Monday, April 16, 2012

The Doolittle Raid, 70 Years Ago

The 70th anniversary of the famous Doolittle Raid is tomorrow April 18th. The surviving Doolittle Raiders; Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite. Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor, Maj. Thomas C. Griffin and Master Sgt. David J. Thatcher are expected to appear at the reunion April 17-20 at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton Ohio. For the first time there will be a private Chinese representative, Hu Dixian of Zhejian, China, the daughter of Liu Li Senlin who helped one of the Doolittle Raiders in China. At least twenty five surviving B-25s will fly in for the event, the largest gathering of the venerable bomber since the War. More than 25,000 people are also expected to attend what Aviation Online Magazine is reporting as the last Raiders reunion. However, I have not found any other information that states this is the last reunion. I believe the reunions will continue in some form until all of these brave men are gone. These iconic heroes, all men in their 90s, are living American history. Sometime on April 18th they will stand at attention before a simple but elegant display case of 80 silver goblets, each engraved with the name of a Doolittle Raider. In fact, each name is engraved twice, one for reading right side up and the other, for those that have passed, to be read when the goblet is turned upside down. Seventy five are upside down. Lt. Col. Richard Cole, 96, will say “To those who have gone” to be repeated by the others together, as one, “To those who have gone.” There were eight Raiders captured by the Japanese, three of whom were executed, a fourth died in a Japanese prison camp, three more died attempting to reach landing fields in China and another ten died later in the war. Two who survived were shot down over Germany and met each other in the German camp Stalag Luft III, the camp depicted in the movie “The Great Escape”. Recently, I have had the distinct privilege of corresponding with Jonna Hoppes Doolittle, the granddaughter of Colonel Doolittle. She has written “Calculated Risk: The Extraordinary Life of Jimmy Doolittle” and “Just doing My Job: Stories of Service From World War II”, both excellent books. She is now reading “Humble Heroes, How The USS Nashville Cl43 Fought WWII.” We must never forget, not only the men of the Doolittle Raiders, but the very reason they made their sacrifice and what it ultimately means to all Americans as well as those that continue to fight for freedom.

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