National News

November 9, 2013

WWII Doolittle Raiders making final toast

Thousands of visitors streamed to the national Air Force museum on Saturday to pay a Veterans Day weekend tribute to the few surviving members of the Doolittle Raiders, airmen whose daring raid on Japan helped boost American morale during World War II, as they planned to make their ceremonial final toast together.

Officials at the museum near Dayton said parking lots filled up within about an hour after opening Saturday morning, and later vehicles were sent to overflow areas.

After a memorial service and B-25 bomber flyover, the Raiders planned to make a last toast to comrades who died in or since their mission. The toast grew from reunions led by Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle, who commanded the daring mission credited with stunning the Japanese after a string of military successes.

“It’s a piece of history, it’s the last time,” said Bruce Sink, 62, of Kettering, Ohio, who was browsing books about the Raiders at the museum gift shop. “These were pretty brave guys.”

Twelve-year-old Joseph John Castellano’s grandparents brought him from their Dayton home.

“This was Tokyo. The odds of their survival were 1 in a million,” the boy said. “I just felt like I owe them a few short hours of the thousands of hours I will be on Earth.”

Only four of the 80 Raiders are still living, and one was unable to attend Saturday because of health issues.

Officials at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force said more than 600 people, including Air Force leaders and Raiders widows and children, were expected for the invitation-only ceremony Saturday evening. Also expected were relatives of Chinese villagers who helped Raiders elude capture and two U.S. survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor five months earlier.

After Thomas Griffin of Cincinnati died in February at age 96, the survivors decided they would gather this autumn for one last toast together instead of waiting as had been the original plan for the last two survivors to make the toast.

Raiders participating Saturday were Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, Doolittle’s co-pilot, 98, of Comfort, Texas; Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, 93, of Puyallup, Wash., and Sgt. David Thatcher, 92, of Missoula, Mont.

The fourth surviving Raider, Lt. Col. Robert Hite, 93, couldn’t come, but his son and other family members from Nashville, Tenn., planned to represent him. Son Wallace Hite said his father, wearing a Raiders blazer and other traditional garb for their reunions, made his own salute to the fallen with a silver goblet of wine at home earlier in the week.

Hite is the last survivor of eight Raiders who were captured by Japanese soldiers. Three were executed; another died in captivity.

The 80 silver goblets in the ceremony were presented to the Raiders in 1959 by the city of Tucson, Ariz. The Raiders’ names are engraved twice, the second upside-down. During the ceremony, white-gloved cadets pour cognac into the participants’ goblets. Those of the deceased are turned upside-down.

The cognac will be from 1896, Doolittle’s birth year.

The volunteers for the April 1942 mission were told only that it would be extremely hazardous when they began training. The attack on Tokyo and other locations on Honshu Island began with the risky sea launch of 16 land-based bombers from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. After the attack, the planes lacked fuel to reach safe airfields in China.

Three crew members died as the Raiders bailed out or crash-landed their planes in China, but most were helped to safety by Chinese villagers and soldiers. The Japanese retaliated by executing Chinese suspected of helping the Americans.

The raid caused minimal damage to the targets, but embarrassed the Japanese high command which redeployed its naval forces. The Japanese resolved to prevent further such attacks by destroying the U.S. carriers, a decision that led to the devastating defeat at the Battle of Midway in June 1942 that was a turning point in the Pacific war.

1
Text Only
National News
  • NASA’s space station Robonaut finally getting legs

    Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs.

    April 19, 2014

  • Documents detail another delayed GM recall

    Government documents show that General Motors waited years to recall nearly 335,000 Saturn Ions for power steering failures despite getting thousands of consumer complaints and warranty repair claims.

    April 19, 2014

  • Captain of sunken SKorean ferry, 2 crew arrested

    The captain of the ferry that sank off South Korea, leaving more than 300 missing or dead, was arrested Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a rookie third mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred.

    April 19, 2014

  • Asia seeks Obama’s assurance in territorial spats

    As President Barack Obama travels through Asia this coming week, he will confront a region that’s warily watching the crisis in Ukraine through the prism of its own territorial tensions with China.

    April 19, 2014

  • Delay won’t quell 2014 wrangling over Keystone XL

    Democrats sweating this year’s elections may be hoping that the Obama administration’s latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.

    April 19, 2014

  • 5 features an Amazon phone might offer

    A report this week in The Wall Street Journal that Amazon is planning to release a smartphone has prompted industry analysts and technology blogs to muse about what the device might offer.

    April 19, 2014

  • Colorado deaths stoke worries about pot edibles

    A college student eats more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced cookie and jumps to his death from a hotel balcony. A husband with no history of violence is accused of shooting his wife in the head, possibly after eating pot-infused candy.

    April 19, 2014

  • Boston prepares for huge wave of marathon visitors

    With an expanded field of runners and the memory of last year’s bombings elevating interest in one of the world’s great races, the 2014 Boston Marathon could bring an unprecedented wave of visitors and an influx of tourism dollars to the area.

    April 19, 2014

  • Autopsy to ID dead boy; body cast off side of road

    All Massachusetts authorities could say for sure is that they found the lifeless body of a small boy, apparently cast off the side of a highway.

    April 19, 2014

  • 10 Things to Know: This Week’s Takeaways

    Looking back at the stories to remember from the past week:

    April 19, 2014