On this day in 1942, 16 American B-25 bombers, launched from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet 650 miles east of Japan and commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, attack the Japanese mainland.
The now-famous Tokyo Raid did little real damage to Japan (wartime Premier Hideki Tojo was inspecting military bases during the raid; one B-25 came so close, Tojo could see the pilot, though the American bomber never fired a shot)--but it did hurt the Japanese government's prestige. Believing the air raid had been launched from Midway Island, approval was given to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's plans for an attack on Midway--which would also damage Japanese "prestige." Doolittle was eventually awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
A book describing the raid, 30 Seconds Over Tokyo by Ted Lawson, was adapted into a film starring Spencer Tracy in 1944.