A length of a little less than one and half football fields is etched in American History as an integral part of the legend and legacy of the brave World War II fighter pilots known as the Doolittle Raiders. 467 feet was all the distance the pilots had to use for their fully loaded bombers to take off from the USS Hornet for their 1942 raid into the heart of Japan.
The surviving Doolittle Raiders will be honored at the Celebrate Freedom Soar Education Day, Friday April 17, at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. As part of the observance Project 467 was launched Tuesday at Columbia’s St. Andrews Middle School. The project is sponsored by the Celebrate Freedom Foundation and Colonial Life Insurance Company. Honorary Chairman of the School Education Day, State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex, is inviting students in every school and community in the state to participate in the 67th reunion of the Doolittle Raiders by marking in a visible public space a 467 foot red, white and blue line to honor the aviators who trained in Columbia for their incredible mission. Rex explained why the pilots only had 467 feet of runway available. “A lot of people thought that even at 825 feet this was going to be impossible. Some thought it was suicidal but this mission impossible became even more difficult when it was realized the storage capacity that was required on the deck for the bombers, after they were loaded onto the USS Hornet, that they really had, not 825 feet, but 467 feet,” said Rex.
He is asking each participating school to photograph their red, white and blue markings to share with the Raiders on April 17. St. Andrews Middle School students stretched their 467 foot banner in the school’s parking lot.
Rex says the Doolittle Raiders successful mission provided a tremendous psychological lift to the American people four months after the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. “They had to launch from the USS Hornet even earlier than they had expected because they were spotted and they thought the Japanese were going to be alerted,” said Rex. “So, in essence, they took off with a shorter deck and for a longer flight than they had anticipated.”
Celebrate Freedom Foundation spokesman Kenneth Breivik says students will have the opportunity to learn about how the Doolittle Raiders’ mission was conceived. “We actually have a series of lesson plans that the teaches can work with the students that take them through the science and logistics of what they had to plan to make this happen,” said Breivik. “It’s so much better when you learn something in school if you can actually have some sort of practical way that you’re applying it so we’re teaching a lot of these principles to the students.”
Breivik says six of the nine surviving Doolittle Raiders are expected to appear at the April 17 event.