Mitscher was the US Navy’s main aviation expert and a Commander of carrier forces in the Far East throughout the war. In 1941 he was given command of the carrier USS Hornet which was used to launch DOOLITTLE’s bomber raid on Tokyo (18 April 1942). In June the Hornet was one of the three US carriers at the Battle of Midway. Mitscher was made Air Commander of Guadalcanal on 1 April 1943 and had control over the Air Force units of the US Army, Navy, and Marines and of the New Zealand RAF.
In January 1944 Mitscher took command of the Fast Carrier Force, Task Force 58, part of SPRUANCE’s Central Pacific Force. From January to October 1944 it was responsible for destroying 795 enemy ships and 4425 planes. This Force had its own fleet train and could therefore remain in operation for long periods at a time. It was used to provide an air umbrella for the invasions of the Marshalls and Hollandia and in June 1944 went to the Marianas. Mitscher and his Force played a crucial role in the Battle of the Philippine Sea where Mitscher made the daring decision to send his planes out although they could only be recovered from the raid after dark. From August to September 1944 Task Force 58 was involved in raids on the Bonin Islands, Palau, Mindanao and Formosa. Finally they provided air cover for the campaigns in Iwo Jima and Okinawa where they had to contend with kamikazes and other enemy planes flown from Japan.