Nation/World

Doolittle Raid veterans honored at Air Force museum

Richard Cole, center, proposes a toast with Edward Saylor, left, and David Thatcher – two other surviving members of the 1942 Tokyo raid led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle – in Ohio on Saturday. (Associated Press)
Richard Cole, center, proposes a toast with Edward Saylor, left, and David Thatcher – two other surviving members of the 1942 Tokyo raid led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle – in Ohio on Saturday. (Associated Press)

DAYTON, Ohio – The last of the Doolittle Raiders, all in their 90s, offered a final toast Saturday to their fallen comrades as they pondered their place in history after a day of fanfare about their 1942 attack on Japan.

“May they rest in peace,” Lt. Col. Richard Cole, 98, said before the three Raiders present sipped an 1896 cognac from specially engraved silver goblets. The cognac was saved for the occasion after being passed down from their late commander, Lt. Gen. James “Jimmy” Doolittle.

In a ceremony Saturday evening at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton, Ohio, hundreds of people, including family members of deceased Raiders, watched as the three Raiders each called out “here” as a historian read the names of all 80 of the original airmen.

A B-25 bomber flyover helped cap an afternoon memorial tribute in which a wreath was placed at the Doolittle Raider monument outside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton. Museum officials estimated some 10,000 people turned out for Veterans Day weekend events honoring the 1942 mission credited with rallying American morale and throwing the Japanese off balance.

Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning said America was at a low point, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and other Axis successes, before “these 80 men who showed the nation that we were nowhere near defeat.” He noted that all volunteered for a mission with high risks throughout, from the launch of B-25 bombers from a carrier at sea, the attack on Tokyo, and lack of fuel to reach safe bases.

Only four of the 80 are still alive. The Raiders said at the time they didn’t realize their mission would be considered an important event in turning the war’s tide. It inflicted little major damage physically, but changed Japanese strategy while firing up Americans.

“It was what you do … over time, we’ve been told what effect our raid had on the war and the morale of the people,” Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, 93, said in an interview.

The Brusset, Mont., native, who now lives in Puyallup, Wash., said he was one of the lucky ones.

“There were a whole bunch of guys in World War II; a lot of people didn’t come back,” he said.

Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, 92, of Missoula, said that during the war, the raid seemed like “one of many bombing missions.” The most harrowing part for him was the crash-landing of his plane, depicted in the movie “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo.”

Three crew members died as Raiders bailed out or crash-landed their planes in China, but most were helped to safety by Chinese villagers and soldiers.

Three of the four surviving Raiders were greeted by flag-waving well-wishers ranging from small children to fellow war veterans. The fourth couldn’t travel because of health problems.

After Thomas Griffin, of Cincinnati, died in February at age 96, the survivors decided at the 71st anniversary reunion in April in Fort Walton, Beach, Fla., that it would be their last and that they would gather this autumn for one last toast together instead of waiting, as had been the original plan, for the last two survivors to make the toast.

“We didn’t want to get a city all excited and plan and get everything set up for a reunion, and end up with no people because of our age,” explained Lt. Col. Richard Cole, the oldest survivor at 98. The Dayton native, who was Doolittle’s co-pilot, lives in Comfort, Texas.

Lt. Col. Robert Hite, 93, couldn’t come. Son Wallace Hite said his father, wearing a Raiders blazer and other traditional garb for their reunions, made his own salute to the fallen with a silver goblet of wine at home in Nashville, Tenn., earlier in the week.

The 80 silver goblets in the ceremony were presented to the Raiders in 1959 by the city of Tucson, Ariz.

The Raiders’ names are engraved twice, the second upside-down. During the ceremony, white-gloved cadets presented each of the three with their personal goblets and their longtime manager poured the cognac. The deceased’s glasses are turned upside-down.



Click here to comment on this story »





Blogs


Dennis Held on the hold Spokane has on residents

Dennis titled this "The Theory of the Movement of Humans Through a Semi-Permeable Membrane, or, Osmosis: An Aquifer Indicted." "Because the Spokane Aquifer is directly beneath this whole valley, with ...


Zags rout Portland 92-66

Gonzaga hammered Portland 92-66 on Thursday as three Zags with Portland ties -- Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis and Silas Melson -- combined for 51 points and 20 rebounds. My unedited ...


The works of Catholics nuns in Spokane

The nuns of Spokane have been Franciscans, Dominicans, Sisters of the Good Shepherd and the Holy Names and several other orders and their works and presence has been powerful in ...





Sections


Profile

Contact the Spokesman

Main switchboard:
(509) 459-5000
Customer service:
(800) 338-8801
Newsroom:
(509) 459-5400
(800) 789-0029
Back to Spokesman Mobile