David William Pohl TOKYO RAID Document 2-A
June 3, 1943
Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Intelligence

Crew Members
Major Edward J. York - 021151
First Lt. Robert C. Emmons - 024104
2nd Lt. Nolan A. Herndon - 0419328
S/Sgt. David W. Pohl - 6152141
Sgt. Theodore H. Laban - 6559855

Major York: In my opinion, the reason that we used more gasoline than we should have was that our two carburetors were especially adjusted and special carburetors were installed at Elgin Field, where we had been training, by factory experts there that they had to do the work. (We moved at Sacramento to the air depot.) When we got to Sacramento, Colonel Doolittle gave orders that no parts would be removed from any of the airplanes without his special permission. The day before we left, we found a bunch of carburetors had been taken off, but it was too late to do anything about it.

Q: Who took them off?

A: People at Sacramento.

Q: Under whose supervision?

A: Colonel Doolittle's. They were supposed to ask for his permission to change anything, or do any work. They were there for that work -- and the Colonel outlined everything that was supposed to be done. There was no statement made on the card covering the work which should be done. They just removed the carburetors. We just happened to find out, by looking the engine over and checking the serial numbers, that they were different. No mention was made, or notation made, to let us know that the carburetors had been changed. We accidentally found out about it. I didn't think it made any difference. I talked to the Colonel about it. He asked me how I felt about it and I said, "All right." We figured, on the carrier, that the auxiliary gasoline should last through Japan and that we would have to go on the main tanks sometime after that. About forty-five minutes before we got there, we had to go on the main tanks. At that time I had already started worrying about my gasoline holding out to get to the final destination. We checked on the consumption and found we used approximately 98 gallons an hour instead of the 72 to 75 we were supposed to use.

Q: What was your destination?

A: China.

Major York: So I made up my mind when we spotted Japan (I knew the time we had been running on the main tanks) that I wasn't going to try to go to China. I figured I wouldn't get to within 300 miles of shore.

Q: Was there anything else of any note on the trip over on the carrier that you think you ought to bring up? Did you check your armament and everything daily -- and your engine?

A: Not daily. We ran the engines up once every three days, I believe it was, to just warm them up and make sure they were functioning properly. Our turret wasn't functioning when we took off, but shortly after it was.

Sgt. Pohl: In the machine guns we found that practically all of the machine guns, after we got aboard the ship, had these weak firing pin springs. There had been cases before when we found the firing springs weren't strong enough -- you fired three or four hundred rounds and they would lose all their punch, and start misfiring all the time. We took as many as we could get from the crew on the Hornet -- but we didn't have enough to go around. We took all the ones that hadn't fired -- that were giving trouble on the Hornet -- but we didn't get them all fixed. All that should have been done.

Q: Then you found out your carburetors were maladjusted, wasn't there anyone that could have fixed them up?

Major York: No. Civilian experts from the factory had done the work at Eglin Field.

Q: None of them went along?

A: No. They didn't go to Sacramento. We ran a consumption test from Eglin Field to Sacramento. We knew what they were supposed to burn. We had no chance of running a consumption test at Sacramento.

Q: Now -- can you give a brief, detailed description of your plane's action from the time you took off, including your briefing, and give anything that might be of interest during the early morning hours? Start when you found out you were going to take off then instead of later on.

A: There wasn't any briefing the day we took off. Of course, he had been briefed continuously all the time on the carrier -- targets, and terrain, and all sorts of things. The original plan was for the Colonel to take off two hours before dark and drop incendiaries on Tokyo and light it up so we would be guided in. The rest of them were to take off just before dark and make their attack at night. However, that morning was when we first found out we were going to take off - at breakfast - when an order came for all crews to man their airplanes. There wasn't any time then to get further instructions. So we all ran up on deck, got in our planes and prepared to take off.

Q: What were your specific targets?

A: I had an aircraft plant in Tokyo. I don't remember the name.

Q: Could you point it out on a map?

A: I think so if I saw a map. (Looking at map) It was in the vicinity of 341 -- 331 to be exact. Aircraft engine factory #331. On the way in we saw a fairly large freighter, and just before we made our landfall we saw several small boats -- tenders I would call them.

Q: Did you come in directly from the east?

