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Doolittle Raiders lift spirits sky-high at commemoration 4 of last survivors of air raid on Japan reunite By Ben Wolfgang - The Washington Times Wednesday, April 18, 2012.

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Doolittle Raiders lift spirits sky-high at commemoration4 of last survivors of air raid on Japan reuniteBy Ben Wolfgang-The Washington TimesWednesday, April 18, 2012


DAYTON, Ohio — The roar of B-25 bomber engines still echoed overhead as 96-year-old Richard E. Cole slowly walked to the podium Wednesday afternoon.

  • The Army Air Forces veteran, one of the five remaining survivors of Doolittle’s Tokyo Raid, was unfazed by the pomp and circumstance around him, as well as the rock star welcome he and his fellow Raiders received at the 70th anniversary celebration of the famous April 18, 1942, mission, hosted by the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

He quietly told the crowd that he never expected the daring raid, the nation’s first military response against the Japanese homeland four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, to make him a legend.

  • “We all shared the same risk. We had no realization of the positive effect of our mission,” said Mr. Cole, his voice cracking while a worn blue baseball cap shielded his eyes from the blazing sun. “We’re grateful we had the opportunity to serve, and mindful that the nation benefited from our service.”

Four of the five surviving Raiders - Mr. Cole, Edward J. Saylor, Thomas C. Griffin and David J. Thatcher - reunited this week to share their stories with other veterans, history buffs, members of the media and anyone else who showed up. Raider Robert L. Hite, 92, was too ill to make the trip to Dayton.


On Thursday night, the four men once again will take part in a personal tradition started by their former leader, Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle. Inside the sprawling Air Force Museum sits a glass case filled with 80 gleaming goblets, one representing each Raider, with a bottle of Hennessy Very Special Cognac - given to the Raiders by Doolittle - waiting to be opened by the last two survivors.


The goblets were on display inside the U.S. Air Force Academy, where they served as a reminder to younger airmen of the heroism of their predecessors.

  • “I was humbled, as a cadet, as an 18-year-old kid, walking by that Doolittle Raider display,” said Lt. Col. David M. Bachler, who teaches history at the academy. “It’s great for the cadets to have this living history” in front of them at the reunion.

Minutes before Mr. Cole’s brief speech, a squadron of 20 B-25s took off from airfields at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The planes soared above the crowd several times, drawing raucous cheers from an audience scattered across the grounds. Many were moved to tears by the tribute, which showcased the plane that made U.S. military history 70 years ago.