When Air Force takes on Navy for their annual football matchup on Oct. 21 in Annapolis, Md., the Falcons will be clad in special uniforms commemorating the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, a seminal moment in airpower history.
The U.S. Air Force Academy’s special alternate uniforms, unveiled Aug. 15 as part of USAFA’s annual “Air Power Legacy Series,” feature design elements inspired by the daring 1942 mission in which 16 B-25 bombers, under the command of Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, flew some 750 miles from an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, delivering the first retaliatory strike on the Japanese homeland since the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor 132 days earlier.
Doolittle initially considered the raid something less than success. While the attack caused some damage and demonstrated Japan was not beyond reach of U.S. airpower, all 16 bombers were lost, and seven of his Airmen died or were executed after being captured. Four others spent the duration of the war as POWs. But the mission proved to be a major morale boost to the American public.
Doolittle was awarded the Medal of Honor for planning and leading the strike, and the “Doolittle Raiders” became giants in the history of the U.S. Army Air Forces and the eventual U.S. Air Force. The new B-21 bomber was nicknamed “Raider” in their honor, and the last of the Raiders died in 2019.
The special uniforms feature a B-25 bomber on one side of its chrome-colored helmets, and the Doolittle Raiders patch on the other. The patch includes heraldry from the 17th Bombardment Group and the 34th, 37th, 89th, and 95th squadrons, and featuring the French phrase “Toujours au Danger”—“Ever into Peril.”
Players will be in white, with “Air Force” emblazoned across and players numbers numbers stenciled in a steel-and-rivet design. A patch signifying the tail number of one of the participating aircraft—players will sport different tail numbers—will be worn on each player’s chest, and the Raiders patch will be afixed to the shoulders.
“Toujours au Danger” will be reprised on one pants leg, while “Ever into Peril” will be on the other.
“The Doolittle Raiders are not just Air Force heroes, but American heroes,” said Dr. Patrick Donley, Director of the Doolittle Leadership Center at the the Air & Space Forces Association and a 1991 USAFA graduate. “The Air Force-Navy game is also an ideal forum to highlight the Doolittle Raid. First, it was a great, early example of successful joint warfare, requiring tremendous cooperation and trust-building between the Army Air Forces and the Navy. And second, the raid demonstrated boldness, courage, and innovation—traits that are vital for Airmen, Guardians and, really, the entire joint force today. Finally, the Raiders put their lives on the line to fulfill their duty, a remarkable and fearless demonstration of sacrificial, selfless leadership.”
Doolittle is closely tied to AFA’s own history, Donley added. He was AFA’s first president, and photos of him and of his Raiders in action still adorn the walls of AFA’s headquarters today. AFA’s Doolittle Leadership Center provides hands-on leadership training for Airmen, Guardians, and civilians at all levels.
This marks the eighth “Air Power Legacy Series” uniform USAFA has unveiled since the program started in 2016. The uniforms have commemorated everything from the Space Force to the Tuskegee Airmen, with s nod to Operation Linebacker II from the Vietnam War in between.
- 2022: Space Force
- 2021: B-52 Stratofortress and Operation Linebacker II
- 2020: Tuskegee Airmen
- 2019: C-17 Globemaster III
- 2018: AC-130 Spooky
- 2017: F-35 Lightning II
- 2016: Tiger Shark Teeth nose art
Army and Navy have also sported numerous alternate uniforms in the past decade, commemorating memorable operations, campaigns, units, and more.