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Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Doolittle Raid - 70 years ago, approaching Japan
The USS Hornet (CV-8) had sortied from Alameda on April 2, 1942 carrying 16 Army B-25 bombers. Her sister ship, USS Enterprise (CV-6) sailed from Pearl Harbor on April 8th. The two carriers and their escorts rendezvoused mid-Pacific on April 13th.
On April 16th, the task force attempted refueling from their accompanying oilers USS Cimarron (AO-22) and USS Sabine (AO-25) but the sea state was too heavy. They were proceeding towards Japan in complete radio silence, but were listening because the task force had "eyes" out front.
Two fleet submarines, the USS Thresher (SS-200) and the USS Trout (SS-202), had been assigned to scout in advance of Vice Admiral Halsey's Task Force 16 and warn of any Japanese ships who could intercept Hornet and Enterprise. So far, the path to Japan was clear.
70 years ago today, the weather calmed enough for Enterprise and Hornet to take on fuel from the oilers. When they were fueled, both Cimarron and Sabine set course to return to Pearl Harbor. The task force's eight destroyers went with them. During refueling, a sailor fell overboard from Cimarron. Thankfully, he was rescued by one of the escorts.
Halsey's four cruisers - USS Salt Lake City (CA-25), USS Northampton (CA-26), USS Nashville (CL-43), and USS Vincennes (CA-44) - had also refueled and proceeded as escorts for the carriers.
On April 17, 1942 at 1439 hours, the two carriers and four cruisers - America's first strike force against the Japanese homeland - proceeded westward at 20 knots, the best possible speed they could reach in the heavy seas.
Task Force 16 would reach the planned launch point for the 16 bombers, about 480 nautical miles from Tokyo, in about 27 more hours. That is, assuming everything went according to plan and they remained undiscovered...
...TO BE CONTINUED