AMERICANS AND THOSE WHO HONOR THE MEMORY OF THOSE WHO DIED ON 9-11 FROM COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD.
DON’T FORGET TO FLY YOUR FLAG THIS THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 11
Who were the Doolittle Raiders? Many young people today will not be able to tell you.
Take a good look at these men. This was their last reunion picture taken as all are now in their 90’s.
As of 2013, the remaining four Doolittle Raiders
Here is their story of courage and determination. What we want to remember about these men from World War II is that the Doolittle Raiders sent a message from the United States and the Free World to its enemies:
We will fight. No matter what it takes, we will win.
DURING THE WAR
It was December 7, 1941. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in a sneak attack. It took 132 days of planning since that attack, but on April 18, 1942 the Doolittle raid took place. There were 80 Raiders when they carried out one of the most courageous and heart-stirring military operations in this nation’s history. Of the 80 Raiders, 62 survived the war. They were celebrated as national heroes, models of bravery.
Raiders as young men
The 16 five-man crews, under the command of Lt. Col. James Doolittle, who himself flew the lead plane off the USS Hornet, knew that they would not be able to return to the carrier. They would have to hit Japan and then hope to make it to China for a safe landing.
After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, with the United States reeling and wounded, something dramatic was needed to turn the war effort around.
Even though there were no friendly airfields close enough to Japan for the United States to launch a retaliation, a daring plan was devised. Sixteen B-25s were modified so that they could take off from the deck of an aircraft carrier. This had never been tried — sending such big, heavy bombers from a carrier.
But on the day of the raid, the Japanese military caught wind of the plan. The Raiders were told that they would have to take off from farther out in the Pacific Ocean than they had counted on. They were told that because of this they would not have enough fuel to make it to safety. The men went anyway.
THE RESULTS OF THE RAID
They bombed Tokyo, and then flew as far as they could. Four planes crash-landed; 11 more crews bailed out, and three of the Raiders died. Eight more were captured; three were executed. Another died of starvation in a Japanese prison camp. One crew made it to Russia, where they were imprisoned.
Beginning in 1946, the surviving Raiders have held a reunion each April, to commemorate the mission. The reunion is in a different city each year. In 1959, the city of Tucson, Arizona, as a gesture of respect and gratitude, presented the Doolittle Raiders with a set of 80 silver goblets. Each goblet was engraved with the name of a Raider.
Every year, a wooden display case bearing all 80 goblets is transported to the reunion city. Each time a Raider passes away, his goblet is turned upside down in the case at the next reunion, as his old friends bear solemn witness. In the wooden case is a bottle of 1896 Hennessy Very Special cognac which was the year Jimmy Doolittle was born.
There has always been a reunion plan. When there are only two surviving Raiders, they would open the bottle, last drink from it, and toast their comrades who preceded them in death.
As 2013 began, there were five living Raiders; then, in February, Tom Griffin passed away at age 96. Bailing out of his plane over a mountainous Chinese forest after the Tokyo raid, he became ill with malaria, and almost died. When he recovered, he was sent to Europe to fly more combat missions. He was shot down, captured, and spent 22 months in a German prisoner of war camp.
(A side note about Tom Griffin and his character is also of interest. According to the Cincinnati Inquirer: “When his wife became ill and needed to go into a nursing home, he visited her every day. He walked from his house to the nursing home, fed his wife and at the end of the day brought home her clothes. At night, he washed and ironed her clothes. Then he walked them up to her room the next morning. He did that for three years until her death in 2005.” )
Of the original 80, only four Raiders remain: Dick Cole
(Doolittle’s co-pilot on the Tokyo raid), Robert Hite
, Edward Saylor
and David Thatcher.
As mentioned, all are in their 90s.
The reunion at Fort Walton Beach, Florida marked an end to public reunions. Florida’s nearby Eglin Field was where the Raiders trained in secrecy for the Tokyo mission. The Raiders have decided that there are too few of them for the public reunions to continue.
Last official reunion
Sometime in 2014, the remaining Doolittle Raiders will get together informally and in privacy.
They will open the bottle of brandy and toast their fellow-Raiders once again for a job well done and for their sacrifices and determination over 72 years ago.
All free men and women must remember these men of valor who suffered and died for the cause of freedom. In our troubled world of aggression and brutality, it would be good for those who would want to destroy the free world to take a lesson from American fighting men as well as those in all free countries who gave so much.
DETERMINATION was then and DETERMINATION to stay free is now.