On 18 April, 1942 Ed W. Horton, Jr. and 79 other Doolittle Raiders executed the first bombing mission against the Japanese homeland in World War II. Horton served as the engineer and gunner for crew number ten. Master Sergeant Edwin W. Horton Jr. entered the Army in 1935. He served overseas with Field Artillery at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii from 1935 to 1938 before re-enlisting and serving with the 95th Bomb Squadron at March Field, California. He then completed Gun Turret-Maintenance School, Aircraft Armament and Aircraft Mechanics Schools. He volunteered, and was an engineer/gunner for the secret mission that would later be known as the Doolittle Raid. Horton’s aircraft was originally intended to take off from the USS Hornet only two days after leaving California to test the bomber’s ability to safely lift off.
That mission was cancelled by Lt Col Jimmy Doolittle and Horton’s crew joined the raiders to bomb Japan. The sixteen B-25s were forced to launch 250 miles earlier than planned because a Japanese fishing boat had spotted them. The mission was highly successful despite heavy anti-aircraft artillery fire and an attack by nine enemy fighters. Horton’s crew successfully struck the Japanese Special Steel Company and the heavy industrial section in the Shiba Ward. His quick response and expertise with the turret gun thwarted multiple attacks by Japanese Zeros, patrol aircraft and Nakajima 97 attack aircraft. The Japanese attacks left an eight inch hole in the B-25’s fuselage and multiple bullet holes in the left wing. Fortunately the damage was minor and Horton’s B-25 was the only aircraft in the raid to receive damage over Japan.
Despite the damage, the crew continued on to China where the crew safely bailed out as the plane ran out of fuel. All 16 aircraft had to ditch or crash land after striking their targets because they did not have enough fuel to reach their intended Chinese landing sites. Horton’s aircraft commander, 1stLt Richard O. Joyce recalls Horton’s response when given the order to bail out: “Okay Lieutenant, here I go and thanks for a swell ride!” Joyce later remarked: “I couldn’t help but laugh at that and it made me feel good. Here we had been flying for about 14 hours, had been in combat and hit, and now had to bail out and he thanked me for the ride! Horton’s spirit of discipline was typical of my whole crew and I was thankful.”
Sergeant Horton remained in the China-Burma-India Theater after the Tokyo Raid as the 11th Bomb Squadron B-25 Armament Chief until June 1943. He held other various assignments and was among the first Air Force personnel assigned to the newly constructed Climatic Laboratory at Eglin AFB, Florida in 1947. Horton’s decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross and numerous Chinese, Army, Navy, Air Corps, and Air Force Medals. Master Sergeant Horton retired from the United States Air Force in 1960 after 25 years of distinguished military service.