolittle was well aware that the likely impact to Japanese warfighting capability would be limited. But what was important was to show America, her friends, and her enemies that even in the wake of such a disaster as Pearl Harbor, the United States could fight. In that, the mission was a powerful success. Doolittle and his Raiders were instant American heroes, and the commander would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for the raid.
The 17 B-25s will be on display through the morning of the 18th. Weather permitting, they will then conduct a flyover of the museum, followed by a memorial service, and then a B-1 Lancer flyover. LtCol Richard E. Cole, the last surviving Doolittle Raider (he’s 101 years old) plans to attend.
 Geoffrey Perret, Winged Victory, The Army Air Forces in World War II (New York: Random House, 1993) 150-153.).