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Major Ted W. Lawson (7 March 1917 – 19 January 1992) was an American officer in the United States Army Air Forces, who is known as the author of Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, a memoir of his participation in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyomarker in 1942. The book was subsequently adapted into a film of the same name starring Spencer Tracy, Van Johnson, and Robert Mitchum

Early life

Lawson was born in Alamedamarker, Californiamarker and attended Los Angelesmarker City College. He joined the Army Air Corps in March 1940 while employed by Douglas Aircraft Company and received his pilot's wings and 2nd Lt. commission on 15 November 1940.

World War II

In early 1942, Lawson, already a veteran B-25 pilot, was given the opportunity to volunteer for the ultra top-secret mission led by famous aviator Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle to bomb Tokyomarker with 16 carrier-launched Mitchells. The aircraft that he flew on the raid was nicknamed "The Ruptured Duck." After launching the mission 170 miles (275 km) further out than planned, each of the aircraft ran out of fuel far short of their intended landing sites in non-Japanese occupied China. Lawson and his crew were forced to ditch "The Ruptured Duck" off the coast of the small island of Nantien. Lawson and his co-pilot were both thrown clear of the plane, with Lawson suffering a lacerated left leg in the process. After being transported through out several provinces in China, Lawson's leg was surgically amputated. The nose-art of the crashed bomber, the Ruptured Duck, was later salvaged by the Japanese and put on display in Tokyomarker.


In January 1943, he and well-known newspaper columnist Bob Considine decided to write a book about the mission, entitled Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo and in four nights and two days in the Mayflower Hotelmarker in Washington, the entire story was lined out. Through friends in the Los Angeles area, Ted made contact with MGM producer Sam Zimbalist, and the movie was launched in 1944. The film starred Van Johnson as Lawson alongside Spencer Tracy and Robert Mitchum. It won an Academy Award for Best Special Effects.

Later life

After leaving the hospital, he served as Liaison Officer, U.S. Air Mission, Santiago, Chile from May 1943 until April 1944. He was retired for physical disability on 2 February 1945. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and the Chinese Army, Navy, and Air Corps Medal, Class A, 1st Grade.

Lawson owned and operated a machine shop in Southern California, as well as working for Reynolds Metals as a liaison between the company and the military. He died in his home in Chico, Californiamarker on 19 January 1992 and was interred at the Chico Cemetery Mausoleum.

Honors and tributes

Lawson Army Airfieldmarker was named after Ted Lawson's father, Ted Lawson Sr., for his valiant service in the Army Air Corps in World War I. After the Doolittle Raid in World War II, Ted Jr.'s name was added to the memorial at the field, which is Fort Benningmarker's primary airport facility, located on the Fort Benning Military Reservation, GA.

In 2003, Brassey's reprinted Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo with more photos and an introduction from Lawson's widow, Ellen.

See also


  1. Ted W. Lawson: Biography
  2. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
  3. Lawson Army Airfield
  4. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (book)


  • Chun, Clayton K.S. The Doolittle Raid 1942: America's First Strike Back at Japan (Campaign: 16). Botley Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2006. ISBN 1-84176-918-5.
  • Glines, Carroll V. The Doolittle Raid: America's Daring First Strike Against Japan. New York: Orion Books, 1988. ISBN 0-88740-347-6.
  • Lawson, Ted W. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. Dulles, Virginia: Brassey's Inc., 2003 (60th anniversary reprinted edition). ISBN 1-57488-508-1.
  • Watson, Charles Hoyt. DeShazer: The Doolittle Raider Who Turned Missionary. Winona Lake, Indiana: The Light and Life Press, 1950.

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