Born in Alameda, California. Joined the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF). Nicknamed "Jimmy".
On January 2, 1942 promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and assigned to Army Air Forces Headquarters to plan the first retaliatory air raid against Japan. He volunteered for and received General H. H. Arnold's approval to lead the top-secret raid by medium bombers against Japan. The pilots and aircrafts trained for the mission at Eglin Field and Wagner Field in northwest Florida.
On April 18, 1942 Doolittle led the "Doolittle Raid" piloting B-25B Mitchell 40-2344 one of sixteen bombers that took off from USS Hornet CV-8 on a bombing mission against targets in Japan including Tokyo, Kobe, Yokohama, Osaka, and Nagoya. Afterwards, the bombers proceeded westward and landed and crash landed in China.