Doolittle's Raiders observe 70th Anniversary

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  1. Leader of WWII bombing raid on Japan remembered

    By SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press

    ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) - Airman Edward Saylor didn't expect to come back alive when his B-25 set off for the first U.S. bomb attack on Japan during World War II.

    Saylor and the other 79 "Doolittle's Raiders" were forced to take off in rainy, windy conditions significantly further from Japan than planned, straining their fuel capacity. None of the 16 planes' pilots had ever taken off from an aircraft carrier before.

    "Some of the group thought they'd make it," Saylor said. "But the odds were so bad."

    Saylor and two other raiders, Maj. Thomas Griffin and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher - all in their 90s now - recalled their daring mission and its leader, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, at a commemoration Saturday aboard the USS Hornet in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco.

    Doolittle's mission has been credited with boosting American morale following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But it did not come without a price.

    Three raiders were killed while trying to land in China. Eight were captured by the Japanese, of which three were executed and a fourth died of disease in prison.

    The Japanese also killed Chinese villagers suspected of helping many of the airmen escape.

    Griffin recalled ditching his plane when it ran out of fuel after the raid and parachuting to the ground in darkness.

    "I got out of my airplane by jumping real fast," he said. "It was a long, strange journey to the land down below."

    Griffin landed in a tree and clung to it until daybreak.

    Saturday's event was held in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the raiders' April 18, 1942 mission. It also included: Doolittle's granddaughter, Jonna Doolittle Hoppes; two seamen aboard the carrier the raiders left from, the USS Hornet CV-8, Lt. Cmdr. Richard Nowatzki and Lt. j.g. Oral Moore; and a Chinese official who as a teenager helped rescue the raiders, Lt. Col. Chu Chen.

    The American airmen remembered Doolittle as a great planner who knew his aircraft and fought alongside them.

    Hoppes said her grandfather, who was born in Alameda and died in 1993, was very proud of the men on the mission.

    "I grew up with 79 uncles in addition to the ones I really had," she said. "He was just very proud of how they turned out."

    Bless them all.
  2. (added) Comments from a former 8AF B-17 navigator who flew out of the UK.

    I attended the first organizational convention of the Air Force Association in columbus, Ohio in 1946. I lived in cleveland.....and we had a six month old daughter...who slept in the dresser drawer in our hotel room. I rode up on the elevator with Doolittle a couple times....he was in charge of the 8th Air Force most of the time I was in England. We had a big banquet the second night. In attendance were Dwight Eisenhower, Admiral Nimitz, Senator Vandenburg, Jimmy Dootlittle, the famous flier whose name slips my mind tonight.....he and part of his crew spent weeks in the Pacific before they I remember, Rickenbacker and many others. We were at a table about 6 feet from the speakers platform.....I have often said that if the Russians had dropped a bomb on that hotel that night they woulld have destroyed most of our top military organization. John
  3. I actually met Mr. Rickenbacker a few times when I was a kid in the early 60's. He had an office at 45 Rockefeller Plaza in New York on the same floor as my dad's office. He was one of my dad's heroes and a nice man. One time he took me down to his office and gave me a set of Eastern Airlines pilots wings (real ones, not the plastic one they give kids on planes).
  4. [FONT=&amp]B-25 bombers fill the sky to honor Doolittle Raiders[/FONT]
    [FONT=&amp]Surprise was tactic that saved them during WWII raid, recalls 1 crewman.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&amp]By Barrie Barber, Staff Writer [/FONT]
    [FONT=&amp]Updated 10:22 PM Wednesday, April 18, 2012

    [/FONT]WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — A fleet of rumbling B-25 bombers filled the sky in formation above the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Wednesday, while four surviving Doolittle Tokyo Raiders remembered a mission 70 years ago to the day that changed the course of World War II.

    Eighty men flew in 16 Army Air Force bombers off the pitching flight deck of the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, to attack Japan in the first U.S. military strike since the attack on Pearl Harbor.

    “We all shared the same risk and had no realization of the positive effect our mission” would have on the nation as it faced an era of “great peril,” said retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, a Dayton native who was Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot on the raid, at a memorial service in the museum’s Memorial Park.

    The four raiders, Cole, 96, who lives in Comfort, Texas; Maj. Thomas C. Griffin, 95, of Cincinnati; Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor, 92, of Puyallup, Wash.; and Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 90, of Missoula, Mont., watched as the bombers flew over their heads in a salute to their mission.

    Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, 92, of Nashville, Tenn., was unable to attend.

    Saylor said he did not expect to survive when he and his crew launched off the Hornet to bomb Japan.
    “The odds were just too much against us,” he told the Dayton Daily News after the ceremony. But surprise was a tactic the Japanese didn’t anticipate, he said. “That’s what saved us.”

    The Doolittle crewmen embodied courage, sacrifice, leadership, ingenuity and teamwork “and help remind us today what it takes to preserve freedom,” said John “Jack” Hudson, Air Force museum director and a retired lieutenant general.

    The Doolitte-led bombers, with the exception of one that landed in Russia, either crash-landed or the crews bailed out over China low on fuel.
    He Shaoying was 6 years old when her father helped Doolittle, Cole and the rest of the crew after they bailed out. For the first time in 70 years, she traveled from China to Dayton to meet Cole a second time. She handed him a copy of a book titled “Doolittle Parachuting on Tianmu Mountain.”

    She didn’t remember meeting him as a small child, but asked him if he remembered what happened. He indicated he did.

    Thomas E. Anderson, 87, of Cincinnati, an Army Ranger who was severely injured in World War II, counts the Doolittle raid as a key turning point in the war.

    Anderson, a friend and neighbor of Griffin, said the raiders are still revered among his peers. “I know of no other group ... that is considered the same level,” he said.

    The flyover Wednesday was one of the largest gatherings of B-25s since the end of the war.

    “It was amazing,” said Jim Fouse, 63, of San Jose, Calif. “Everybody was flabbergasted.”

    Fouse, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Army, brought his 93-year-old father-in-law John Montoro to Dayton to witness the Doolittle gathering and share in a reunion of U.S. airmen held prisoner in German POW camps.

    Barbara Kennedy, 75, of Mystic, Conn., traveled with her husband, John, and friends for what could be the last time to see the famed Doolittle airmen.

    “The more we hear about the Doolittle raiders, the more interested we get and the prouder we are,” she said.
    Richard Cahn, 79, of Huntington, N.Y., was in elementary school when he learned of their mission.

    “This is just a wonderful rounding out for my feeling for them and the other men in the war,” he said.
    Elmo Wojahn, a USS Hornet sailor during the Doolittle raid, sat with the raiders as they watched the B-25s in formation.

    “I asked them how’d they like to fly over again with those guys,” said Wojahn, 88, of Houston, Minn. “They said they’d be ready to go anytime they had a chance.”
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    B-25 bombers fill the sky to honor Doolittle Raiders