Audacity is boldness tempered with a calculation of risk. In the famous Tokyo Raid of 18 April 1942, 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers under the command of U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle took off from the USS Hornet (CV-8) for Tokyo and other targets on the island of Honshu, and were to land in unoccupied China. The untested aircraft, laden with fuel and munitions, barely lifted into the air from the carrier’s deck, without its full complement of guns and without fighter escort. The goal was to demonstrate that the United States could strike at Japan’s heartland, despite Japan’s belief that such an “out of the blue” strike was impossible.
The Doolittle Raid demonstrated how audacity can neutralize adversary force advantages and be a deciding factor in battle. Many other successful military leaders possessed audacity. George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware and U.S. Army General Leslie R. Groves’ direction of the Manhattan Project are well-known examples. Military studies and training outline the risks and rewards of audacious strategy and tactics, but audacity is not currently recognized as a separate and distinct discipline.
1. Antoine-Henri Jomini, The Art of War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1971), Article 23; Carl von Clausewitz, On War (1832). See also Anand Sagar Bhagat, “Relevance of Surprise, Audacity and Unconventionalism,” Combat Journal, Mhow, India: College of Combat, 22 no. 1–2 (1995): 71–98.
2. “Man Pickup, Pilot Rescue Manual,” Wright Field Technical Order 03-13-57 (c. 1943).
3. Courtney G. Brooks, James M. Grimwood, and Loyd S. Swenson, Jr, Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft, NASA-SP-4205 (Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1979). See also “The Rendezvous That Was Almost Missed: Lunar Orbit Rendezvous and the Apollo Program,” NASA Publication NF175 (December 1992).
4. Lou DiStasi, “Modernizing the U.S. Military by Learning from the Past,” Defense News, 29 November 2018.
5. M. L. Cavanaugh, “Can Science Fiction Help Us Prepare for 21st-Century Warfare?” Los Angeles Times, 28 May 2018; Sharon Weinberger, “Hollywood’s Secret Meet,” Wired, 15 March 2007.
6. See Gerald Pawle, The Wheezers Dodgers: The Inside Story of Clandestine Weapon Development in World War II (London, Seaforth Publishing, 2009).
7. James Jay Carafano, G.I. Ingenuity: Improvisation, Technology, and Winning World War II (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007).
8. Barton Whaley, Practice to Deceive: Learning Curves of Military Deception Planners (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2016), 127–47.
9. Mark Bowden, The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2008), 68, cited in Michael Roberto, Know What You Don’t Know (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, 2009), 163.