Timeline March 1947
In 1947, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission is founded; Edwin H. Land announces a camera that develops its own pictures in about a minute; Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier in baseball; Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 rocket; the Dead Sea Scrolls are discovered; Henry Ford dies.
A Nation Goes to War
On Dec. 8, 1941, one day after Pearl Harbor, the United States was at war. As private industry scrambled to convert its assembly lines to weapons production, Popular Science's editors were moving speedily as well. Two months later, the Feb. 1942 issue informed readers how the country was preparing to fight, with such features as "For the Defense of America Attacked" (by none other than flamboyant FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover) and "Sky Destroyers," including the B-17 Flying Fortress. Our coverage of military technology remained paramount through the war years.
Our cover depicted a formation of North American B-25 Mitchell medium bombers. The planes were named for Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell, who was outspoken in his advocacy of air power and was court-martialed in 1924 for his comments on the United States' unpreparedness for air warfare. Though Mitchell died in 1936, he was considered largely exonerated by the attack on Pearl Harbor. Otto Preminger's 1955 movie, The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell, starring Gary Cooper, made Mitchell something of a legend.
Sixteen Mitchells were picked for Lt. Col. James "Jimmy" Doolittle's raid on Toyko on April 18, 1942, in retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Doolittle, already famous for his exploits racing aircraft, was promoted to Brigadier General and awarded the Medal of Honor for his part in the raid. The raiders bombed targets in Kobe, Nagoya, Tokyo, and Yokohama; the attack proved Japan could be hit, and was credited with boosting home morale after the series of early defeats followed the devastation of Pearl Harbor. The B-25s took off from the U.S.S. Hornet in the Pacific and flew 700 miles to Japan. Hollywood wasted little time jumping on the bandwagon, with Spencer Tracy starring as Doolittle in 1944's story of the raid, Thirty Seconds over Tokyo.
Rather than praise, Doolittle, however, expected a court martial of his own. Because of the distance involved, the planes could not return to the aircraft carrier, and landing sites were selected in China. Bad weather made the field impossible to find, and all 16 planes were lost. Seven pilots were injured and three were killed. Eight were taken prisoner by the Japanese, and only four survived the war. Several endured a desperate ordeal escaping their pursuers across China, sheltered at times by sympathetic Chinese, whose country was occupied by Japan. Reprisals by the Japanese against Chinese patriots were fierce.
In April 1992, a B-25 Mitchell nicknamed Heavenly Body flew from the deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ranger in San Diego Bay to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Doolittle's raid. Heavenly Body appeared in the 1970 Hollywood film adaptation of Joseph Heller's Catch-22 and flew in various airshows in 2001.
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