Tuesday, April 18 will mark the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, a daring bombing attack upon five Japanese cities that occurred April 18, 1942. Eighty volunteer airmen flying 16 B-25 bombers, led by legendary aviator Lt. Col James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, took off from the deck of the carrier USS Hornet early that morning and struck back at Japan in retaliation for the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy on Dec. 7, 1941.
Today, only one member of the Doolittle Raid remains: 101-year-old Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Doolittle’s co-pilot. On the morning of April 18 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, a private ceremony that has become famous in the annals of modern aviation will be held. Cole will turn over the silver goblet of my late father, S. Sgt. David J. Thatcher, the second-to-last surviving member of the Doolittle Raid, and make one final toast to all the Raiders who have preceded him before drinking for the last time from his standing silver goblet.
The passage of time has taken its toll on the Raiders who, like so many other members of the Greatest Generation, stepped up during a period of world crisis to save democracy and the United States. Of the 61 Raiders who survived the raid and World War II, accidents, disease, age and finally death have carried all but one into the afterlife. But the memory of their daring action lives on.
Of the 80 Raiders who bombed Japan, three were killed after exiting their aircraft on the night of the Raid; eight were captured by the Japanese — three of those were executed on October 15, 1942, one starved to death and four were held captive for 40 months; 10 were killed in action in Europe, North Africa and Indo-China; and two were killed in plane crashes in 1942 in the U.S.
In the four months after Pearl Harbor, the world was crumbling. The war in Europe had been raging for two years. A significant portion of the U.S. Pacific Fleet sat at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and the Japanese seemed unstoppable, seizing victory after victory in the Far East. In the U.S., morale was sinking and Americans were grasping for any good news.
Tasked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt with striking back at Japan for the attack on Pearl Harbor, Doolittle selected a band of gritty volunteers to accomplish the mission. America desperately needed a victory and Doolittle and his Raiders would deliver in stunning fashion, inflicting a blow upon Japan and shattering their belief in invincibility — which had been nurtured by no other successful invasion or attack of their homeland in the preceding 2,600 years.
If you missed the Doolittle Raiders Final Toast back in 2013 when there were only 3 Doolittle Raiders remaining check out the U.S. Airforce video below:
Published on Nov 9, 2013
The remaining members of the Doolittle Raiders raised their goblets and toasted one last time to their comrades in a ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.