A: We came in from the east, yes. We made our landfall and should have been in the area of our target in about 20 to 25 minutes after making our landfall. After flying for about 30 minutes after our landfall was made, we still hadn't spotted Tokyo itself; so I started looking for any suitable target; something that was worthwhile bombing. Looking back at it now, it must have been just north of Tokyo, or possibly northwest. At any rate, about thirty-five or forty minutes after landfall, we came across a factory, with the main building about four stories high. There was a power plant, and about three or four tall stacks, and railroad yards, and we decided to bomb it. I pulled up to 1,500 feet. I had been down practically on the ground at the time. We dropped the bombs there, and they said one had hit practically in the middle of the large building. The crew saw smoke and steam rising. I, myself, didn't see it. I lowered away immediately and sneaked around.

Q: Was it outside the suburbs of the city?

A: It was outside because we didn't see the large settlement that you would expect to see in a city of that size. I must have been in this area here. (Due north of Tokyo.)

Q: How far from the coast were you?

A: We had been flying for about 35 minutes. I would say we weren't going too fast at that time. I would say it was about a hundred miles from our landfall. Now the land here comes out like this (map) so we were approximately in this area here. (Approximately in the area of Kawagos.)

Q: Did you meet any fighter interference or any antiaircraft?

A: No. We saw enemy airplanes, however. But we saw a formation of nine we judged to be at about 10,000 feet when we were right down on the ground. They were fighters... and they evidently did not see us; because they made no attempt to attack us.

Q: Did you fly over Tokyo itself?

A: No.

Q: You never did see Tokyo?

A: No.

Q: Did you see any other large Japanese city that you recognized?

A: No. We saw several cities coming across -- none that I knew the names of.

Q: You had a camera?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you get any pictures?

A: I don't know. It was taken out at the Military Attache's Office in Russia and brought back here, I suppose.

Q: You never found out whether you got any pictures?

A: No.

Q: About in what order were you?

A: I was number eight. We also saw three other airplanes besides these nine. They were painted yellow. I think they must have been trainers.

Q: Did you see any of our airplanes on the way in?

A: No. Shortly after we took off the only airplane that was in sight was slowly pulling away from us.

Q: Major, you don't happen to know the type of Zero, or fighter?

A: No. They were too high. They must have been at 10,000 feet or more and we were practically on the ground.

Q: Did you notice whether they had square wing tips?

A: No.

Q: Were you flying over relatively flat country when you dropped your bombs?

A: It was before we reached the mountains to the northwest of Tokyo.

Q: Do you remember this river (map)?

A: We flew over a river, or a large stream. I am not sure whether that was it or not.

Q: Do you remember having seen this lake (map)? Northeast of Tokyo?

A: I don't think we were that far.

Q: Would you say you were more than halfway between the landfall and the mountains when you dropped your bombs?

A: Yes, I think so -- because the way we figured it, we should have been here in about twenty-five minutes after hitting the shore.

Q: Where do you think you hit the shore?

A: Well, I assume it was at this point. (Point to the southeast of Yokahora.)

Q: But instead you must have hit it slightly northeast of Tokyo?

A: Yes.

Q: Then what did you do after dropping your bombs?

A: We turned to the northwest with the idea of hitting shore someplace north of Vladivostok.

Q: Did you pass over Sado Island?

A: No. We passed within sight of it -- to the southwest of it. As soon as we got down in this flat, we let down near a bay northwest of Central Honshu south of Sado Island and continued in a northwesterly direction toward Vladivostok.

Q: Where did you first note land along in here -- do you have any idea?

A: We knew we were along the coast north of here someplace so I turned and followed the coastline. This was very inaccurate on your maps. We figured we would recognize this large inlet east of Vladivostok. We turned inland there as I didn't want to go right over the city itself. We turned inland and the second airdrome we came to I circled and landed. That is the second airdrome north of Vladivostok. It was 40 kilometers north of Vladivostok.

Q: When did you elect to do this rather than continue to China?

A: As soon as we spotted the shore and figured what gas we had left and the distance we had to go to China.

Q: What about your incendiary bombs -- did you drop them in the same place?

A: All in the same place.

Q: You didn't use any rounds at all?

A: No. Just to test the guns on the way in.

Q: No straffing?

A: No.

CONTINUE to PART TWO of the Official Debriefing