80 years ago today

| April 18, 2022

Boomer reminds us that it was 80 years ago today that then-Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle led 80 men in 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers off the deck of USS Hornet. It was, from the outset, to be essentially a suicide mission. After bombing Tokyo, there were no plans to be recovered by American forces. At best, the crews were to bail out of their aircraft over friendly territory in China or Russia.

From Boomer;

THE FINAL TOAST !

They once were among the most universally admired and revered men in the United States.

There were 80 of the Raiders on April 18, 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 they are all gone . . .

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 U.S. 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 before — sending such big, heavy bombers from a carrier.

They would have to hit Japan and then hope to make it to China for a safe landing.

The 16 five man crews under the command of Lt. Colonel James Doolittle, who himself would fly the lead plane off the USS Hornet, knew that they would not be able to return to the carrier.

But on the day of the raid a Japanese fishing vessel was sighted. Fearing the boat notified the enemy’s military the Raiders had to take off much farther out from Japan than originally planned. They were told that because of this they would not have enough fuel to make it to safety. But those men went anyway.

They struck Tokyo, Japan’s capital and then flew as far as they could.

Four planes crash-landed. One crew made it to Russia. Eleven 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.

The Doolittle Raiders sent a message from the United States to its enemies and to the rest of the world: 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 began holding a reunion each April to commemorate the mission. The reunion was 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 would pass away his goblet was turned upside down in the case at the next reunion as his old friends would 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 were only two surviving Raiders they would open the bottle and at last drink from it and toast their comrades who preceded them in death.

That toast would have been made by S/Sgt. David Thatcher and Doolittle’s copilot, Lt Colonel Richard Cole at the 2016 reunion but the last four survivors had ceased their reunions due to their advanced ages.

Thatcher died that following June and Cole passed away three years later at the age of 103, the oldest of the surviving Raiders.

Florida’s Eglin Field was where the Raiders trained in secrecy for the Tokyo mission. In 2013 the town did all it could to honor the men: a six-day celebration of their valor, including luncheons, a dinner and a parade.

After that year’s reunion the few survivors decided it would be their final public reunion.

Later in 2013, they did get together once more, informally and in absolute privacy. There they opened the bottle of brandy. They said the years were flowing by too swiftly and they were not going to wait until there was only two of them. They filled the four remaining upturned goblets and raised them in a toast to those who preceded them into the Lord’s arms.

By 2019 when the last Raider passed away the story had come full circle.

Retired Lt. Colonel Richard “Dick” Cole, the last of the 80 Doolittle Tokyo Raiders who carried out the daring U.S. attack on Japan during World War II died April 19, 2019 at a military hospital in Texas. He was 103.

Remembered as a man who faithfully served his country and was a devoted father and a man of faith, Lt. Colonel Richard “Dick” Cole, the last of the Doolittle Raiders, was honored and posthumously promoted to the rank of Colonel during a September 7, 2021 ceremony at the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Golf Course ballroom.

Cole was the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders, a group of 80 crew members led by Lt. Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle who flew 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers from the USS Hornet April 18, 1942, en route to an air raid to attack Tokyo in World War II after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941.

Cole was Doolittle’s co-pilot in the lead B-25 aircraft during the mission.

Doolittle thought, with the total loss of all aircraft and the minimal damage inflicted on the enemy, that he’d face court martial upon his return to the states. Instead he was promoted immediately to brigadier general and received the Medal of Honor from President Franklin Roosevelt himself.

All 80 of Doolittle’s Raiders were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and they all received the Medal of the Armed Forces (A-1 Grade, the highest) from the Republic of China.

In 2014 the Doolittle Raiders received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civil honor of the US Congress. In September 2016, the Northrop Grumman B-21 was formally named “Raider” in honor of the Doolittle Raiders. The last surviving Doolittle Raider, retired Lt Col Richard E. Cole, was present at the naming ceremony at the Air Force Association conference.

 

Category: Air Force, Historical, Real Soldiers, Valor, We Remember

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STSC(SW/SS)

Nerves of steel, balls of brass.

I salute you.

Sapper3307

The clanging balls heard around the world!

Fyrfighter

That’s why they didn’t have enough fuel to make it to land, they stripped all the weight they could from the planes, but those brass balls…

Anonymous

Kick-ass book report material in school as a kid:
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Last edited 2 months ago by Anonymous
Fyrfighter

That it was! Still on my bookshelf…

SFC D

Yup, I wrote that book report too.

KoB

Yeppers…me too (no not THAT me too). Made an A+. Followed up with a report on “God is My Co-Pilot”. Made an A+ on that one too. Lost some points for penmanship. Donated both of those FIRST (ht 2 Hack Stone) Editions to the Museum of Aviation for one of their fund raising auctions.

Y’all did notice that those were (GO) Army Air Corps planes that took off on the mission from the (BEAT) Navy Flattops?

“That such men lived…”

Salute! Thanks, Mason.

Mick

Yup re: Army Air Corps B-25s. A great feat of combat airmanship by Doolittle and his team launching from USS HORNET in those conditions.

At that time, Navy/Marine Corps carrier aircraft simply didn’t have the range to execute a mission like that.

MustangCryppie

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037197/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_89

The Purple Heart.

Excellent film based on the Doolittle raid.

BennSue

I had the honor and privilege to meet many of these men. Although they have all passed, their sacrifice and actions will remain forever. Rest well, gentlemen, for you have earned it.

26Limabeans

My dads next door neighbor (Russ) was the guy in charge of
the HVAC systems on the Hornet. Yes, the damn thing was
air conditioned in certain sections. Had some interesting
conversations with him. Rest in peace Russ.

The Stranger

I remember when my wife and I toured the USS New Jersey and we saw the Captain’s quarters. My wife said, “This doesn’t look too bad.” Then I showed her what the Junior officers’ quarters looked like. I told her, “If I was Navy, this is where I’d sleep, sharing quarters with another officer.” The berth was smaller than my closet. Then we saw the enlisted bunks….yeah, no.

5JC

Young men such as these. Where are they to found in these days?

Anonymous

Nowhere, if progressives have their way.

CCO

One nit to pick: it wasn’t a suicide mission in that the raiders were suppose to land on airfields in China. The planes could then be flown on missions, it was hoped, in China. However, because they launched two hundred or so miles early, even with light loads and extra gas they couldn’t reach the fields.

Doolittle was an expert at economical cruising and tried to pass this on to his raiders.

Bonus fact: The Japanese Navy sortied looking for the American aircraft carriers. They pursued for, I think, 24 hours.

jeff LPH 3 63-66

There was a fuel problem due to they had to takeoff further away from their target because a Japanese fishing boat was seen and they didn’t know if the fishing boat contacted the Japanese about the carrier, so the planes didn’t have enough fuel to travel to their landing fields.

USAFRetired

In 1979, the Doolittle Raiders Association Reunion was Raiders was held in Charleston SC and I was privileged to meet General Doolittle and a number of other Raiders at a reception in conjunction with a parade to honor the Raiders at The Citadel.

Years later Lt Col Cole and I were staying at the same Hotel in Dayton OH on an April 18th and I got to meet him and his family.

Roh-Dog

These men’s story ain’t told enough.

God bless each and every one of ’em.

A Proud Infidel®™️

Steel-skinned brass-balls Warriors…