Jimmy Doolittle, of fame in "Thirty Seconds over Tokyo", won his wings in 1918. He served first as an instructor and then as a border patrol pilot at Eagle Pass, Texas. In 1922, he made the first of many pioneering flights that would ultimately earn him major air trophies and international fame. With the aid of crude navigational instruments on an early flight, he flew from Florida to California in 21 hours and 19 minutes, with one stop at San Antonio for fuel. This was the first time the United States had been crossed in less than 24 hours. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, he was a familiar figure in attempts to establish airspeed records and he managed to set world records both in land and seaplanes.
In 1928, he helped to develop the artificial horizon and directional gyroscope--instruments necessary for flying "blind." With these and other improvements, he made the first instrument-controlled take-off, flight, and landing. He transferred to the Air Corps Reserve in 1930 and returned to active duty in 1940. He planned and led the first bombing raid on the Japanese mainland, when on 18 April 1942 he led 16 B-25 bombers from the aircraft carrier "Hornet" to bomb Tokyo. The daring one-way mission electrified the world, provided a tremendous boost to American morale, and won him the Medal of Honor. After a series of commands, he returned to Reserve status and retired as a lieutenant general in 1959.
In the black Curtiss R3C2 seaplane, General Doolittle won the 1925 Schneider Cup Race--the world's series of seaplane racing. This aircraft, which General Doolittle flew to a new seaplane record speed of 235 mph, was a forerunner of a series of famous "hawk" fighters that culminated in the P-40.