Jimmy Doolittle was born on December 14, 1896, in Alameda, California. He enlisted as a flying cadet in the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps on October 6, 1917, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings on March 11, 1918. Over the next two years, Doolittle served at Camp Dick, Texas, Wright Field, Ohio, Gerstner Field, Louisiana, Rockwell Field, California, and Kelly Field, Texas. He made the first flight across the United States in less than 24 hours in 1922, and then entered MIT the next year. He was awarded his Masters degree in 1924 and his Doctorate in Aeronautical Science in 1925. Later in 1925 he won the Schneider Cup Race and was awarded the Mackay Trophy. From April 1926 to early 1927, Doolittle made demonstration flights in the Curtiss P-1 Hawk in South America. He then served as a Test Pilot and in 1929 he made the first blind flight, using only his aircraft instruments to take off, fly a circuit around an airfield, and land. For these experiments he was awarded the Harmon Trophy. Doolittle left active duty on February 15, 1930, and went into the Specialist Reserve Corps. He set the world speed record for land planes in 1932, and later won the Bendix Trophy Race and the Thompson Trophy Race. He transferred to the Air Corps Reserve in 1935, and went back on active duty on July 1, 1940. Doolittle worked with auto companies to convert their factories for building aircraft and was then assigned to Headquarters Army Air Forces in January 1942, where he was tasked with training aircrews for a daring first strike against Japan. LtCol Doolittle was the Pilot on the first B-25 to take off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, and after bombing Tokyo his crew flew to China and bailed out when their aircraft ran out of fuel. He was promoted to Brigadier General and awarded the Medal of Honor for planning and leading the mission, and was then assigned to 8th Air Force from July to September 1942. Gen Doolittle became commander of 12th Air Force in North Africa in September 1942, and was made commanding general of the North African Strategic Air Forces in March 1943. He took command of 15th Air Force in the Mediterranean Theater in November 1943, and then was made commander of 8th Air Force in England in January 1944. Gen Doolittle served in this position until September 1945, after having moved the command to the Pacific Theater during the summer of 1945. He left active duty on May 10, 1946, and served in the Air Force Reserve until his retirement on February 28, 1959. Gen Doolittle was made Honorary Naval Aviator number 17 on December 11, 1981, in recognition of his many years of support to military aviation. This honor has only been bestowed on 22 people and gives him the right to wear the Naval Aviator Wings. He was advanced to full general on the Air Force retired list on April 4, 1985. Jimmy Doolittle died on September 27, 1993, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Jimmy Doolittle was one of the original 12 founders of the Air Force Association, and he served as the first President of the AFA from 1946 to 1947, and then Chairman of the Board from 1947 to 1949.
His Medal of Honor Citation reads:
For conspicuous leadership above the call of duty, involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life. With the apparent certainty of being forced to land in enemy territory or to perish at sea, Gen. Doolittle personally led a squadron of Army bombers, manned by volunteer crews, in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland.