Monday, February 13, 2017

The things you learn...

At 0815, flight-deck signal officer Ozzie Osborne (!) whirled a checkered flag in broader and broader, faster and faster eights over his head. First in line, Lieutenant Colonel James Harold Doolittle turned down his wing flaps and revved up his throttle. The heavy plane shook against the brakes. Jimmy had under five hundred feet of taxi before him and a mere six feet of clearance between his right wing and the tower. Even after their Eglin training, the runway looked awfully small to the army fliers, while the waves crashing over the deck seemed mountainous.

Osborne felt in his bones the Hornet's rise and fall, waiting for precisely the right moment. "You knew how long it would take them to run down the deck, and you wanted to start them as the bow started down because it would take them that length of time to get within fifty or seventy-five feet of the bow, and then, as the deck started to come up, you'd actually launch them into the air, or at least horizontal but on the upswing, in fact giving them a boost," said Steven Jurika. This meant that pilots spent most of the taxi heading straight at the waves.

Osborne's flag shot down, Doolittle yanked his feet from the brakes, the carrier tilted, and the lead B-25, filled to the max with fuel and bombs, began its slow shuffle. "He won't make it! He can't make it!" one navy pilot shouted over the din, but when Doolittle was asked later how he felt at that moment, he said, "Confident." The man flying number two to Doolittle, Dick Cole, remembered thinking: "It'd be a pretty bad feeling for everybody behind us if we took off and dropped into the water."

(From the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid on Japan as described in the book, Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness, by Craig Nelson)

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