Inspired by a sermon by The Rev.
Hugh Hall of All Saints Church, The Anglican Episcopal Church,
In April 1942, things looked
bleak for the US. The loss of most of the Pacific fleet at Pearl
Harbor followed by four more months of loss after loss of allied
bases, kept our forces tense, infuriated and eager for revenge.
Even President Roosevelt continually pressed the military for
a way to strike back at the heart of Japan. He wanted an attack
to boost American moral and to retaliate.
Lt. Col. Doolittle wires Japanese medals
to a bomb Click
image for larger view
On April 18, 1942, Lt.
Col. James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle set out to do just that! He
led sixteen B-25 medium bombers to the heart of Japan including Tokyo.
Afterwards they were to fly to China and turn their aircraft over to
new Air Forces units being organized.
Doolittle's Crew Click
image for larger view
The fleet was spotted some 200 miles short of
the planned launch point. The simple act of launching Air Forces
bombers from a carrier (USS Hornet) was near impossible but having
to launch 200 miles earlier than planned further complicated the
The mission went well but the early launch insured
that all would be unable to reach China as planned. Fifteen headed
for China. One headed for Russia and landed at Vladivostok. They
were interned but escaped through Iran fourteen months later. The
planes were never returned by The Soviets.
All the rest had to bail out or ditch in the
water as their fuel tanks emptied. Two drowned swimming ashore,
one was killed in the bail out, four were seriously injured during
the ditching, Eight were captured by the Japanese who executed three
and let another die of malnutrition. The remaining four captured
Japanese were tortured and placed in solitary confinement.
They were eventually released in 1945. The rest were recovered and returned
to the US.
But what happened to Jimmy Doolittle and his crew? They bailed out safely.
They were rescued by sympathetic Chinese and smuggled by river into Zhejiang
province. An American missionary was told of the survivors, and went to
meet them. He assisted them in getting to safety, and then helped locate
and direct other American crews to friendly territory. The Chinese people
who helped them, however, paid dearly for it. The Japanese killed an estimated
250,000 civilians while searching for Doolittle's men.
Herein lies the "Rest of the Story,"
as Paul Harvey says. This American that saved them was raised in
Macon, Georgia, became a Baptist minister and requested China as
his missionary post. He had felt this calling since he was a boy
of about eleven, Although he was warned that it was very dangerous,
he insisted that that was where he was most needed. He got his wish
in late 1939. He quickly became fluent in Chinese, mastering both
the spoken and written language. When the US entered the War in
December 1941, the Japanese ordered the arrest of all American missionaries
in China; he went underground, dyed his hair black, and adopted
Chinese dress and manners.
When Doolittle arrived safely in Chongqing,
he told Colonel Claire Chennault, leader of the Flying Tigers, about
the young missionary and his help. Chennault wanted an American
for intelligence duties who could speak Chinese and knew the country.
Chennault commissioned him as a First Lieutenant, although he said
in a book later that he was willing to be put in as a
He was later moved to the American
OSS. He agreed stating he would only be willing if the OSS agreed that
he be allowed to continue his work. He built a formidable intelligence
network of sympathetic Chinese informants, supplying Chennault with information
on Japanese troop movements and shipping, often performing dangerous incognito
field assignments during which he would brazenly hold Sunday church services
for Chinese Christians. Urged to take a leave of absence, he refused,
telling Chennault he would not quit China "until the last Jap";
he was equally contemptuous of Communists. He was promoted to Captain,
and received the Legion of Merit in 1944.
Birch's Grave Click
image for larger view
August 14, 1945, V-J
Day was the end of hostilities for America, but China was still
in ferment. On August 25, as he was leading a party of Americans,
Chinese Nationalists, and Koreans on a mission to reach Allied personnel
in a Japanese prison camp, they were stopped by Chinese Communists
near Xi'an. He was told to disarm; he refused and was shot and killed;
The rest of the party was imprisoned but released a short time later.
John Birch was posthumously awarded a Distinguished Service Medal.
You have heard his name many times before
but only of the Society that chose his name. They chose his name
because he was the first American to lose his life in the Cold War.
Now you know "The Rest of the Story."
John Birch is known today only by the society that
bears his name except for the people in Macon Georgia. His name is on
the bronze plaque of a World War II monument at the top of Coleman Hill
Park overlooking downtown, along with the names of other Macon men who
lost their lives while serving in the military. Birch has a plaque on
the sanctuary of the First Southern Methodist Church of Macon. A building
at the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas, is named The John Birch
Hall. A small street in a housing development outside Boston is also named
He is buried in Arlington National
WRONG! See sidebar!
Editor's note: Thank you, Ashley!
I am always eager to set the story right. He deserves it!
am John Birch's great niece. And, I was reading your article on "The
Rest of the Story" - at the end you say he is buried in Arlington
Cemetery. Sadly, that is not the truth. John's remains were never
returned to the US and as far as we know, they are still interred
on that hillside in Suchow, China, under a monument that reads in
Chinese: "He died for righteousness."