Over the last couple of days of writing about General Doolittle and his raid, many who know me have stopped and talked specifically about the men and the mission. To each, I have recommended a couple of books.
The first is Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, (Pocket Star paperback, July 2004, ISBN-13: 978- 0743474337, 304 pp.) written by the pilot of the seventh bomber off the deck, Ted W. Lawson. Lawson’s book was one of the first I ever read as young person.
Lawson, one of the most severely injured of the Doolittle Raiders, wrote the book as a memoir about his participation on the Doolittle Raid. The book was actually “fleshed out” in four days while at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in January 1943. Newspaperman Bob Considine worked with Lawson who also made connections with Hollywood.
After Lawson began talking with executives in the movie industry, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo became a movie in 1944 starring Van Johnson as Lawson, Spencer Tracy as Jimmy Doolittle, and Phyllis Thaxter as Ellen Lawson. The movie went on to win an Academy Award for special effects.
Although Hollywood did a good job with this movie, the standard rule applies: the book is much better than the movie. Through the book, readers have a greater personal perspective regarding the lives of Ted and Ellen Lawson. In addition, the flying scenes are more realistic in one’s mind than on the black & white screen.
The other book, I Could Never Be So Lucky Again, is Jimmy Doolittle’s autobiography co-authored by Carroll V. Glines. (Bantam paperback, April 2001, ISBN-13: 978-0553584646, 560 pp.) This is a very serious look into the life of Jimmy Doolittle, aviator, military officer, and test pilot. His life, coincidently, parallels much of American aviation, both military and civilian.
Doolittle was a record holder and one of the first to hold a doctorate in aviation. He also pioneered instrument flight. He was a risk-taker down to the bone, which combined with the records he broke and the pioneering flying attributed to his work, made him the natural choice for the first raid against Japan.
Doolittle’s story is so rich with aviation history. Anyone who has even a modicum of interest in the story of aviation in America should read his book. It is one of those, for aviators, truly hard to put down.
© 2011 J. Clark