Seventy years after the Doolittle Raiders took off from the USS Hornet in B-25s for the first air strike of World War II on the Japanese mainland, the five remaining Doolittle Raiders are coming together to commemorate their historic mission and share their stories with the public.
The reunion will take place April 17-20 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, and will include educational programs with the Doolittle Raiders, a memorial service with a B-25 flyover and a showing of the film Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, among other events.
American confidence made a turnaround in the spring of 1942 after news of the Doolittle Raid spread, and seven decades later the mission continues to endure as an iconic symbol of American valor and prowess during WWII. The aviation feats involved in the raid – the 16 B-25s of the Doolittle Raid remain the only land-based bombers to ever takeoff from a naval carrier for a combat mission – continue to evoke admiration from pilots and non-pilots alike.
As a result of the mission’s forced early start and the consequent fuel challenges, all 16 B-25s used in the Doolittle Raid were lost. Of the 80 men who participated in the Doolittle Raid, three were killed while attempting to bail-out of their aircraft and four others died at the hands of Japanese captors. Before the war ended, 10 additional Raiders were killed in action during other missions.
The five surviving crew slated to attend the reunion include Richard E. Cole, co-pilot of crew 1, Thomas Carson Griffin, navigator of crew 9, Robert L. Hite, co-pilot of crew 16, Edward Joseph Saylor, engineer of crew 15, and David J. Thatcher, engineer-gunner of crew 7.