Friday, April 18 marks the 72nd anniversary of the 1942 “Doolittle Raid,” arguably one of the most important events on the Pacific front during World War II. Led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, eighty men in sixteen B-25 bombers launched from the carrier USS Hornet conducted bombing raids over Tokyo, Kobe, and other targets on the Japanese mainland. It was the first attack on the Japanese home islands and it swiftly raised American military and public morale held low since the attack on Pearl Harbor.
San Diego State has the distinction of having produced two of the famous Doolittle raiders, co-pilots Griffith P. Williams and J. Royden Stork. Both attended State before the War and Special Collections holds letters written by Griffith P. Williams about the Raid in its San Diego State College Servicemen's Correspondence Collection. This collection of over 5,000 letters also includes correspondence from other Aztec servicemen about the Raid, all published in the San Diego State College Servicemen’s Newsletter that was circulated to over 3,000 service and home front readers from 1942-46.
Linked here and in the photo gallery below are State yearbook photos of Grif Williams and Royden Stork, original handwritten letters by Williams and others, including his wife Barbara, and Williams’ letters published in the Servicemen’s Newsletter. A 1943 letter from Earl Allison recounts (page 3) Japanese retaliation on Chinese civilians for assisting the American servicemen after the Raid. The gallery also includes articles published in the Daily Aztec in 1942 covering Williams’ account of the Raid when he spoke to the State student body while on leave. Williams returned to combat and was shot down over North Africa in 1943. He spent the remainder of the War in a German prisoner-of-war camp. In 1993, Williams wrote an account of the Doolittle Raid titled WW II Revisited: The First Air Attack against Japan. Special Collections holds a copy of Williams’ recollections of this famous event, one that led directly to victory in the Battle of Midway and the turning point of the Pacific war.