Halsey-Doolittle Raid: Bombing of Tokyo

Action Report: USS Enterprise (CV-6)
Captain G.D. Murray to Admiral Chester A. Nimitz


1st Endorsement by Adm. Halsey

( 088 ) U.S.S. ENTERPRISE (CV6)
  23 APR 1942
From: The Commanding Officer.
To: The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Via: The Commander Carriers, Pacific Fleet.
Subject: Report of action in connection with the bombing of Tokyo on April 18, 1942 (Zone minus Ten).
Reference: (a) Articles 712, 874, U.S. Navy Regs, 1920.
Enclosures: (A) Track Chart.
(B) Executive Officer's Report.


  1. At 1232 (VW) April 8, 1942 this vessel stood out of Pearl Harbor in company with Task Force Sixteen, consisting of Enterprise (Flagship), Northampton, Salt Lake City, Balch, Benham, Fanning, Ellet and Sabine, under the command of Vice-Admiral W.F. Halsey,jr., U.S.N., Commander Carriers Pacific Fleet, for operations not disclosed at the time. After landing the Air Group aboard south of Oahu, a westerly, and then a northwesterly, course was set that took the Task Force 30 miles southwest of Nihoa Island. This course (310°T.) was continued with slight modifications until 0600 (Y) April 13, when a rendezvous was effected with Task Force Eighteen in Latitude 38°-00' North, Longitude 180° 00'.

  2. Task Force Eighteen consisting of Hornet, Vincennes, Nashville, Gwin, Grayson, Meredith, Monssen and Cimarron became part of Task Force Sixteen. At this time information was disseminated to the Task Force that it would proceed to a point approximately 500 miles east of Tokyo where 16 Army bombers, (B-25) carried on the flight deck of Hornet, would be launched for an attack on the Tokyo area. Course 265°T. and speed 16 knots were then set. Except when bad weather prevented, continuous inner and intermediate air patrols were maintained during daylight and dawn an dusk search flights were conducted daily to 200 miles, 60° on each bow.

  3. Fueling of the heavy vessels was undertaken April 17 when about 1,000 miles east of Tokyo and was barely completed when the wind increased to gale force (wind south, 35 knots; sea rough, visibility 1-2 miles). At 1439 (L) the 2 CV, 3 CA and 1 CL proceeded independent of accompanying DD's and AO's on a westerly course, averaging approximately 20 knots.

  4. On April 18, the day it was planned to reach the 500 mile circle from Tokyo at about 1600, Enterprise launched the usual dawn search flight and combat patrol. These were maintained continuously throughout the day. The contacts and action, indicated on the track chart by capital letters, were reported by pilots of these flights. Times indicated in connection with contacts and action, April 18, are Zone minus 10.

  5. At 0310 radar disclosed two enemy surface craft bearing 255°T., distance 21,000 yards, and at 0312 a light was seen approximately on that bearing. Ship went to General Quarters, set Material Condition Afirm and energized the degaussing gear. Course of the Force was changed to 350°T., and at 0341 the two enemy vessels went off the screen bearing 201°T., distance 27,00 yards. Our presence was apparently unnoticed by the enemy and a westerly course was resumed at 0415.

  6. At 05008 fighter patrol and search flight were launched. At 0715 one search plane returned and, by message drop, reported sighting an enemy patrol vessel in Latitude 36° 04' North and Longitude 153° 10' East at 0558 and that he believed he had been seen. later developments indicate that this vessel made the original contact report.

  7. At 0744 an enemy patrol vessel was sighted bearing 221°T., distance approximately 10,000 yards. There was no doubt now that our force had been detected and almost certainly had been reported. Nashville was ordered to sink the patrol vessel by gunfire as the carriers turned into the wind (320°T., 26 knots); Hornet to launch Army B-25's for attack and Enterprise to relieve patrols. The first Army bomber was launched at 0820 approximately 650 miles from Tokyo, a last one was off at 0921. At 0927 the Force commenced retirement on course 090°T., speed 25 knots.

  8. At 1214 radar reported enemy patrol plane bearing 0207deg;T., distance 70,000 yards. This plane came within 64,000 yards of our force but passed off the screen at 1228 bearing 314°T., distance 83,000 yards.

  9. At 1400 two enemy patrol vessels were sighted and attacked by Enterprise planes returning from search. One was sunk and the other damaged. By 1413 the enemy ship still afloat was in sight of our surface forces and Nashville was ordered to attack and sink her. A white flag was broken in the enemy ship and after taking 5 prisoners, Nashville sank her by gunfire. Apparently these two vessels were the same ones reported by radar 0310.

