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Thirty Seconds over Tokyo (1943)

by Ted W. Lawson

Other authors: Bob Considine (Editor)

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7071124,740 (3.93)28
Ted W. Lawson's classic Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo appears in an enhanced reprint edition on the sixtieth anniversary of the Doolittle Raid on Japan. "One of the worst feelings about that time," Ted W. Lawson writes, "was that there was no tangible enemy. It was like being slugged with a single punch in a dark room, and having no way of knowing where to slug back." He added, "And, too, there was a helpless, filled-up, want-to-do-something feeling that [the Japanese] weren't coming--that we'd have to go all the way over there to punch back and get even." Lawson gives a vivid eyewitness account of the unorthodox assignment that eighty five intrepid volunteer airmen--the "Tokyo Raiders"--under the command of celebrated flier James H. Doolittle executed in April 1942. The plan called for sixteen B-25 twin-engine medium bombers of the Army Air Corps to take off from the aircraft carrier Hornet, bomb industrial targets in Japan, and land at airfields in China. While the raid came off flawlessly, completely surprising the enemy, a shortage of fuel caused by an early departure, bad weather, and darkness took a heavy toll of the raiders. For many, the escape from China proved a greater ordeal. Peter B. Mersky provides new information on the genesis of the raid, places it in the context of the early operations against Japan, and updates Ted Lawson's biography.… (more)
  1. 00
    Midway by Mitsuo Fuchida (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Serves well as a sequel. Describes how Doolittle precipitated the Japanese attack on Midway, and its result.
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This first-hand account of the Doolittle Raid - the secret preparations, the war itself and the almost unbelievable adventures of the airmen in the weeks that followed - is one of the greatest stories of American bravery and ingenuity that has ever been written. Ted Lawson piloted one of the planes that roared over Tokyo. In the subsequent crack-up on the Chinese coast, he sustained injuries that ultimately cost him a leg. The story of his rescue, told simply and directly, makes thrilling and moving reading, serving again to remind us all of the great acts of sacrifice and heroism performed by members of our armed forces during World War II. ( )
  MasseyLibrary | Mar 27, 2018 |
1942
  wellreadkid | May 13, 2017 |
Pearl Harbor and the attacks on other American bases throughout the Pacific were an enormously demoralizing shock for the American public. So, the daring raid on the Japanese mainland less than 6 months later came as a complete surprise - to both Japan and America. If you've seen the movie Pearl Harbor, you might remember the raid the movie ends with. It's a bit dramatized, but not so far off. But what it doesn't convey is the huge impact such a small raid had on the war. The Japanese went from "fearless to fearful," their sense of isolated security and racial superiority suddenly threatened, and Americans realized they were still in the fight.

This is the account of one of the pilots of those bombers, Capt. Ted Lawson, that implausibly took off from aircraft carriers. They had to take off much further from Japan than planned due to their sighting by a small monitoring ship (which was sunk) and didn't have enough fuel to fly to safe bases within China. The planes nonetheless completed their bombing missions - a pin prick, really - then made their way the best they could to the coast of China. Most planes crash landed and Lawson and his crew were severely injured (Lawson's leg had to be amputated). Spread out along the coast, only a few were captured by the Japanese but most managed, with a great deal of hardship and the self-sacrificing help of the oppressed Chinese, to escape and return to America.

Written by Capt. Lawson, I found it much better written than I had expected and it caused me to cringe numerous times as I read what the crew went through in their ordeal. First-hand accounts are valuable, but can be limited in scope and even self-serving, but his account is very well done. It's a short and easy read that gives the reader an insight into what went into such a daring raid. (For a great assessment of just how important the "Doolittle Raid" was, see [b:The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight|17345262|The Aviators Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight|Winston Groom|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1360646300s/17345262.jpg|24084458] by Winston Groom.) ( )
  J.Green | Nov 22, 2016 |
Captain Ted Lawson was a young man anxious to deliver, under pressure to perform in a high stress situation. You can't really blame him for mission errors like the flaps error on take-off, flying dangerously close to the water after the bombing when it might not have been so necessary, or attempting to set down on a beach. It took guts to do that mission at all, and to do it as successfully as his crew and their fellow bomber crews managed is a testament to their generation and the service they provided to we who followed. More than half of this book is about what happens after the raid and gives some good insight into the Chinese experience of World War II.

Ted wrote this book shortly after the events, which enabled him to remember a lot of the details. It's also an interesting artifact of its time: the smattering of 1940s lingo, and the wartime hatred of the enemy in statements like when he hopes for a "series of future raids which, I pray, will blow Japan off the map of the world." He gives several reasons for his hatred. I was hoping for an anniversary afterword that might share his perspective years or decades later, to see what if anything changed about his opinion of his performance and the Japanese. No such luck, although there's a good 2002 introduction by his wife that's worth re-reading after you're done (in recent enough editions.)

Extra kudos for immortalizing Johnny Beep-Beep, my kind of driver. For other recommendations I'd point to "Midway: The Battle that Doomed Japan". It could serve well as a sequel to this book, since it is similarly a record of events by somone (a Japanese navy man) who was present, and describes how the Doolittle Raid precipitated the too-hasty Japanese attack on Midway that wasn't necessarily their wisest strategic course of action. ( )
  Cecrow | Feb 26, 2015 |
160. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, by Captain Ted W. Lawson (read 30 Aug 1944) On Aug 28, 1944, I wrote: "I started Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, by a pilot in the Doolittle 1942 raid. It's very good. Just describes all how he felt, etc." On Aug 29 I said: "Thirty Seconds is sure good The author has crashed in China." On August 30 I said: "Finished 'Thirty Seconds' tonight. Very good. To think what those flyers all did!" ( )
  Schmerguls | Oct 3, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ted W. Lawsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Considine, BobEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed

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Dedicated to Lieutenants Bill Farrow, Dean Hallmark, George Barr, Bob Hie Bob Meder, Chase Nielson, Sergeants Harold Spatz, William Dieter, and Corporals Donald Fitzmaurice and Jacob Deshazer.  They didn't get back.  God help them.
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I helped bomb Tokyo on the Doolittle raid of April 18, 1942.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The Landmark series book is significantly different than the original version and is abridged. Also the narrative is in a different order. Please do not combine! Thank you.
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Ted W. Lawson's classic Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo appears in an enhanced reprint edition on the sixtieth anniversary of the Doolittle Raid on Japan. "One of the worst feelings about that time," Ted W. Lawson writes, "was that there was no tangible enemy. It was like being slugged with a single punch in a dark room, and having no way of knowing where to slug back." He added, "And, too, there was a helpless, filled-up, want-to-do-something feeling that [the Japanese] weren't coming--that we'd have to go all the way over there to punch back and get even." Lawson gives a vivid eyewitness account of the unorthodox assignment that eighty five intrepid volunteer airmen--the "Tokyo Raiders"--under the command of celebrated flier James H. Doolittle executed in April 1942. The plan called for sixteen B-25 twin-engine medium bombers of the Army Air Corps to take off from the aircraft carrier Hornet, bomb industrial targets in Japan, and land at airfields in China. While the raid came off flawlessly, completely surprising the enemy, a shortage of fuel caused by an early departure, bad weather, and darkness took a heavy toll of the raiders. For many, the escape from China proved a greater ordeal. Peter B. Mersky provides new information on the genesis of the raid, places it in the context of the early operations against Japan, and updates Ted Lawson's biography.

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