Doolittle Raiders---The final toast
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In April, 2013 in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, the surviving Doolittle Raiders gathered publicly ...
Post By Patti
Post By Stoveman
Post By Arejay
Post By Once
Post By OldVet
September 27th, 2013 07:59 PM
Doolittle Raiders---The final toast
It's the cup of brandy that no one wants to drink.
In April, 2013 in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, the surviving Doolittle Raiders gathered publicly for the last time.
They once were among the most universally admired and revered men in the United States. There were 80 of the Raiders in April 1942, when they carried out one of the most courageous and the 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 only four survive.
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 United States 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 before been tried -- sending such big, heavy bombers from a carrier.
The 16 five-man crews, under the command of Lt. Col. James Doolittle, who himself flew the lead plane off the USS Hornet, knew that they would not be able to return to the carrier. They would have to hit Japan and then hope to make it to China for a safe landing.
But on the day of the raid, the Japanese military caught wind of the plan. The Raiders were told that they would have to take off from much farther out in the Pacific Ocean than they had counted on. They were told that because of this they would not have enough fuel to make it to safety.
And those men went anyway.
They bombed Tokyo, and then flew as far as they could. Four planes crash-landed; 11 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. One crew made it to Russia.
The Doolittle Raid 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, 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 have held a reunion each April, to commemorate the mission. The reunion is 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 passes away, his goblet is turned upside down in the case at the next reunion, as his old friends 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 are only two surviving Raiders, they would open the bottle, at last drink from it, and toast their comrades who preceded them in death.
As 2013 began, there were five living Raiders; then, in February, Tom Griffin passed away at age 96.
What a man he was. After bailing out of his plane over a mountainous Chinese forest after the Tokyo raid, he became ill with malaria, and almost died. When he recovered, he was sent to Europe to fly more combat missions. He was shot down, captured, and spent 22 months in a German prisoner of war camp.
The selflessness of these men, the sheer guts ... there was a passage in the Cincinnati Enquirer obituary for Mr. Griffin that, on the surface, had nothing to do with the war, but that emblematizes the depth of his sense of duty and devotion:
"When his wife became ill and needed to go into a nursing home, he visited her every day. He walked from his house to the nursing home, fed his wife and at the end of the day brought home her clothes. At night, he washed and ironed her clothes. Then he walked them up to her room the next morning. He did that for three years until her death in 2005."
So now, out of the original 80, only four Raiders remain: Dick Cole (Doolittle's co-pilot on the Tokyo raid), Robert Hite, Edward Saylor and David Thatcher. All are in their 90s. They have decided that there are too few of them for the public reunions to continue.
The events in Fort Walton Beach this week will mark the end. It has come full circle; Florida's nearby Eglin Field was where the Raiders trained in secrecy for the Tokyo mission. The town is planning to do all it can to honor the men: a six-day celebration of their valor, including luncheons, a dinner and a parade.
Do the men ever wonder if those of us for whom they helped save the country have tended to it in a way that is worthy of their sacrifice? They don't talk about that, at least not around other people. But if you find yourself near Fort Walton Beach this week, and if you should encounter any of the Raiders, you might want to offer them a word of thanks. I can tell you from firsthand observation that they appreciate hearing that they are remembered.
The men have decided that after this final public reunion they will wait until a later date -- some time this year -- to get together once more, informally and in absolute privacy. That is when they will open the bottle of brandy. The years are flowing by too swiftly now; they are not going to wait until there are only two of them.
They will fill the four remaining upturned goblets.
And raise them in a toast to those who are gone.
Their 70th Anniversary Photo
PLEASE SEND THIS ON TO EVERYONE IN YOUR ADDRESS BOOK, ESPECIALLY TO THOSE WHO WERE TOO YOUNG TO KNOW ABOUT THESE GUYS. THIS SHOULD BE READ BY EVERY KID IN GRADE AND HIGH SCHOOL SO THEY KNOW WHAT HAPPENED.
September 27th, 2013 08:06 PM
Excellent post. These men were among America's Greatest Generation....a place in history that time has now all but passed by. May everyone who participated in WWII, and those who lived through it here at home, know that they were America's last, finest generation that upheld all that made us the greatest success the world has yet known. It makes the downward spiral we live through today that much more frustrating. We have worked tirelessly to destroy what they gave all to save.
Last edited by IndianaSig; September 27th, 2013 at 09:16 PM.
September 27th, 2013 09:03 PM
Nice and interesting article Patti.
September 27th, 2013 09:13 PM
September 27th, 2013 09:33 PM
I wish that there was some kind of nationwide letter circulating thanking them. I'd love to add my signature to a couple of million others thanking them. I hope they know they will never be forgotten.
September 27th, 2013 09:52 PM
And thats why they are called the Greatest Generation.
September 27th, 2013 10:23 PM
A few years ago I had the opportunity to listen to Dick Cole and one other crewman (Can't recall the name) give a talk about the mission. Q&A session didn't go over so well as both men had lost much of their hearing. What impressed me, as does most men of the era, was that they considered the raid as just another mission they had to do--no glory or fame sought.
Retired USAF E-8. Curmudgeon at large. Lighten up and enjoy life because:
Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep. It starts when you're always afraid...
Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth
September 28th, 2013 01:45 PM
"Each worker carried his sword strapped to his side." Nehemiah 4:18
Guns Save Lives. Paramedics Save Lives. But...
Paramedics With Guns Scare People!
September 28th, 2013 04:00 PM
Here is another link:
"Ideals are peaceful. History is violent."
Don Collier, Fury
September 28th, 2013 08:24 PM
Their bravery is unsurpassed.
September 30th, 2013 04:44 AM
Somewhere out in cyberspace is a set of pictures of the planes and crews, with the names attached, taken aboard the carrier before launch.
I recall receiving it as an email a while back.
"The time is now near at hand which must determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves."
------------------------------------— George Washington 1776
Gun free zones
are safe havens-
September 30th, 2013 07:26 AM
Words cannot express my gratitude and feelings for these and other fine service men of this era. Also lets not forget the home front people who made it possible for us as a country to persevere, sacrifice, and win that war. I was only a child entering grade school in 1943, but I remember a good deal of the hardships everyone endured, and the anguish felt when a local died overseas.
This certainly was the Greatest Generation, and I was born too late.
September 30th, 2013 12:25 PM
Here is a link to a whole mess of pictures of the Raiders.
Originally Posted by nontechguy
I remember passing the Doolittle Raiders Memorial many times while stationed at Eglin AFB and wondering just what it would be like to fly a mission like that.
When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.
"Don't forget, incoming fire has the right of way."
Hóka-héy! Crazy Horse
September 30th, 2013 12:34 PM
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive." C.S. Lewis
September 30th, 2013 12:48 PM
These men have done us honor by dwelling amongst us.
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