30 Seconds over Tokyo
From the U.S.S. Hornet aircraft carrier off the Japanese coast, Lt. Col. James Doolittle, a native of Alameda, California, led 16 B-25 bombers on a raid that was a turning point in World War II 75 years ago. I remember that day, April 18, 1942, in New Orleans.
As rays of sun slanted through the French doors, I fiddled with my starched Eton collar. This Saturday morning, I was headed to a fancy lunch with my Aunt Anna at my parents’ favorite restaurant.
Tujague’s was only a block from our small apartment so we walked. The sky was cloudless. Not many people were in Jackson Square, and the azaleas were in full bloom. It was familiar territory. In the center was a statue of a soldier on a big horse — I was named for him. Period statuary adorned every corner and nook. More interesting to me were the old green cannons.
I wanted to crawl up on one, but my efforts were arrested by a stern but nice command from my aunt. “Please don’t do that, Jack. You will muss your nice suit.” I did as told. After all, in only two months I would be 6 years old!
We were in New Orleans because my father was in the military hospital on Lake Pontchartrain. Dad had severely injured his back while training for some secret mission behind enemy lines.
Tujague’s was full of nicely dressed people, but we got a fine table where I had tantalizing peeks into the bustling kitchen when the door opened. The tablecloth and napkins were dazzlingly white and stiff. The knives and forks were big and shiny. I was given a huge menu that I was unable to read or understand. I do not remember what I ate, but it was yummy.
As I was cleaning my plate in anticipation of a delicious dessert, suddenly I heard some commotion in the kitchen. The swinging door opened, and a well-dressed man stepped out. With an empty water glass in one hand and a spoon in the other, he banged on the glass until the restaurant was quiet and he had everyone’s attention. He was smiling!
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I have great news to announce, which just came on the radio in the kitchen. The United States of America has sent war airplanes to Japan and bombed the city of Tokyo, which is in flames!”
The hurrahs and tumult that arose from the dozens of diners was deafening. I cheered with the best of them because I knew about Pearl Harbor and the Japanese and Nazis. Everybody in that restaurant, even an almost-6-year-old, knew that America was going to win the fight. There was no doubt!
Time slipped on, and after a huge and satisfying dessert stuffed into my smiling face, my aunt and I departed for other adventures. On the way she asked me to show my happiness and took my photo. I dangled from a street lamp. We sang “God Bless America” all the way down Dumaine Street.