The Doolittle Raid in my opinion is one of the most daring raids in military history. The fact that bombers are launched from a ship meant to carry and launch fighters just a fraction of the weight of a B-25 is something that has marveled me since I first started learning about flight.
It has been 75 years to the day (this was written on 18 April) that the mission launched. The project planning that went into this one mission incorporated all the positives about project management, and leadership.
First, the requirement for the mission was probably pretty plain. According to one site on the subject, the mission was to “attack a number of [Japanese] cities.” I am assuming this meant that there was a list of targets for the mission. (http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/doolittle.htm)
From there, the type of aircraft was chosen for its range, size, and ability to withstand anti-aircraft, along with long range navigation and fuel consumption. The B-25 was the perfect choice at the time, but launching it would require training, which was done with hand-picked pilots and crews. The time table was set, the planes were procured, the crews were picked, and the targets were chosen. The one area that was left was getting the planes on the carrier (the Hornet was chosen for the task), and the mission was underway.
The secrecy of the mission must have been difficult, since the mission planners had to ensure that the planes were not on the deck when the carrier departed from port, along with ensuring that the pilots and crews were sequestered. Fortunately, unlike today, there were no cell phones, or cell phone cameras to document a secret mission. (And the crews, again I am assuming, were probably sequestered with no communication available to them.)
So, let’s review.
- A mission to bomb Japan, basically one of the strongest military forces (if not THE most formidable naval force in the area) was implemented
- The mission would take a land-based bomber and launch it off a deck of a Navy Carrier, less than half the length of the normal take off runway for the bomber
- The bombers would have a full fuel and armament load and, although they have two engines, still have a challenge getting off the deck
- The bombers would have to take off, fly low to avoid Japanese detection, then bomb their targets and get to airfields in China (our friend at the time)
And a few things did go wrong. The Carrier had to sink a Japanese ship and, fearing the ship reported the sighting, had to launch 150 miles further than anticipated. Many of the planes crashed for lack of fuel, but targets were bombed. Most of the crews made it back, including Doolittle’s crew.
The one thing that I need to mention is that Doolittle led the raid. Here was the project manager taking the lead on his project. He was not just the planner, he was the doer. He went in and conducted the bombing raid with his crew. I cannot overemphasize how important this was in the minds of the other crews. In order to ensure that he was committed to the mission, Doolittle took an active role in the training and implementation of the mission. It wasn’t called the Doolittle Raid for nothing!
So, the next time that someone gives you a project, and you think you have it tough, just think that 75 years ago, without computers, cell phones, all the software applications that we have today, and with propeller driven aircraft flying low over water and realizing that there is not enough fuel to make it to friendly territory.
And then go plan your project. The one thing that you can do that would reflect on Doolittle would be to lead your team; feel their pain when things do not go well, as well as their euphoria when things DO go well. Your leadership will help your team reach their target and recover successfully.
Thank God for the Doolittle Raiders; may the fallen rest in peace.
Learn, Offer, Value, Educate (L.O.V.E.)