Monday, April 16, 2012
Robert M. Gray Doolittle Raider and Tarleton Alumni
Seventy years ago today Robert Gray, a Tarleton alumni, was embarking on the greatest adventure of his life. He was one of 80 aviators who volunteered for the Doolittle raid on Japan. This raid on April 18, 1942 was first time that American forces would attack the Japanese homeland after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor a year earlier. It was a daring plan that used land based B-25 bombers to take off from an aircraft carrier. It was determined if the aircraft were stripped of all armament, armor plate, and non essential equipment it would be possible to take off from an aircraft carrier. The B-25s were fitted with additional fuel tanks including ten five gallon cans for manual refueling in flight. The 16 B-25 bombers were loaded aboard the USS Hornet (CV-8) and the task force set off for Japan. The plan was to launch the aircraft 400 miles from Japan, the aircraft were to bomb their targets and hopefully land at airfields in China and Russia. On April 18, 1942 the ships were spotted by a Japanese patrol boat, a decision was made to launch the mission. the crews took off 600 miles from their targets instead of 400 miles. Colonel Doolittle took the first aircraft off in 40 knot winds with 30 foot wave crests in only 467 feet of deck space.
Robert Gray was the pilot of the number 3 aircraft, serial 40-2270 named "Whiskey Pete". Their targets were a steel mill, a chemical company, and a gas company all in Tokyo. Gray bombed all assigned targets and headed for China. Unable to make an airfield, Gray and his crew bailed out over China. All of his crew members survived the bailout and made their way back to United States forces.
Gray was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for the Doolittle raid. He was born in Killeen, Texas and a member of the 1940 class of Tarleton majoring in Civil and Aeronautical Engineering. Robert Gray was killed in action in a B-25 crash during a combat mission six months to the day of the Doolittle raid on October 18, 1942 near Assam India. Robert Gray airfield at Fort Hood Texas is named in his honor. Today there are only five surviving members of the Doolittle raid. We salute them and their comrades for all that they have done. In the image on the right Robert Gray is the second person on the left. (Official USAF photo) Official Doolittle Raider website: http://www.doolittleraider.com/
The James H. Doolittle archives are located at the University of Texas-Dallas http://www.utdallas.edu/library/uniquecoll/speccoll/hac/doolittle/jdlttl.html