JAMES HAROLD DOOLITTLE
On April 18, 1942, Jimmy Doolittle led 16 B-25s as they took off from the USS Hornet on a daring one-way mission to bomb the Japanese mainland. While the physical damage caused by the raid was minimal, the psychological blow to the Japanese was huge. The mission made Doolittle a Medal of Honor recipient and an instant American hero, but his feats in the realm of aviation hardly end there. After becoming one of the first men to graduate with a doctorate degree in aeronautics from MIT, Doolittle went on to complete pioneering work in the field of instrument flying, and in 1929 made the first-ever "blind" flight relying on instruments alone. His achievements also include a slew of aviation speed records — he not only nabbed the record for the fastest seaplane flight in 1925 and the fastest land airplane flight in 1932, but also swept the air race circuit, winning the Thompson Trophy Race with his speedy flight in the Gee Bee Racer and the Bendix Trophy Race in a Laird biplane.