  10. At 1503, 6-B-4 was forced to land in the water, near the Disposition, due to engine failure. This plane is believed to have sustained damage to its engine from the antiaircraft machine gun fire of an y patrol vessel attacked. Nashville rescued personnel, uninjured.

  11. No further contacts were made. All aircraft were recovered at 1739 and the retirement continued.

  12. Bombs and ammunition were expended as indicated in the table below.

      .50 Cal. .30 Cal. 500 lb. bombs 100 lb. bombs
    VB 800 300 8 18
    VS 800 500 4 6
    VF 11,000    ---   -   -
      12,600 800 12 24


  1. The track chart, Enclosure (A), is drawn to the scale of H.O. chart No. 528, in order to best present an illuminating picture of the whole strategic area, including the objective. An enlargement of the action area is presented as an insert.

  2. The numerous enemy contacts may give the impression that the Task Force unfortunately encountered an isolated patrol. No such assumption should be made. On the contrary, the variety and the number of patrol craft seen is a strong indication that a heavy patrol in depth is general, at least to the east of Honshu and the Kurils. This patrol probably utilizes hundreds of small craft of various types and extends 700-800 miles offshore. All y surface patrol craft are undoubtedly equipped with effective radio and apparently all are armed with machine guns. Some are camouflaged with two-tone mottled coloring. Evidence supports the belief that they are not equipped with radar.

  3. Of interest is the weather broadcasting vessel fixed by shore RDF on April 15 in Latitude 44° 00' North, Longitude 162° 00' East -- 500 miles from the Kurils, 750 miles from the Aleutians and 1200 miles from Tokyo.

  4. The Japanese surface patrol is particularly suited to their eastern sea frontier and is unquestionably effective. Were it equipped with radar, it could be made almost impenetrable with fewer units. In certain areas, a radar equipped small boat patrol would seem to have some advantages over long distance air patrols as we maintain them; primarily in that it is on station at the critical distance, night and day. Such a patrol might detect an attempted afternoon and night run in by a raiding force when an air patrol would not pick it up. Favorable areas in which we might use such a patrol are: Costa-Rica-Galapagos-Ecuador, off southern California, off Cape Mendocino and off Vancouver Island. A combination of surface craft and aircraft patrol should reduce the number of aircraft now maintained in specific areas and thus make possible a wider distribution of the aircraft now available.

  5. Although specific information is lacking, it is believed that the Japanese patrol craft are not armed with anything larger than machine guns. Therefore, if future bombing raids on Honshu, similar to this one, are planned it might be advantageous to send one of more of our submarines in advance of the raiding force to "soften", by destruction and dispersal, the enemy patrol in the 600-800 miles belt across its line of advance. At this distance it seems unlikely that the enemy would take strong anti-submarine measures.

  6. A further suggestion is that two submarines, equipped with radio apparatus similar to that installed in aircraft and in carriers, might be disposed in a selected area and by conducting lost plane procedure effectively draw enemy forces away from the area from which an aircraft raiding attack might be launched. As a means of harassing the enemy, even though no actual aircraft raiding attacks were planned by our forces, this employment of submarines seems to offer many possibilities.

  7. All personnel, both ship and air group performed their duties in a highly creditable manner. No outstandingly meritorious, and no censurable conduct on the part of any individual was observed.

  8. The efficiency of the ship and all munitions of war are satisfactory except for the performance of the F4F4's and the limited range of the TBD's, reported in separate correspondence.


Enclosure (A) -- Track Chart

Enclosure (B) -- Executive Officer's Report

  22 April 1942
From: The Executive Officer.
To: The Commanding Officer.
Subject: Conduct of Ship's Company in action incident to participation of Enterprise in operations involving the bombing of Tokyo on Saturday, April 18, 1942 (Zone Minus Ten).
Reference: (a) Art 948, U.S. Navy Regs, 1920.

  1. On Saturday, April 18, 1942 (Zone Minus Ten) the Enterprise operated with Task Force 16, in waters to the Eastward of Japan, in connection with the launching of U.S. Army bombers from the Hornet for the purpose of bombing TOKYO.

  2. Contacts with enemy patrol vessels were made during the day but no action occurred between Enterprise and enemy vessels or aircraft.

  3. The conduct of the SHip's Company was characterised by routine efficiency in the performance of duty without special incident.

  4. At about 1503 Enterprise plane B-4, Lieut. L.A. Smith, USN, Pilot, and H.H. Caruthers, AMM1c, USN, gunner, landed in the sea. Personnel were picked up by Nashville at about 1516. The cause of the water landing was reported as a probably machine gun hit on the engine received while strafing an enemy patrol vessel.

Commander, U.S. Navy.

