The Oregonians of the Doolittle Raid on Japan, April 18, 1942

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Terrence G. Popravak, Jr., USAF (Retired) 142nd Wing History Office (Volunteer)
  • 142nd Wing

Today, Monday, April 18, 2022 is the 80th anniversary of the epic Doolittle Raid, when US Army Air Force B-25B Mitchell medium bombers flew from the pitching deck of the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) in the first American air raid on Tokyo and the Imperial Japanese Home islands.

Led by the famed Lt. Col. (later Gen.) James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle (no known relation to the Oregon Air National Guard’s Maj. Gen. Gordon L. Doolittle), several of the 80 crew members aboard the B-25s, all flown west now, had an Oregon connection, as did the flying unit they were from.  And there was a connection between some of the B-25 crews and the flyers in the 123rd Observation Squadron, the Oregon National Guard’s first aviation unit, as well as to Portland Army Air Base. 

The name, rank and unit of these Oregon-connected B-25 aircrew at the time is as indicated:

Clever, Robert S., Lt., Bombardier of Crew 7, 95th Bomb Squadron, B-25B serial number 40-2261 - “The Ruptured Duck.”  Born in Portland and entered military service at Vancouver barracks, WA, in early 1941.  Killed in an aircraft accident in the U.S. on November 20, 1942.

Davenport, Dean., Lt.  (later Col.), Co-pilot of Crew 7, 95th Bomb Squadron, B-25B serial number 40-2261 “The Ruptured Duck.” Born in Spokane, WA and grew up in Portland, graduated Portland High School then studied law at Albany and Northwestern colleges.  He was later the technical advisor for the 1944 movie Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo about the Doolittle Raid.

DeShazer, Jacob D., Cpl. (later T/Sgt), Bombardier of Crew 16, 34th Bomb Squadron, B-25B serial number 40-2268 - “Bat Out of Hell,” was born in Salem, graduated from Madras High School.  He enlisted in the Army in early 1940.  Captured, he spent 40 months as a Prisoner of War (POW).  Remarkably, he returned to Japan in 1948 as a Christian missionary.

Holstrom, Everett W., Lt. (later Brig. Gen.), Pilot of Crew 4, 95th Bomb Squadron, B-25B serial number 40-2282.  Born in Cottage Grove, graduated Pleasant Hill High School, attended Oregon State College before he entered military service at Fort Lewis, WA in 1939.  He stayed in China after the raid and commanded the 11th Bomb Squadron there until the end of 1943.

Jones, David M., Capt. (later Maj Gen.), Pilot of Crew 5, 95th Bomb Squadron, B-25B serial number 40-2283.  Born in Marshfield (Coos Bay), later moved to Arizona where he completed high school and college, then joined the National Guard as a cavalry officer before becoming a pilot in the Army Air Corps.  He later served in North Africa, was shot down and captured, and became a POW for two-and-a-half years in Stalag Luft III, Germany.

The crews on the mission were drawn from the bombardment squadrons of the 17th Bomb Group (Medium), the Army Air Force’s first and most experienced North American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber outfit.  The group first-equipped with the new B-25 in the summer of 1941, and all four flying squadrons were equipped by September, 1941, by which time the group was stationed at Pendleton, Oregon. 

After the Japanese attack on Hawaii and the US entry into the war, the 17th Bomb Group flew anti-submarine patrols off the Pacific Northwest coast from various forward bases.  The aircraft soon engaged the enemy, when Oregon’s 123rd Observation Squadron, then on active duty service and flying coastal patrols, detected an enemy submarine off the mouth of the Columbia River on December 24, 1941, as described in an earlier post, “A Portland Connection to the Doolittle Raid of 18 April 1942,” at:

After conducting anti-sub patrols off the west coast from late December, 1941 to mid-February, 1942, the group moved from Oregon to the east coast and flew anti-sub patrol against German submarines.  The 17th Bomb Group was then selected to provide the cadre for the volunteer crews selected to participate in the Doolittle Raid.

Although the raid didn’t go exactly as planned, with the scheduled launch moved up hours earlier after the carrier task force was detected approaching Japan, many of the aircraft hit their planned targets and delivered a big shock to Imperial Japan’s leadership – Imperial Japan’s Home Islands, the heart of the Empire, were vulnerable to enemy attack. 

The Japanese brutally responded to the raid as they sought to deny air bases in China that could be used in any future attacks against Japan. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens in the areas of China where the aircraft ultimately came down in were killed, assaulted and/or driven from their homes. 

The Imperial Japanese forces also used biological warfare against the Chinese, employing bio-weapons from the infamous Unit 731, even killing hundreds of their own troops in the indiscriminate process.  The magnitude and ferocity of Imperial Japan’s reprisal was wildly disproportionate to the damage done to Japan.

The Japanese were brutal against some of the captured aircrew as well.   The captured Oregonian Cpl. Jacob DeShazer of Crew 16 was forced to witness the execution by the Japanese of three other raiders, Lt. William G. Farrow and Sgt. Harold A. Spatz of Crew 16 and Lt. Dean E. Hallmark of Crew 6 in Shanghai, China on October 15, 1942.   DeShazer witnessed another captured crewman from Crew 6, Lt. Robert J. Meder, die from beri-beri and dysentery in prison camp on December 1, 1943.

Despite the loss of all 16 aircraft and seven crew members (four lost in captivity, two who drowned when their aircraft crash-landed in China coastal waters, and another who died bailing out over China), the Doolittle Raid boosted American morale at a time when the war was going very badly. 

Two of the Doolittle Raider Oregonians, Lt’s Robert S. Clever and Dean Davenport of Crew 7, returned from China to Oregon on leave and boosted morale at Portland Army Air Base in the summer of 1942.

It also led to a reprioritization of Japan’s war objectives.  Some Japanese air units were sent back from expeditionary operations in the Pacific War to the Home Islands for defense, reducing the Empire’s offensive airpower.  The Imperial Japanese Navy focused on getting rid of the American aircraft carrier threat and sailed into the decisive Battle of Midway in June, 1942, where it was soundly defeated, losing four aircraft carriers of its own versus one American loss.

On this 80th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid on Japan, we salute the brave crews, including Oregonians, who volunteered for this dangerous special mission, and flew it even when the plan dynamically and significantly changed.  Oregonians continue to serve in the nation’s armed forces, on active duty, in the reserve and in the National Guard, which also serves state and community.  May we be inspired by this example of service and sacrifice from 80 years ago.