Another of the Doolittle Raiders Has Left Us

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Pacific Historian
Jun 4, 2005
Orange County, CA
Col. Jack Sims, 88, pilot in Doolittle raids, dies

Naples resident took part in bombing.

[email protected]
Originally posted on June 10, 2007

Col. Jack Ahren Sims was among the first pilots to fly in the Doolittle-Tokyo Raid on April 18, 1942 — the first United States aerial invasion of Japan during World War II.

Sims died Saturday in Naples. He was 88.

"He did a great service to this country," said friend and biographer Al Cook.

Four months after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Maj. John Hilger, second in command to Lt. Col. "Jimmy" Doolittle, chose Sims as his co-pilot for the first American bombing of the island during the war. The raid helped raise American morale and showed Japan the U.S. could fight back after Pearl Harbor.

Sims was one of 80 volunteer pilots for the Doolittle-Tokyo Raid. It was a secret and dangerous mission in which several officers died.

He was then a 2nd lieutenant and co-piloted one of the 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers launched from the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet on the morning of the attack.

The raid paved the way to the Battle of Midway, which helped overturn Japan's power in the Pacific during mid-1942.

The raid was depicted in the book and movie "Thirty Seconds over Tokyo," and in 2001 the event was re-enacted in the movie "Pearl Harbor."

Sims was recently added to the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame as "an outstanding air and space pioneer," where his name takes a place alongside Charles A. Lindbergh and other aviation pioneers. He has received more than 25 awards for valorous service, including eight Air Medals, two National Defense Service Medals and a WWII Victory Medal.

A few years ago, Sims wrote his autobiography "First Over Japan" with the help of Cook. Most recently, last November, at the opening of the WWII Memorial Center in Washington, he received the Audie Murphy award for distinguished service to the U.S. military.

Former local pilot in WWII air raid on Tokyo has died
Wednesday, June 13, 2007 | Paula M. Davis

A former Kalamazoo man who was among the Doolittle Raiders, 80 men who led America's first air raid on Tokyo, conducted April 18, 1942, has died.

Col. Jack A. Sims, a decorated World War II veteran, died Saturday in Naples, Fla., after a long illness. He was 88.

Sims was called ``Kalamazoo' s first flying hero'' in the 1940s for being among the pilots who conducted the Tokyo raid under the direction of Gen. Jimmy Doolittle. Exploits of the raiders, who flew many additional missions over Europe during World War II, served as a morale booster for the United States, according to newspaper accounts.

``I think that pretty much made him who he was. It was a defining time in his life,'' his daughter, Brigid Hansen, said of Sims' role as one of the Doolittle Raiders. Reportedly 13 are still living.

``I'm not sure he would have continued a military career if that actually hadn't happened, because he spent the rest of his career in the military,'' serving 28 years, said Hansen, who lives in Portage.

He received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star, two Legion of Merit honors, multiple air medals and many other commendations. In 2003, he was inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame.

Hansen said her father, who graduated from Western Michigan University and spent the last 39 years in Florida, was often interviewed or asked to speak about his time as a combat pilot, including why he took part in what she said some considered ``basically a suicide mission.''

A 1942 Kalamazoo Gazette article reported that, following a visit home to Kalamazoo, ``Major Sims was sent to the African-European theater, where he completed 40 bombing missions, again under Gen. Doolittle's command. On his 40th and last mission, his B-26 bomber was struck by enemy fire in the right motor, and he barely managed to
make a safe landing behind the Allied lines.''

Sims was 23 at the time of the Tokyo raid.

In a 2002 book by Sims, ``First Over Japan,'' he wrote: ``There was nothing routine about any bombing raid. Sometimes we experienced heavy flak from the ground batteries and sometimes the sky around us was `quiet.' ... Sometimes it was a `milk run' with no opposition and no casualties; other times, lots of guys got killed, hurt or bailed out and became prisoners of war.''

Hansen said she and her siblings urged Sims for years to publish his memoirs, but it was military historian Al Cook who finally convinced him to write ``First Over Japan.''

Cook, a veteran who lives in Ft. Myers, Fla., said he sat down with Sims for 39 interviews that resulted in a 105-page, spiral-bound work about Sims' life and career.

When Cook read a paragraph from the epilogue, Sims ``lost it completely,' ' said Cook, who was to deliver the eulogy at Sims' funeral Wednesday in Naples.

``On the way out of the house -- I'll never forget it -- Jack was in a wheelchair. He grabbed my arm and said, `Well, we beat old father time.' I said, `Yeah, we beat him.'''

``Now, he's a man of the ages. A man of American history,'' Cook said of Sims.

After the war, Sims held such positions as executive assistant to the deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Air Force headquarters in Washington, D.C., and served a stint at the U.S. Embassy in London.

Also since the war, the raiders have gathered yearly at reunions around the country. Their numbers have dwindled, and at their 65th reunion in April, only seven or eight were present, said Hansen, who attended the gathering with her husband. Her father was too ill to attend.

Sims is survived by his wife, Lee; four children, Kimberly Staley of Atlanta, Brigid Hansen of Portage, John Sims of Richmond, Va., and Michael Sims of Kansas City, Mo.; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Sims was born in Kalamazoo, Mich. on Feb. 23, 1919 and entered the Air Force in 1940 at 22. He served in both WWII and the Korean War.

He retired from the Air Force in 1968 and moved to Naples with his wife, Lee Adams Sims, and his daughter, Kim Stanley.

Stanley remembers the important role her father served in her family as well as what he did for the country.

"He was an astounding man who touched us personally and impacted so many people's lives," said Stanley, 37. "He's such a larger-than-life figure that it's hard to put into words."

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday at Bower Chapel of Moorings Park, 120 Moorings Park Drive, Naples. Internment will follow at Naples Memorial Gardens, 111 Avenue North, in Naples.

Memorial donations can be made to a charity of choice or to the Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum Foundation, P.O. Box 1565 Travis AFB, CA 94535

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