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Memories of War: Navy vet recalls Doolittle Raid

As a strategic military operation, the Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1942 didn't amount to much.

But as a morale booster, it was exactly what the United States needed in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack and a series of early defeats at the hands of the Japanese navy in the opening days of World War II.

Lt. Col. James "Jimmy" Doolittle led a squadron of sixteen B-25 Mitchells on a mission to bomb Tokyo. Three flyers were killed in the mission and eight were captured. Fifteen of the bombers crashed while another landed in Russian controlled territory.

The raid resulted in about 50 Japanese deaths and it damaged an oil tank farm and at least one factory.

It wasn't a decisive victory but the raid made news reels and helped instill optimism in the public and those serving overseas.

Rush Springs Navy veteran Dow Meek saw Doolittle's planes take off from another carrier. We'll let him pick it up from there:

"It was a muggy windy day and you could barely see them taking off from the Hornet from where we were," Meek recalled in November. "We were just escorts but it was all kept pretty quiet. But it wasn't a secret once you saw those airplanes. We knew what was going on after that. We didn't have those big planes on carriers at that time.  "

Meek had doubts about the mission.

"Mainly we were wondering if they were going to be able to make it or not," he said. "They had to launch about 200 miles further out than they had planned to because we ran into these fishing boats that everyone figured had radios."

Word of the raid's outcome was sparse.

"The news would trickle down from the top gradually because they were getting radio reports back and forth and stuff like that," he said. "Sometimes they'd announce it over the loudspeaker but we really didn't know the whole story until we got back."

(Editor's note: Dow Meek was interviewed in November as part of The Oklahoman's Memories of War project. Meek passed away in February after a brief illness. He was 97.)

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Matt Patterson

Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun.... Read more ›