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Local History Notes

Notes about the history of Iredell County by Joel Reese, Local History Librarian.

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Dec 30

Doolittle Raid and Dr. John Griffin

Posted on December 30, 2019 at 9:03 AM by Jenny Levins

“United States Planes Bomb Tokyo” read the headline in the Statesville Daily on April 18, 1942.  To the citizens of Iredell County still numb from the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 it was welcome news. The attack had happened over four months ago and the Japanese had been racking up successes in the Pacific ever since. At last our nation had given Japan a reply. 

One young man from Darlington, South Carolina would never read about the raid he had just taken part in.  Lt. Bill Farrow had piloted a B-25 medium bomber with Gen. Jimmy Doolittle Raiders in the attack. The attack was successful.  The chairman of the house naval and military committees Representative May of Kentucky would issue one of the first official statements about the raid saying “This is the beginning of a general offensive.” 

Lt. Bill Farrow was captured by the Japanese after his plane went down on April 19.  Six months later after being starved and tortured he was taken to a deserted cemetery in Shanghai and executed by an enemy firing squad. Dr. John Griffin, author of “Lt. Bill Farrow: Doolittle Raider” described Bill by saying “He was a typical young Southern boy.  Yet he was more than just typical. He came from a broken home, yet he himself was outstanding in every way.  He became an Eagle Scout in 1934, then graduated from St. John’s High School in 1935, during the depression.”

Like most young men during the depression Farrow had trouble finding work and spent a couple of years with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Liberty, S.C. Unlike some men though Farrow had dreams and was willing to work to make those dreams come true.  He saved his money and was enrolled at the University of South Carolina in 1938. 

Dr. Griffin notes that “In 1939, because of his outstanding record, he was one of three USC students chosen by the Federal Government to receive pilot’s training at government expense.  He completed the course in 1940 and soon thereafter joined the U.S. Air Corps.  He received his silver pilot’s wings on July 11, 1941, and was assigned to fly a B-25 medium bomber, the plane Gen. Jimmy Doolittle would later choose to bomb Tokyo.  Of course, Farrow was one of the first to volunteer for that near suicidal mission.”

The Iredell County Public Library will be featured a special lecture and book signing by Dr. Griffin at the library in Statesville on February 1, 2007. The program featured a forty-minute slide presentation followed by a question and answer session. 

Dr. Griffin holds the honorary title Distinguished Professor Emeritus with the University of South Carolina and was awarded the Order of the Silver Crescent by then Governor Jim Hodges, the state’s highest award.  He has published fifteen books including “The Pictorial History of the Confederacy.”  His 2001 biography of black author Jean Toomer won the Adele Mellen Award.  He and his family make their home in Lancaster, S.C.

Joel Reese, Local History Librarian

Iredell County Public Library

This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “Author of book describing WWII pilot to speak at library” on January 31, 2007