TOKYO

I helped bomb Tokyo on the Doolittle raid of April 18, 1942.   I crashed in the China Sea.   I learned the full, deep meaning of the term ‘United Nations’*   from men and women whose language I couldn’t speak.   I watched a buddy of mine saw of my left leg.   And finally I got home to my wife after being flown, shipped, and carried around the world.

And those are the opening lines of  30 Seconds Over Tokyo.

They are simple, straightforward descriptive words of Captain Ted Lawson,  about 23 years old.   For that reason alone this short book is enjoyable to read,  but its also vitally,  crucially informative for us who live 70 or so years later.

Captain Lawson tells us from the viewpoint of a participant what the Doolittle Bombing Run over Tokyo looked like and felt like.  He takes us through the long months of preparation for an unknown mission, and then what it felt like to fly that mission,  and then the long period right after in which the young men were severely injured, aided by a series of Chinese (peasant)  villages in an island jungle where it was uncertain whether any would survive.

As Captain Lawson  crash landed and was being barely kept alive, he realized that  the actual mission, the reason for all the planning, expense,  training, putting young men in danger – that mission lasted only 30 seconds.   It was successful,  but so short!

This is a  book I read in honor of Memorial Day, and I remembered this was my first “adult”  book I ever read, at age 12.    Funny,  the book is so well written, so immediate and personally descriptive that I remember how I saw some of the same passages I was rereading  (*** years) later.        ( Well, I can’t believe THAT much time has passed ….)

Anyway,  I highly, highly recommend this little book to everyone.   Today,  Tokyo is as far away from us as the East is from the West,   but there is cordiality between our peoples,  and the first goal of our governments is to maintain true peace.

I’ll give you one last insight from Captain Lawson:

“You think it was worth while?”  one of the boys asked me before we went to sleep . . . .

I thought it over for a while, trying to see the whole thing objectively .   When I finally said that I did,  I meant it. . . .

I hadn’t thought much about our people  (American citizens)  before that night.  A fellow doesn’t volunteer for something like the Japan raid,  bomb the place, try to get away, lose a leg, and then say, “This is for the dear people.”    You just don’t say or openly feel those things.     You think a bout yourself most of the time;  whether you’ll have the guts enough to go through with the thing, and whether you’ll get away with it.

It’s only later, when you add up things and get the sum, that you think of the people.  And the cause.  And then you hope you’ve done both of them some good.

Captain Lawson,  of the Greatest Generation.

_________________________________

.*   The ‘United Nations’ he is referring to is a concept,  a hope for peace a nd good will to all the nations of the earth.  The United Nations as we know it did not come into existence until a few years after this mission.

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