The last of the Doolittle Raiders were honored recently at their 67th Reunion in Columbia, South Carolina.
All nine men are veterans of the April 18, 1942 air attack on Tokyo, the capital of the Japanese Empire, as well as on Nagoya and Yokohama. The raid followed by only five months the Japanese sneak attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, inflicting thousands of casualties.
According to the US Air Force website, thousands of people honored the nine auvriving Doolittle Raiders at the reunion April 16-18, 2009. Among them was Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Colonel Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot who said that launching off the flight deck of an aircraft carrier as it neared Japan in Army B-25 medium bombers was regarded as the biggest challenge of the trip. Cole admitted he had an edge, being seated next to the best pilot in the world. Doolittle was a pre-war aviation pioneer. As a kid, Cole used to watch Doolittle doing flight tests at the test base at Dayton, Ohio, Cole’s hometown.
At the reunion, the hanger where the reunion was held had the length of the flight deck marked out.
“Even after Pearl Harbor, it was an encouraging fact that we could stand up for ourselves and persevere,” saidUS Air Force Academy Cadet Helen “Meg” Wildner, granddaughter of Doolittle Raider Lt. Col. Carl Wildner “When you talk to the Doolittle Raiders, they don’t necessarily consider themselves huge heroes; they were just doing their jobs.”
The April 18, 1942 Doolittle raid was an air attack meant to boost morale among American citizens who were reading of daily Japanese conquests around the Pacific Rim as it was for the actual damage it could inflict on Japan and Japanese morale.
The strike was launched from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet as it neared the Japanese coast. The Japanese were warned by picket boats of the approach of the aircraft, but thought they were shorter range Navy bombers instead of Army B-25s. Just to complicate matters for the Japanese, when the American fleet did spot and sink fishing boats that might be pickets, Doolittle launched the raid from beyond the limit of their fuel supply. The result was that the Japanese were caught unprepared though forwarned.
Aside from the moral factor, the raid succeeded in focusing attention on one of several plans being considered by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who decided in favor of striking at Midway Island north of Hawaii to protect the obviously vulnerable apporach to Japan. That fateful decision led to American forces breaking the back of the Japanese momentum with the destruction of the attacking aircraft carrier strike force.
Doolittle Raid Aftermath
Fifteen B-25s went down in China. Another landed near Vladivostok, Russia. Two B-25’s came down behind enemy lines and three crewmen were executed. Of the 80 volunteers who flew the mission, 71 returned from the war.
Navy Lt. Jennifer Craig, Defense Media Activity, “Thousands Honor Doolittle Raiders at the 67th Reunion,” Air Force Link http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123145188
“The Doolittle Raid,” Air Force Link http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123049767