US Coins

This Day in History: April 18

On April 18, 1942, the Doolittle Raid on Japan served as America’s response to the Pearl Harbor attacks, targeting Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II.

Original medal images courtesy of U.S. Mint.

The attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, did not go unanswered.

On April 18, 1942, the Doolittle Raid on Japan served as America’s response, targeting Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II. 

The first air raid to strike the Japanese Home Islands demonstrated that Japan itself was vulnerable to American air attack. The raid served as retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and provided an important boost to American morale. 

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The raid was planned and led by Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, United States Army Air Forces.

In total, 80 Doolittle Raiders in five-man crews boarded 16 medium-range North American B-25B Mitchell bombers and left the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, to bomb Japan’s capital and select other cities.  

Of the 80 Raiders that left the Hornet’s flight deck, eight were captured, two died in crashes, and 70 returned home. 

Of the eight captured Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, three were executed and one died of disease. 

On April 15, 2015, the two surviving Doolittle Raiders were presented with the congressional gold medal in Washington, D.C., and accepted the award on behalf of all the Doolittle pilots and crew. As a second lieutenant, Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole was the co-pilot for Crew No. 1. Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher was the engineer-gunner for Crew No. 7. 

Sadly, two additional Raiders died shortly before the medal was awarded.

One of the captured Raiders, Lt. Col. Robert Hite, who survived 40 months in captivity before being liberated by American troops in 1945, passed away March 29, 2015, at age 95. Hite was co-pilot for Crew No. 16. 

Another Raider, Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, was alive to see passage of the medal’s authorizing legislation but passed away Jan. 28, 2015, at age 94. Saylor was the engineer for Crew 15. 

For the medal’s obverse, a design by AIP Artist Chris T. Costello was sculptured by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Donald Everhart II.  

The design depicts the USS Hornet launching one of the North American B-25B Mitchell bombers in choppy seas.  

Inscribed in the field above the main design is FIRST STRIKE.  

Inscribed around the raised border is DOOLITTLE TOKYO RAIDERS, separated by eight stars on each side, with the date APRIL 18 • 1942.  

The 16 stars represent the 16 bombers. 

For the reverse, the design shows three of the bombers and the four patches of the units comprising the 17th Bombardment Group — the 34th Squadron, represented by the Thunderbird; the 37th Squadron, represented by the Tiger’s Head; the 89th Reconnaissance Squadron represented by the Winged Helmet patch; and the 95th Squadron, represented by the Kicking Mule. 

The design also incorporates the bombardment group’s motto: TOUJOUR AU DANGER, which translates into English as “Always in danger.”  

The design was created by AIP artist and retired Mint Sculptor-Engraver Donna Weaver and sculptured by Mint Medallic Sculptor Joseph F. Menna. 

On April 18, 2015, the anniversary of the raid, the gold medal was formally presented for permanent display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Dayton, Ohio. 

The U.S. Mint offers for sale to the public 3-inch and 1.5-inch bronze versions of the gold medal for $39.95 and $6.95, respectively

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