Doolittle’s Raid. The untold story


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While today’s Register acknowledges that 68 years ago today Col “Jimmy” Doolittle led the joint US “Raiders” surprise attack on Japan, what George Grupe did not mention is the fate of Plane number 40-2242, the B-25 that “landed in Primorskrai Regional Airfield, approximately 40 miles north of Vladivostok,” Russia.

As acknowledged, the other 15 planes had crashed in China, but I have not seen any follow up to the missing B-25 nor it’s five member crew.

Piloting 2242 was Captain Edward J. York, known as “Ski.” At his side sat copilot Lieutenant Robert “Bob” G. Emmens with tailgunner Sergeant David W. Pohl, navigator Lt. Nolan A. Herndon and engineer Staff Sgt. Theodore H. Laban.

Before departing McClellan AFB in CA

plane #2242’s carburetor had to be adjusted which would later burn more fuel that originally projected precluding any chance to reach the Chinese coast after the raid.

A good friend of mine has spent years searching for the missing B-25 bomber that includes his working with high level members of the Russian Military and administrations.

On August 28, 1989 Walter received a letter from J.H. Doolittle which reads:

“Dear Mr. Kurilchyk,

Thank you for your letter of August 23 and for the update on your search for the B-25 flown by “Ski” York. May I suggest that you update Brig. Gen. Richard Knoblock as more information becomes available. Gen. Knobloch is pretty much the man in charge of coordinating the Raiders’ activities.”
The letter from Col. Doolittle ends with the General’s TX address and a closing line that treads: “Every good wish to you and your Russian counterpart in this venture.”

Larry. What happened to the B-25 bomber and its crew?
Let me answer the second part and suggest your reading Walter’s book entitled “Chasing Ghosts.”

“After (a safe) landing at 5:45 p.m. at Primiori Airfield north of Vladkvostok, Captain York and his crew were briefly interviewed by the base commander, Colonel Kovalev, and then fed prior to their overnight stay. The following morning, their journey across Siberia began with their first stop at Khabarovsk, some 400 miles north of Vladivostok, where they met the Soviet Far Eastern Army Commander, General Stearn. He informed them that they were ‘interned pursuant to the Geneva Convention International Law.’ The crew was held for 10 days at Khabarovsk. They then traveled by train, accompanied by a 21 year old Russian officer, for 21 days westerly to Penza, approximately 400 miles southwest of Moscow.
According to co-pilot Bob Emmans, the five man crew remained at Penza for 2 1/2 months. While in Penza they were visited by U.S. Military Attache, Colonel Joe Michela, from Moscow. Michela reported the crew’s health and general condition to the U.S. Embassy in Washington, D.C.

On March 25, 1943, the crew was moved from Okhansk (Perm) to Ashkabad near the Iranian border.
Just prior to May 29, 1943, the 2242 crew members (with a blink of the Russian eye), escaped through the rugged mountains to Mashhad, Iran, and subsequently returned to the U.S. via the British Embassy in Tehran, Iran. All crew members had survived the ordeal and were able to continue their flying service in Europe until the German surrender in May, 1945.”

We need to back up and let the readers know that “On board the Hornet, Doolittle had informed the volunteer crews that the Soviet government, led by Premier Joseph Stalin and Molotov, was adamantly opposed to U.S. bombers landing on Soviet soil.”

OK. You’ve told us about the crew but who has the plane and where are they hiding it?


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