USS Shangri-La Champagne Bottle

USS Shangri-La Champagne Bottle

USS Shangri-La Champagne Bottle

This artifact has a smashing story behind it. It is the remains of the ceremonial champagne bottle used to launch the U.S.S Shangri-La, CV-38 on 24 February, 1944.The bottle was broken over the bow of the new aircraft carrier by Mrs. James H. Doolittle. The U.S.S. Shangri-La was the 38th United States aircraft carrier built, and the 29th Essex Class Carrier added to the fleet during World War II.

At the time, Mrs. Doolittle (Jo) was chosen because her husband, Jimmy Doolittle, had led a group of US Army Air Corps pilots on a Top-Secret mission to bomb Tokyo, and other cities in Japan back in April 1942. The group trained to fly North American B-25 Mitchell (medium) bombers from the deck of an aircraft carrier on a one-way mission which was in retaliation for the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The carrier used was the USS Hornet CV-8.

Doolittle had 16 bombers and all completed the surprise mission, which was more of a psychological victory than a physically damaging success.

When news of the mission was made public, the media hounded President Roosevelt to tell them where the bombers were launched from. He replied "They came from our secret base at Shangri-La". Of course, there was no secret base, but it would have been a huge breech of national security to discuss war time tactics with the media, so his answer was appropriate!

After the raid on Japan, then Col. Doolittle, returned to the United States from China where most of the "Doolittle Raiders" landed subsequent to the mission. He was given a Medal of Honor, promoted two pay grades to Brigadier General and leader of the new 12th Air Force and shipped out to North Africa. This was why he could not attend the launching ceremony of the newest carrier in the Navy. President Roosevelt also named the new presidential retreat in the mountains of Thurmont, Maryland "Shangri-La", today it is known as Camp David renamed by President Eisenhower after his grandson. Our artifact was graciously donated by Mrs. Doolittle in 1993. It is on display inside the Doolittle exhibit case, as part of the International Aerospace Hall of Fame gallery.

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