by Gabriel Myers 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs4/20/2010 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Four of the remaining eight famed Doolittle Raiders, known for their nearly impossible bombing raid on Japan, reunited for the 68th year at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, April 16-18.
Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, 94 of Comfort, Texas; Major Thomas C. Griffin, 92 of Cincinnati, Ohio; Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, 90, Nashville, Tenn., and Master Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 88, Missoula, Mont., came together again to share memories, sign autographs and be recognized once again as an iconic piece of American history that helped propel the allies to victory in WWII.
On April 18, 1942 Colonel Jimmy Doolittle led a group of 80 men to fly B-25 Bombers from the deck of an aircraft carrier more than 600 miles to drop bombs on Japan. At the time getting a bomber airborne from an aircraft carrier's deck had barely been tested.
|Wings Over Ohio!|
The reunion kicked off Friday afternoon with the men at the museum signing autographs on books, airplanes, photos and even clothing with hundreds waiting their turn to meet the famed aviators in the modern airpower gallery. Those who attended were eager to hear their story and talk about the importance or their mission in shaping the outcome of WWII.
"Well I'm an aviation historian and it's also an opportunity to meet the great heroes of American history," said Bob Jaques who drove to the event from Alabama.
Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, who attended a dinner in their honor Friday night, said the men continue to be an inspiration to Airmen today.
"The Doolittle Raiders have a very special place in the history of the Air Force," Secretary Donley said prior to the dinner, "They've provided such great examples to us of leadership, of audacity, of innovation and personal courage, in some of the darkest days of WWII." The men were honored on Saturday by a fly-in of 17 replica B-25 Mitchell bombers privately owned from all over the country onto the museum runway to help celebrate the occasion. Officials say it was one of the largest gatherings of B-25's since WWII.
Also on Saturday the Raiders participated in a ceremony to toast and honor their fellow colleagues who have died. Following the toast the last survivors overturned the goblets of those who have died since the last reunion.
Throughout the weekend the men signed hundreds of autographs and spoke with well wishers who were eager to see, honor and be a part of American History.
The event concluded with the B-25's taking off on a beautiful day from the Museum runways with thousands of patrons lining the streets and fence lines to attempt to get a glimpse of the aircraft and ensuing fly over by all 17 aircraft for a memorial service in the early afternoon.
The word "hero" is over-used in this country and broadly applied to sports figures, rock stars and others, museum director Retired Major General Charles Metcalf told the crown at the Memorial Service.
"Today, in the truest sense of the word, we are among heroes," said Metcalf.
Note: Recommended Warrior Reading:
I Could Never Be So Lucky Again, General Jimmy Doolittle, USAFR
(Highest ranking Reserve office since General of the Armies George Washington)