Martin's Must Reads: 'Target Tokyo'

Sep 1, 2020

“Even before rescuers could pluck all the dead from the oily Hawaiian waters following Japan’s December 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, American war planners started work on an ambitious counterassault, a strike not against an outlying enemy base in the far flung Pacific islands but against the heart of the Japanese  Empire: Tokyo.”

I’m Mark Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads." James M. Scott reveals a great deal of new information on a well-known story in his book Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid that Avenged Pearl Harbor.

Scott recounts the recruiting, training, and sea voyage of the sixteen Army bomber crews and the eighty volunteers that would man them. The actual raid is recounted in remarkable detail that leaves the reader, who already knows the outcome, anticipating the next page turn. What will be new to many readers is the struggle for survival and rescue of the crews after their planes crashed in China.

The more difficult story is what happens to the eight flyers who were captured and the Chinese who helped them escape. All the Japanese hate, anger and vengeance was poured out on those who helped the American pilots. The even more difficult passages are the ones recounting the treatment of those captured American pilots. The reader must keep telling himself that the Japanese of today and the Japanese of World War II are two very different cultures.

The heart of Scott’s Target Tokyo is “the bravery of the eighty volunteers… who climbed inside those bombers on that cold wet morning of April 18, 1942.  Those young men from small towns and cities across America, knowing the odds of survival were against them, suppressed their own personal fears and set out to accomplish the impossible-and did.”