Information Warfare: 21st Century Reporting of the Doolittle Raid

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April 20, 2006: The recent anniversary of the April 18, 1942 the Doolittle raid raised the question of how the press of today might have reported on the event. At the time, the Doolittle raid, as militarily ineffective as it was, proved to be an enormously popular morale boost for the American people and their allies. However, times have changed. Here's a likely report, of the 1942 event, but as it would be reported by today's media.

New York Times, April 19, 1942: "AIR RAID ON TOKYO. In what the Roosevelt Administration described as retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Army Air Corps launched an attack on Tokyo from an undisclosed location. The attack, using the North American B-25 Mitchell bomber, was described as a success, even though preliminary estimates indicate that little, if any, damage was done. A statement from President Roosevelt claimed the bombers launched from Shangri-La, although informed sources tell the New York Times that there was an unusually high degree of Army-Navy cooperation in the operation…"

San Francisco Chronicle, April 20, 1942: "DISASTER ON AIR RAID? Sources from inside the War Department report that nearly all of the planes failed to reach safe havens in China. These same sources report that the carrier force that was to deliver these bombers was detected by Japanese picket boats, forcing the attack to commence at least twelve hours ahead of schedule. In the ensuing skirmishes, at least three picket boats were sunk, and reports indicate at least two Navy dive-bombers were lost with their crews. No word has yet arrived on the status of the 80 Army Air Corps crew men - all of whom were said to be volunteers"

Washington Post, April 21, 1942 "AIRCREWS CAPTURED? Reports of a disastrous result appeared to be confirmed when one War Department source indicated that at least one of the aircrews has been captured by Japanese forces. The crew, said to be led by Lieutenant Dean Hallmark, and from the 95th Squadron, 17th Bombardment Group (Medium), reportedly crashed near Poyang Lake. Spokesmen from the War Department and the White House declined to comment on these reports. 'The President will make an announcement when it is safe to do so,' said another White House official. Unconfirmed reports from Russia indicate that one bomber landed there rather than ditching, and that the crew is in custody…"

New York Times Editorial, April 21, 1942: "Without a doubt, the decision to risk two carriers and their escorts to launch a raid that could do so little damage can only be described as incredibly stupid. The fact that the cost of this raid included all sixteen bombers, with most of the aircrews missing, only increases the level of disaster involved. By allowing this mission to go forward, Secretary of War Stimson and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox have shown that they lack the judgment to carry this war to victory. If they will not resign, then President Roosevelt should fire them."

Washington Post, April 25, 1942: "MOST FLIERS SAFE! Sources in China indicate that at least 60 of the fliers are receiving assistance from Chinese peasants, who are moving them westward ahead of the Japanese advance. These efforts are said to have been coordinated by the Reverend John M. Birch, an American missionary, and Tung Sheng Liu, a Chinese engineer. War Department sources would not confirm the reports from China, but there is a sense of relief that is visible among many of the high-ranking officers, including General Hap Arnold…"

New York Times Editorial, June 18, 1942: "Two months ago, the Army and Navy carried out a joint mission to attack the Japanese homeland. All the B-25 bombers were lost, three men were killed, eight have been confirmed as having been captured, and while sixty-nine men made it back to friendly lines, some of them, like Lieutenant Ted Lawson, are gravely wounded. And for what? Minimal damage to Tokyo and Nagoya. One has to wonder if these bombers and their valiant crews might have done more had they been employed elsewhere. During the recent battle at Midway, these bombers could have damaged the fourth carrier, and thus, the United States Navy would still have had the Yorktown available, rather than on the bottom of the ocean…"

- Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 


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