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While still conducting their conquest of the Philippines, the Japanese began an offensive against the Netherlands East Indies. As they progressed southward, the United States attempted to assist the Dutch and sent to Java all the AAF airplanes it could muster. The AAF carried out bombing attacks extending from the Malay Peninsula eastward to the Celebes Islands but with such a token force, its efforts did little to stem the tide. By early March 1942, Java had to be evacuated. Except for the portion of New Guinea around Port Moresby, the Japanese had occupied the territory from the eastern border of India, across the islands of the Southwest Pacific, to the northern doorstep of Australia.

The ease with which the Japanese advanced through the Southwest Pacific was humiliating for the United States. Even though practically every American believed strongly in eventual victory, those early months of the war were very grim.

The U.S. struck back at the Japanese as best it could. One effort consisted of a meager force of 13 airplanes under command of Brig. Gen. Ralph Royce, which returned to the Philippines for bombing operations. The second consisted of another meager force of 16 planes under command of Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle. The first received little publicity and had negligible effect upon American morale. The second -- the famous Tokyo Raid -- was lauded in the press to such an extent that it bolstered U.S. morale to tremendous heights almost overnight.

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Doolittle Raid
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