James Doolittle was born on October 2, 1920, in San Antonio, Texas. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Corps on March 18, 1941, and was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Army Air Forces and awarded his pilot wings at Kelly Field, Texas, on October 31, 1941. His first assignment was as a B-26 Marauder and then B-25 Mitchell pilot with the 69th Bomb Squadron of the 38th Bomb Group at Jackson Army Air Base, Mississippi, from November 1941 to January 1942, followed by service with the squadron in San Francisco, California, from January 1942 until he deployed to Australia in June 1942. Capt Doolittle served in combat with the 69th Bomb Squadron in Australia, New Caledonia, New Hebrides, and Guadalcanal from June 1942 to August 1943, and then as a B-25, B-26, and B-24 Liberator pilot with the 430th Bomb Squadron of the 9th Bomb Group at Orlando Air Base, Florida, from September 1943 to February 1944. His next assignment was as Assistant Operations Officer for the 99th Combat Bomb Wing in England from February to September 1944, followed by service as a B-26 pilot with the 573rd Bomb Squadron of the 391st Bomb Group in England and then France from September 1944 to January 1945. He served on the staff of Headquarters 9th Bomb Division in France from January to March 1945, and then as a B-26 Flight Commander with the 596th Bomb Squadron of the 397th Bomb Group in France from March to May 1945. His next assignment was as a Functional Test Pilot in the Flight Test Branch with Headquarters Army Air Forces Technical Service Command (later renamed Air Material Command) at Wright Field (later renamed Wright-Patterson AFB), Ohio, from July 1945 to April 1948, followed by service as an Experimental Test Pilot with the 4020th Air Base Unit at Wright-Patterson AFB from April 1948 to May 1949. Capt Doolittle received an Air Force Institute of Technology Assignment to study Aerospace Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from June 1949 to September 1950, and then received additional Aerospace Engineering training at Wright-Patterson AFB from September 1950 to January 1952. His next assignment was as an instructor pilot with the 3598th Combat Crew Training Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nevada, from January to March 1952, followed by service as a gunnery instructor with the 3525th Aircraft Gunnery Squadron at Nellis from March 1952 to January 1953. Maj Doolittle served as Assistant Base Operations Officer with the 3595th Air Base Group at Nellis AFB from January to April 1953, and then as a Ferry Pilot and Flight Leader with the 1737th Ferrying Squadron at Dover AFB, Delaware, from May to September 1953. His next assignment was as a Ferry Pilot and Ferry Section Commander with the 1738th Ferrying Squadron at Long Beach Municipal Airport, California, from September to December 1953, followed by service as a staff officer with the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing in South Korea from February to August 1954. He served as Assistant Operations Officer for the 474th Fighter Bomber Group in South Korea from August to December 1954, and then as a Ferry Pilot and Flight Leader back with the 1738th Ferrying Squadron at Long Beach Municipal Airport from December 1954 to February 1955. Maj Doolittle's next assignment was as Assistant Operations Officer with the 27th Strategic Fighter Wing at Bergstrom AFB, Texas, from February to September 1955, followed by service as Deputy Director of Operations for the 27th Strategic Fighter Wing from September to December 1955. His final assignment was as an F-84 Thunderstreak and F-101 Voodoo pilot and Commander of the 524th Fighter Bomber Squadron of the 27th Fighter Bomber Wing at Bergstrom AFB from December 1955 until his death on active duty on April 9, 1958.
His Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flights on combat operational missions as Pilot, for five medium bomber strike sorties during the period of 2 July to 19 July 1943, making twenty of like nature in which he was participated, and, in addition, he has accomplished 100 hours of operational air flights during which exposure to enemy fire was probable and expected. All of these flights were of a hazardous nature during which enemy opposition was met, or during which an area was traversed where enemy antiaircraft fire was effective or where enemy fighter patrols were habitually encountered. Previous recognition that each has received makes his record one for emulation; his accomplishments being a credit to himself and the Army Air Forces.