Oregon’s Doolittle raiders made history in startling ways
Two of them had movies made about their wartime exploits — “30 Seconds over Tokyo” and “The Great Escape”; a third, captured and imprisoned in the raid, returned to Japan after the war as a Christian missionary.
By Finn J.D. John — May 3, 2015
This article is the third in a series about Oregon’s connection to the famous Doolittle bombing raid on Japan, conducted in 1942 just a few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
The audacious airstrike was delivered by the Army’s Pendleton-based 17th Bomb Group, taking off from the deck of the Navy’s brand-new aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet. Last week, we talked about four of the aviators with deep Oregon connections; this week, we’ll finish up with three more.
Col. Dean Davenport
Dean Davenport was originally from Tacoma, but grew up in Portland and graduated from high school there. He was a law student at Albany College (now Lewis and Clark) before he became a Flying Cadet in February 1941.
Davenport was co-pilot on Plane 7, known as the “Ruptured Duck.” That name turned out to be apropos, because after dropping its bombs, the Ruptured Duck ran out of fuel over the East China Sea just short of the beach it was trying to reach and land on, and plunged into the water. Davenport and his pilot, Ted Lawson, were thrown through the plane’s windshield, still strapped into their seats. Despite severe injuries, they managed to get out of their chairs and make it to shore.
Picked up by Chinese Nationalist fighters, they were carried south through hostile country in various primitive carts and trucks, a journey that took seven weeks. Finally they were rescued by an Air Force plane, which took them home to recover.
The Ruptured Duck’s story was told in a 1944 movie titled “30 Seconds Over Tokyo,” in which Tim Murdock played Davenport’s role. As part of the movie, Davenport re-enacted the takeoff from the Hornet in another B-25, with a pier in Santa Monica standing in for the aircraft carrier.
Davenport retired in 1967; his awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star and Legion of Merit. He died on Feb. 14, 2000.
Staff Sgt. Jacob DeShazer
Jacob DeShazer was born in Salem, the son of a Church of God pastor, and grew up on a wheat farm in Madras, graduating from Madras High School in 1931. He enlisted in 1940 and became a bombardier and airplane mechanic in the Air Corps, and when the Doolittle raiders took off, he was at the bomb sights in the last plane to take off — Plane 16, dubbed “Bat out of Hell.”
DeShazer’s was one of the airplanes that ran out of gasoline a little too early. Forced down in Japanese-controlled territory, they found themselves almost immediately in the power of their infuriated enemies.
It seemed the crew of the “Bat out of Hell” had found its way back into hell, along with three surviving crew members of another plane. There followed, at Japanese high command, a fierce debate over whether the aviators were prisoners of war, to be interned as per the Geneva Convention; or “war criminals,” to be tried and executed. A compromise was reached, in which all were sentenced to death, but the sentences of all but three were commuted to life in prison.
In prison, the Americans were treated very poorly, underfed and frequently tortured. DeShazer’s bitter hatred of the enemy changed, though, when he was given a Bible to read for three weeks before passing it on to the next prisoner. Returning to the faith of his youth (from which he had strayed), he finished out his time in prison as a devoted Christian.
After the war, DeShazer enrolled in Seattle Pacific University, and in 1948 was flying once again back to Japan — to serve as a missionary there. While there, he made a new and lifelong friend in an ex-Imperial Navy flyer named Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida — the man who had, from the cockpit of his torpedo bomber, led the first wave of Japanese attackers into Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
DeShazer’s awards included the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and Chinese Breast Order of Yung Hui. He died on March 15, 2008, at his home in Salem.
Major Gen. David M. “Davy” Jones
David M. Jones was originally a Marshfield (Coos Bay) boy, although he graduated from high school in Arizona. He was the pilot of Crew 5, and was publicly identified by Doolittle himself as his top pilot.
Jones and his crew had as close to a routine finish as was possible under the circumstances. He guided his plane as close as possible to a known friendly city before giving the order to hit the silk; none of his men were captured or injured.
After the raid, Jones was assigned to command the 319th bomb group in North Africa flying B-26 Marauders against Rommel’s forces. In December 1942, the Germans managed to shoot him down, and he found himself a prisoner of war.
Jones quickly developed a reputation in his prison camp, Stalag Luft III, for defiance and harassment of his German captors. Soon he was on the camp’s “X Committee,” or escape committee — the secret group of prisoners who controlled and coordinated all attempts to escape.
After the war, Stalag Luft III and its X Committee became famous for the audacious bustout told of in the Steve McQueen movie “The Great Escape.” Jones led the digging team for the “Harry” tunnel (the committee’s plan involved three tunnels, named “Tom,” “Dick” and “Harry”; only “Harry” made it to completion). In fact, the character of Capt. Virgil Hilts (“the Cooler King”), played by Steve McQueen himself, was partly based on Jones.
Jones retired in 1973, and died at his home in Tucson on Nov. 25, 2008. His awards include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal, Purple Heart, Commendation Ribbon, and the Chinese Order of Yung Hui.
(Sources: doolittleraider.com; ohs.org; archives of Salem Statesman Journal and New York Times)