Updated 9-1-2017 : From Wikipedia; numbered attributions removed.
Col. Richard E. Cole, copilot of aircraft No. 1 (age 101) is the last surviving Doolittle Raider, and the only one to live to an older age than Doolittle, who died in 1993 at age 96. Cole was Doolittle’s co-pilot on the raid.
Col. Bill Bower, the last surviving Doolittle raider aircraft commander, died on 10 January 2011 at age 93 in Boulder, Colorado.
Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, the then-enlisted engineer/gunner of aircraft No. 15 during the raid, died 28 January 2015 of natural causes at his home in Sumner, Washington, 94 years old
Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, co-pilot of aircraft No. 16, died in a nursing home at the age of 95 on 29 March 2015.
S/Sgt. David J. Thatcher, gunner of aircraft No. 7, died on 22 June 2016 at age 94.
Received via e-mail from a veteran friend on 10-2-2014
NOTE – The Doolittle raid was, in reality, a much needed morale booster for the American public; the damage suffered was light, but it showed the Japanese that their homeland was vulnerable to attack, and served to force them to keep some of their forces behind to protect the home islands.
Detailed account of the operation here:
There were 80 of the Raiders in April 1942, when they carried out one of the most courageous and heart-stirring military Operations in this nation’s history. The mere mention of their unit’s name, in those years, would bring tears to the eyes of grateful Americans.
Now only four survive!!! After Japan’s sneak 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 before been tried – sending such big, heavy bombers from a carrier.
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.
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 much 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. And those men went anyway.
Lt. Col Doolittle and CAPT Mitscher held a small celebration on the flight deck with all the Army airmen, which included tying 4 Japanese medals to one of the 500-pound bombs for “special delivery.”
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 .
We will fight. And, no matter what it takes, we will win.
Of the 80 Raiders, 62 survived the war. They were celebrated as national heroes, models of bravery.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced a motion picture based on the raid; “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo“, starring Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson, it was a patriotic and emotional box-office hit, and the phrase became part of the national lexicon.
In the movie-theater previews for the film, MGM proclaimed that it was presenting the story “with supreme pride.”
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.
Also in the wooden case is a bottle of 1896 Hennessy Very Special cognac. The year is Not happenstance: 1896 was when Jimmy Doolittle was born.
There has always been a plan: When there are only two surviving Raiders, they would open the bottle, at 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.
What a man he was. After 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.
The selflessness of these men, the sheer guts … There was a passage in the Cincinnati Enquirer Obituary for Mr. Griffin that, on the surface, had nothing to do with the war, but that emblematizes the depth of his sense of duty and devotion:
“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.”
So now, out 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. All are in their 90s. They have decided that there are too few of them for the public reunions to continue.
The events in Fort Walton Beach marked the end. It has come full circle; Florida ‘s nearby Eglin Field was where the Raiders trained in secrecy for the Tokyo mission. The town planned to do all it can to honor the men: a six-day celebration of their valor, including luncheons, a dinner, and a parade.
Do the men ever wonder, if those of us for whom they helped save the country, have tended to it in a way that is worthy of their sacrifice? They don’t talk about that, at least not around other people. But if you find yourself near Fort Walton Beach this week, and if you should encounter any of the Raiders, you might want to offer them a word of thanks. I can tell you from firsthand observation, that they appreciate hearing that they are remembered. The men have decided that after this final public reunion they will wait until a later date — some time this year — to get together once more, informally and in absolute privacy. That is when they will open the bottle of brandy. The years are flowing by too swiftly now; they are not going to wait until there are only two of them.
They will fill the four remaining upturned goblets. And raise them in a toast to those who are gone.
Their 70th Anniversary Photo!!!
– Doolittle Raid Reference Materials –
Obtained from http://www.uss-hornet.org/history/wwii/doolittle.shtml
The Doolittle Raid – 1988 – Duane Schultz – St. Martin’s Press (highly recommeded)
The Ship That Held the Line – 1995 – Lisle A. Rose
Destination: Tokyo – 1983 – Stan Cohen
The Doolittle Raid – 1991 – Carroll V. Glines
I Could Never Be So Lucky Again – 1994 – Doolittle, Glines
Master of the Calculated Risk – 1980 – Carroll V. Glines
30 Seconds Over Tokyo – 2002 – Ted Lawson, Bob Considine
Thirty Seconds over Tokyo – 1944 – Spencer Tracy, Van Johnson & Robert Mitchum (B&W, DVD)
Doolittle – The Final Mission – 1992 – John Doolittle, Doolittle’s Raiders (DVD Airborne Visual Productions)
Destination Tokyo – 1943 – Cary Grant, John Garfield, Alan Hale (B&W DVD)
Doolittle Raid Launch Footage – 1942 – (B&W, Silent, Streaming)
NavSource Naval History – http://www.navsource.org/archives/02/08.htm
Hazegray & Underway Aircraft Carriers – http://www.hazegray.org/navhist/carriers/
MaritimeQuest – http://www.maritimequest.com
USS Enterprise Organization – http://www.cv6.org
Doolittle Raider Official site – http://www.doolittleraider.com
Doolittle Raid Remembered – http://www.doolittleraid.com
Wm. S. Phillips http://www.wings-fine-arts.com/_catalog_54315/William_S_Phillips