The true spirit of a warrior knows no uniform

  • Published
  • By Chaplain Maj. Brian Clouse
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Chapel
 Many American military leaders have led heroically in our nation's history: Washington, Lee, Grant, Patton, Ridgway, Schwarzkopf and Jumper. However, the name Doolittle may well be the most deserving of the typical laudatory embellishments that amateur historians often impose on these men.

Here's a man who ascended from junior officer in 1918, led the April 18, 1942 surprise carrier-launched raid on Tokyo, and was promoted to brigadier general while "skipping" the rank of colonel in 1942.

By the time of the D-Day invasion, he climbed to the rank of lieutenant general and was placed in command of the most devastating military unit in the history of the world, the mighty Eighth Air Force. He revamped the way heavy bombers and escort fighters operated, which resulted in those escorts' wreaking debilitating damage on German ground troops, convoys and other targets of opportunity on their journey home after escorting the "heavies" to their targets. Indeed, his ingenious and daring leadership went a long way towards preparing and isolating the battlefield in Europe so ground forces would have the best possible chance of victory.

However, no man ever accomplished anything of lasting impact and value by himself. Jimmy Doolittle was no different in this regard than any other good leader. He had tens of thousands of Airmen serving in the "Mighty Eighth" who executed the plans he drew up. They were the ones who carried out the orders that resulted in the triumphant history of the Doolittle-led Eighth Air Force.

However, if not for the help of many civilians, in particular, a man named John Birch, the history of Jimmy Doolittle might very well have ended after that historic first raid on Tokyo in April 1942.

John Birch was a missionary serving in China when the Doolittle raid occurred. Doolittle's crew bailed out over Japanese held territory. Chinese civilians and soldiers helped most of the Doolittle Raiders escape the Japanese and make their way to unoccupied China. It's estimated that 250,000 Chinese were killed by the Japanese military in retribution for helping 69 of the 80 Airmen Raiders escape.

Jimmy's crew was eventually met by Birch, who proceeded to guide and facilitate their journey to friendly territory.

It was the courage of those Chinese civilians and the resilient faith of Birch that saw Doolittle's crew through to safety.

We are often reminded that those who wear the uniform are the defenders of the Constitution, the nation and its citizens. But let us not forget that we also defend our nation alongside our fellow citizens who are not in uniform. With these citizen-comrades, we work to secure our mutual freedom.

Like those Chinese civilians and John Birch, who ensured a glorious future for Jimmy Doolittle and the Eighth Air Force, these men and women, people of courage and faith, work today to ensure our future.