On April 18, 1942, Lieutenant-Colonel James H. Doolittle led a clandestine bombing raid of sixteen B-24 Mitchell bombers that flew from U.S. aircraft carrier Hornet to Tokyo, a distance of more than 650 miles. The damage inflicted was small, but it foreshadowed the mighty air raids to come.

Before a successful air campaign could even begin, the Allies needed to obtain airfields from which bombing raids on the Japanese home could be launched. After the U.S. conquest of the Mariana Islands, airfields were constructed on Saipan and Tinian on which B-29s were based. From these and other island airbases, the newly designed B-29s, which could fly up to 3,500 miles with a maximum load of 4 tons of bombs, could begin a massive air campaign against Japan.

Edward E. Gordon presents on the bombing of Japan and the dropping of the atom bomb that chronicled the events that made U.S. airpower a decisive factor in the fall of Japan in 1945. He will cover the B-29s huge capacities and many problems; Japan’s air defense weaknesses; why the fire-bombing of Japan’s cities was so effective; how General Curtis LeMay changed U.S. air strategy; the U.S. invasion plan “Operation Olympic"; development of the atomic bomb; how the decision was made to drop the bomb; and the atom bomb, the Emperor, and the Japanese surrender.

The story of the end of the Pacific war is a unique mixture of military strategy, modern science, and ancient traditions. In the end, Japan’s leaders had two choices – defeat or face the possibility of total annihilation. Never in the history of warfare would air power play such an important role in the outcome of a war.

This is an online presentation. Space is limited.

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Untold Stories | WWII at 75

2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II; a war historians dubbed “The Good War” because it was a war that had to be fought and won. Untold Stories: World War II at 75, pays tribute to this important anniversary with new exhibits, special programs and events featuring a diverse array of some of the lesser known heroes and their stories.

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