When Doolittle Did a Lot

On my laptop screen is an image of four living veterans of the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. The old airmen gathered in April 2012 to commemorate the heroism and success of a mission seventy years earlier.

These ninety-plus-year-old guys are my heroes. When they were twenty-somethings they chose to give up their lives for their brothers and for the future of American history. There ain’t no greater love than that.

Dads, you heard of December 7, 1941, when the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, killing 2400 Americans and wounding another 1300. If you are a World War II geek like me, you remember the April 18, 1942, retaliatory attack on Tokyo by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army Air Force. Seventy-nine young men, led by one old man, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, chose to fulfill President Franklin Roosevelt’s vision of responding to the Pearl Harbor attack. The Doolittle Raid was meant to increase America’s morale and decrease the Japanese Empire’s confidence.

The Doolittle Raid began as a “suicide mission,” with its combat-untested B-25B bomber launching from an aircraft carrier (the USS Hornet), with no fighter plane escort, and landing in Japanese-occupied Eastern China. Then it got worse.

About 170 nautical miles before the desired launch point, the USS Hornet was spotted by a Japanese Navy patrol boat, which sent a warning message to its commanders before the U.S. Navy sank it. The Doolittle Raiders chose to launch their mission earlier than planned, knowing they would not have safe landings in Eastern China. Why? Because they were committed to changing American history.

As a home school dad, I ask myself, am I committed to change American history? Have I raised my children in a manner where they will want to risk their lives to change American history? To see their friends and neighbors trust Christ as Lord and Savior? Have I made history-changing disciples in my own family? I got my answer. And I didn’t like it.

On a Sunday afternoon our neighbors were outside throwing a football. So I ambled over and struck up a conversation with my neighbors, hoping to increase our relationship so, someday, I can discuss spiritual matters with them, introduce them to Jesus, and see some of American history change.

My sons were outside as well, joyfully scootering down the hill in front of our house. I asked my sons to scooter over to a neighbor kid and play together. My sons wouldn’t. Actually, they couldn’t, because they didn’t know how.

In seven years at our current home, I have done little with my children to build neighborhood relationships. Sure, I’ve spoken with and helped my neighbors, but I never engaged my children in my “mission” to change American history in our neighborhood. Now, when pressed into service, my sons were not prepared.

My kids have Mormon friends who are fun and talented. Without a saving relationship with Christ, my kids’ friends are doomed in the afterlife. Yet my kids don’t have the urgency to pray their friends out of hell. Have I shown my children how to share the love of Christ? Not really.

Doolittle’s Raiders knew their mission had little chance of success, but they launched anyway to change American history. Only one of the sixteen B-25B bombers landed safely. The other fifteen crash-landed, with many Raiders killed, maimed, captured, and tortured.

After the Doolittle Raid, the Japanese Navy changed strategy, moving the strength of their fleet to the Island of Midway. Japan planned to lure the remainder of the post-Pearl Harbor U.S. Navy into a trap. Instead, at the June 1942 Battle of Midway, the U.S. Navy sank four Japanese aircraft carriers; the Japanese Navy never recovered. Within six months of Pearl Harbor the Japanese Empire’s morale and navy were destroyed. The Doolittle Raiders chose to risk their lives and they changed American history.

My wife is another one of my heroes. She never flew a bomber on a suicide mission. She did insist our children bake pies for Thanksgiving and deliver them to the neighbors and demonstrate the love of Christ. She wants our children to change American history in our neighborhood.

Dads, it is good to teach American history to your children. It is better to teach your children how to change American history.

Finally, dads, teach your children about the Doolittle Raid and God’s providence on the Raiders:

  • Study the life of Staff Sgt. Jacob DeShazer, a Doolittle Raider captured and tortured for forty months. In 1948 he returned to Japan for thirty years as a missionary for Christ.
  • Read about John Birch, an American missionary for Christ stationed in China, who helped Doolittle Raiders escape.
  • Learn about Mitsuo Fuchida, leader of the attack on Pearl Harbor, who later trusted Christ and spoke for Him in post-war Japan.

If you have a moment, please send an email to ImperfectFather@Gmail.com . I’d love to hear how your family is changing American history.