Serial 0019 At sea,
24 APR 1942
  1st endorsement on
088 of 23 April 1942.
From: Commander Carriers, Pacific Fleet (Commander Task Force SIXTEEN).
To: Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Subject: Report of action in connection with the Bombing of Tokyo on April 18, 1942 (Zone Minus Ten).

  1. The basic letter and enclosures are herewith reclassified as SECRET.

  2. The report of the Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Enterprise, is in general concurred in. Specific comments follow:

    1. After fueling of the heavy ships on 17 April, these ships (carriers and cruisers) proceeded west without destroyers and oilers in order to permit high speed operations. Fuel conservation for destroyers was another consideration. High winds and heavy sea conditions prevailed. The destroyers rejoined the morning following the attack (19th) and the oilers (with destroyer escort) two days later (21st).

    2. The necessity for launching the Army planes at 0820 on the 18th about 650 miles east of Tokyo was regrettable. The plan was to close to the 5600 miles circle and there launch one plane to attack at dusk and thus provide a target for the remaining planes which would strike about two hours later. This plan was evolved by Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle, in command of the Army flight, and was designed to inflict the greatest damage with the least risk. The remote location of the desired terminus for the flight was also a factor influencing the selection of this plan of attack. However, contacts with enemy surface vessels early in the morning compromised the secrecy of the operation, and after the third contact, at 0744, the decision was made to launch. Japanese radio traffic was intercepted indicating that the presence of the raiding force was reported. The prime consideration then was the launching of the Army planes before the arrival of Japanese bombers.

    3. The successful launching of the 16 Army bombers from the Hornet in the unfavorable wind and sea conditions reflected great credit on the Army pilots and on the Commanding Officer of the Hornet.

    4. The amount of damage inflicted on enemy patrol vessels by the Enterprise aircraft, in consideration of the number of attacks made, was disappointing. It is again indicated that more time must bed available for training when air groups are at shore bases. This need is becoming more emphatic as time goes on.

    5. The number of Japanese patrol vessels encountered at such distances from Japan was astounding. From positions in which found it was indicated that they probably operate in pairs and have mother ships to provide services. It is suggested that the prisoners captured by the Nashville be interrogated with an effort to obtain information on the operations and locations of these craft. It is noteworthy that, contrary to popular belief, these prisoners showed the white flag and chose surrender rather than suffer the consequences.

    6. The comment in the basic report that the two patrol vessels attacked about 1400, on the 18th, were apparently the same vessels reported by radar at 0310, is not concurred in. The range at which one of the vessels sighted at 0310 disappeared from the radar screen (27,000 yards) indicated larger vessels, possibly mother ships carrying supplies and relief crews for the picket vessels.

    7. Enroute westward the Task Force proceeded northwest about thirty miles west of Nihoa Island. It is suggested that this and other isolated islands of the Hawaiian group be investigated for enemy agents.

    8. The opinion that the patrol and picket vessels are armed only with small caliber automatic weapons is concurred in insofar as those contacted are concerned.

    9. Limited range and endurance of F4F-4 type carrier VF is a serious defect in these new planes. Action looking to improvement in this regard has been initiated by dispatch, copy to Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet.


      1. Radio silence was maintained on all circuits until return to the Hawaiian Area, with the following exceptions:

        1. Radar, YE, and TBS frequencies.

        2. 6-B-17 transmitted a contact report on 6540 kcs at 1240 (L.Z.T.) on the 18th.

        3. Various fighter direction transmissions on 6970 kcs during the period 1250 to 1340 (L.Z.T.) on the 18th.

        4. Transmitted Commander Task Force SIXTEEN dispatch 180825 to NPM. Several transmissions incidental to the lost plane were made on 6540 kcs during the period 0900-1100 (L.Z.T.) on the 21st. Commander Task Force SIXTEEN dispatch 230541 was transmitted to NPM on the 23rd.

      2. A strong continuous signal, believed to be enemy interference was heard on 6970, 6835, and 6540 kcs during the period 1254-1351 (L.Z.T.) on the 18th. This was a CW signal and therefore did not seriously interfere with fighter direction communications.

      3. Definite enemy interference was experienced when an attempt was made to transmit Commander Task Force SIXTEEN dispatch 190825 to NPM on 12795 and 12705 kcs. Each time the operator started to transmit on these frequencies, an unknown station would start sending Japanese characters. The dispatch was finally delivered to NPM on 16400 at 0847 (G.C.T.) without interference.>
      4. Need for ultra-high frequency equipment for fighter direction is emphasized with each operation of carriers in wartime. Dispatch action has been initiated, copy to Commander-in-Chief, U.S.Pacific Fleet.

  3. Reports from other units of the Task Force will be forwarded when received.

W.F. Halsey

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Transcribed and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation