Perhaps the best known American airman has been James H. ("Jimmy") Doolittle. This was due not only to his racing plane exploits and his "30 seconds over Tokyo," but also because he lived well into his nineties. Several biographies have been written about him, including several by Carroll Glines, and indeed it was Glines who ghosted Doolittle's autobiography near the end of his life. Nevertheless, despite the copious amount of ink spilled on the general, there is yet to appear a serious study that looks closely at his career and its effect on American airpower. Doolittle was one of the pioneers of instrument flying and of advanced technology, while also being an outstanding combat leader, commanding the Twelfth, Fifteenth, and Eighth Air Forces during World War II. Yet no one has addressed the issue of Doolittle's beliefs on the proper employment of airpower other than to simply state that it should not be used as a tactical weapon. Surely, Doolittle must have held some strong ideas on what German target system was most important and vulnerable to Allied attack. Even the issue of Doolittle's stand regarding the 1944 oilplan versus railplan controversy-an issue of enormous strategic importance-has not been examined. In short, the definitive biography of Doolittle's life has yet to be written. Those attempted include: Lowell Thomas and Edward Jablonski, Doolittle: A Biography (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1976); Carroll V. Glines, Jimmy Doolittle: Daredevil Aviator and Scientist (New York: Macmillan, 1972); Glines again, Jimmy Doolittle: Master of the Calculated Risk (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1980); Carl Mann, Lightning in the Sky: The Story of Jimmy Doolittle (New York: McBride, 1943); and Quentin Reynolds, The Amazing Mr. Doolittle: A Biography of Lieutenant General James H. Doolittle (New York: AppletonCenturyCrofts, 1953).
Unfortunately, his autobiography, I Could Never Be So Lucky Again (New York: Bantam, 1991), recounts the same anecdotes told elsewhere and offers no new insights into the man. What is missing is a frank appraisal of why he was so effective as a combat commander. In addition, key strategic issues such as the choice of industrial targets in Germany, the morality of strategic bombing, the development of the longrange escort fighter, and command relationships among senior Allied leaders are not discussed.
DisclaimerThe conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the US Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.
Return: American Airpower Biography
Home Page | Feedback? Email the Editor