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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Doolittle's Raiders

For two history buffs and one huge military flight history aficionado,  this weekend's events, at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base, were awe inspiring.

This week, 68 years ago, 80 airmen launched from the USS Hornet on a mission to boost the American morale and strike a psychological blow to the Japanese. Today, my family and I attended a memorial service to honor the 9 surviving members of the Doolittle Raid, and to remember the other 71 who are now gone. They dared the ambitious and the audacious...Heroes all!

Attending the 68th reunion of the Doolittle Raiders were Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, 90, of Comfort, Texas, co-pilot of aircraft No. 1. Maj. Thomas C. Griffin, 92, of Cincinnati, Ohio, Navigator of aircraft No. 9. Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, 90, of Nashville, Tennessee, co-pilot of aircraft No. 16 and Engineer-gunner of aircraft No. 7, Master Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 88, of Missoula, Montana. The remaining four Raiders, Col. William M. Bower, 93, Lt. Col. Frank A. Kappeler, 96, Capt. Charles J. Ozuk, 93, and Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor, 90, were unable to travel to the event. Since 1945 there has been only three years were a reunion has not been held. The first was held in 1945 as a birthday party for Col. Doolittle.

In honor of the Doolittle Raid and the Doolittle Raiders the largest group of B-25 bombers to assemble since WWII flew into Wright-Patterson AFB on Saturday to honor the surviving members of the Doolittle Raid that few B-25's off the USS Hornet to become the first to bomb Japan during WWII. A group of 20 B-25's flew into WPAFB Saturday morning and were on static display at the AF Museum over the weekend. On Sunday, a moving memorial was held on the grounds of the museum with the B-25s flying, in formation, overhead.

The Doolittle Raid is the popular name given to a mission flown by members of the United States Army Air Force and Navy.

Lt. Col. "Jimmy" Doolittle flew their B-25 Mitchell bombers off of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) in the first strike against the Japanese home islands. The Doolittle Raiders attacked military and industrial targets in several Japanese cities and their surprise attack on the previously untouched home islands of Japan is considered by many historians to be a primary cause of the Japanese decisions that let to the Battle of Midway during which the Japanese lost four aircraft carriers. It was also symbolic as the United States first major strike back.

After the Doolittle Raid the Raiders continued on in the service of their country. Many of them continued flying combat missions over enemy territory and several were killed during the war on other missions. Three of the Raiders died within a day of the raid as a result of a crash landing and a parachute failure (or insufficient altitude for it to open) and eight were imprisoned by the Japanese. Three of these men were executed by the Japanese and another died for lack of proper treatment. Several of the Raiders ended up as prisoners of the Germans, and participated in the real events that were portrayed in the epic film The Great Escape. Their leader, Jimmy Doolittle, continued his brilliant career in the service of our country as the commander of the 12th Air Force and then the 8th Air Force which contributed a great deal to the Allied victory in Europe.

After the war many of the Raiders continued in their country's service and several rose to high ranks in the Air Force.

One of the men imprisoned by the Japanese became a Christian during his prison stay and returned to Japan as a missionary. Still others returned to civilian life here in the United States.

The Doolittle Raid has been the portrayed in several films, most notably the film Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo telling the story of Doolittle Raider Ted Lawson and his crew on the mission. Other titles include Pearl Harbor, and The Purple Heart.

My handsome military fly boy...

2 of my favorite girls...Mom and Grace

It was such a moving experience, a once in my lifetime event. I was so proud to be a witness to this, and to remember...

Wishing you all a sweet week ahead...

Love to you all.


Andrea Frazer - Pass the Zoloft said...

Hi beautiful! I found your link at long last! I have missed you. Your blog is fantastic as usual. And that last song made me cry. Who is it by? Andrea

Lydia said...

great story and great pictures

Bonnie said...

That story gave me goosebumps. What awesome men they are and were. I only knew about the Doolittle Raiders from the movie Pearl Harbor. Thanks so much for sharing the pictures and the stories.

Pamela said...

I would have loved to attended that with you.
It has always been an amazing story of courage.
That there are still some of them living is also amazing!

Jeanie said...

Moving yes, and your story is fascinating. What a remarkable day! I just recently learned of something called "Honor Flight" (out of Columbus and other places) that takes vets to the WWII memorial. How cool -- their contributions can't be underestimated.