After Japan launched its infamous sneak attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in December 1941, American forces responded four months later with a daring surprise bombing raid on Tokyo, under the command of Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle. Aviators took off from the aircraft carrier Hornet without enough fuel in their bombers to make it back to the ship. Instead, most of them flew to parts of China that were still defying Japanese invaders, and bailed out or crash-landed along the coast. Local villagers, anti-Japanese guerillas and missionaries did their best to help the U.S. airmen escape.
The indignity of being punished so quickly by the U.S. — and the brave defiance of the Chinese who helped the bomber crews — so infuriated the Japanese military that they launched a series of almost unspeakably brutal reprisals. A Catholic missionary, Father Wendelin Dunker, wrote in his memoir that in the town of Ihwang, Japanese troops "shot any man, woman, child, cow, hog, or just about anything that moved, They raped any woman from the ages of 10–65, and before burning the town they thoroughly looted it ... None of the humans shot were buried ... but were left to lay on the ground to rot, along with the hogs and cows" [source: Scott].
But those extreme acts did nothing to prevent the Japanese military from suffering a series of ignominious defeats at the hands of the Americans, and ultimately having to surrender in 1945 to the nation they had attacked.