Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s Raiders had a famed “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo” in 1942 when his 16 U.S. Army Air Force B-25 medium bombers were carried to within 600 miles of the Japanese Home Islands by the carrier USS Hornet (CV-8). When asked where the bombers came from, FDR laughed to the press and said “Shangra-La,” after the mythical Himalayan city.
Doolittle, who only narrowly avoided Japanese capture and managed to return to the U.S. after a stint on the ground with Chinese forces, would later play up the raid with a recruiting campaign that promised budding pilots a chance to “Fly to Tokyo, all expenses paid.”
Fast forward just 40 months, and everything had come full circle.
SB2C-4 Helldiver bomber on patrol over Tokyo, 28 August 1945, 75 years ago today. Photographed from a USS Shangri-La (CV-38) plane by Lieutenant G. D. Rogers. Note light traffic on the city streets also burned out areas and damaged buildings.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives
Ships of Task Force 38 of the victorious U.S. Third Fleet maneuvering off the coast of Japan on August 17, 1945, two days after Japan agreed to surrender. The force at the time was under the command of Mississippi-born ADM. John S. “Slew” McCain Sr., who himself was only three weeks away from heading to that great wardroom in the sky.
Official U.S. Navy photo 80-G-278815 from the Naval History and Heritage Command.
USS Wasp (CV-18) is the aircraft carrier in the lower right. Note that her forward hull number on the flight deck is painted to be readable for planes coming from the bow.
The other identifiable carrier is USS Shangri-La (CV-38) in the left-center. She is the only known carrier to have her air group identification letter (“Z”) painted in white on her flight deck, instead of her hull number.
There are four other Essex-class carriers, four Independence-class light carriers, at least three battleships (two Iowa class and one South Dakota-class), several cruisers, and multiple destroyers in the formation.