Doolittle Raid: Four of Eighty Men Still Living

    November 11, 2013
    Lindsay McCane
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The “final reunion” of the men that took part in the Doolittle Raid took place at the US Air Force’s National Museum in Dayton, Ohio on Saturday.

Only four men of the eighty men that were a part of the raid are still living today, and they are all now in their nineties. Three of the four men, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Cole, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Saylor and Staff Sergeant David Thatcher, were able to attend the commemoration, and were honored that people took the time out of their busy lives to remember their bravery so many years ago.

Cole, who served as Doolittle’s co-pilot, addressed the crowd first saying, “Ladies and gentleman, once again we meet in this memorial park to reflect on the mission more than 71 years ago. We are grateful we had the opportunity to serve.” He then continued to talk about the “scariest time” during the raid, when he was about to parachute out of the airplane.

“That was the scariest time. “There you are in an airplane over a land you are not familiar with, under a big weather front, very active with lots of rain, with thunderstorms and lots of lightning and you are going to jump out. There are lots of questions that are going through your mind,” said 98-year-old,Cole.

The official Doolittle Raider’s website describes what happened on that eventful day:

The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders was a group eighty men from all walks of life who flew into history on April 18, 1942. They were all volunteers and this was a very dangerous mission. Sixteen B-25 bombers took off from the deck of the USS Hornet, led by (then Col.) Jimmy Doolittle. They were to fly over Japan, drop their bombs and fly on to land in a part of China that was still free. Of course, things do not always go as planned.

The months following the attack on Pearl Harbor were the darkest of the war, as Imperial Japanese forces rapidly extended their reach across the Pacific. Our military was caught off guard, forced to retreat, and losing many men in the fall of the Philippines, leading to the infamous Bataan Death March.

By spring, 1942, America needed a severe morale boost. The raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942, certainly provided that – cheering the American military and public. Yet, the Doolittle Raid meant so much more, proving to the Japanese high command that their home islands were not invulnerable to American attacks and causing them to shift vital resources to their defense. Two months later that decision would play a role in the outcome of the Battle of Midway, the American victory that would begin to turn the tide in the Pacific War.

93-year-old, Saylor, says he keeps busy by talking to the younger generations about World War II. “I got two commitments next week: high schools, rotary club, Kiwanis, military outfits. Lots of interest in it, so I speak quite often,” he said. He is trying to educate today’s youth, and anyone who is interested, about the horrific war, so no one forgets why so many people lost their lives fighting for their country.

Near the end of the reunion, Cole proposed a toast to all those men they lost while fighting. “Gentlemen, I propose a toast to those we lost on the mission, and those who have passed away since: thank you very much and may they rest in peace,” he said.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

  • Yep

    The raid really was challenging. World War II was over 70 years ago. The America that fought WWII is not the America of 2013. We are only fooling ourselves if we think we are. In 2013, America looks like pre-WWII Germany and if we aren’t careful, there will be other countries that one day speak of a Doolittle raid on America.

    No disrespect to the men who did the Doolittle raid but I get tired of blind patriotism and America resting on events that happened 7 decades ago. We say we love our troops. If we really loved them, we wouldn’t be sending them to die in useless wars that are accomplishing nothing.

    You fight when you have to fight. You fight when there are real objectives. No one is attacking us and frankly our only objectives surround oil, arms sales, and drugs. Smedley Butler knew what war is all about. We should listen to the most decorated soldier in American history. Bring our troops home and lets live in peace.

    • @Yep

      I agree. We have been blindly patriotic since 9/11. I also agree with the comment on us looking like pre-WWII Germany. Germany had a wave of blind nationalism before WWII. The parallels between Germany and America are very scary. Everything from the economy, to the police state, to rising incarceration, to xenophobia, to the surveillance state. Go outside the country and everyone is talking about this. Americans are blind though. Just like the Germans were.

      1940s America is not 2013 America. It is time we brought the troops home. We have been at war for 12 years. My God, WWII only took 4.

    • @Yep

      I agree with you and I come from a military family. We should support our troops and bring them home. Make no mistake about it. Many of our soldiers don’t like what is going on in our country today. I know many veterans who are also upset. Don’t get me wrong. There are threats — but they have always been around. It is nothing new. The government tells us that we are winning the war on terror. That is BS. The terrorists won because we fundamentally changed who we are. I mean look at us. We are afraid of our shadows in this nation. Did you ever think you would see the day when all of America is being spied on? Then we would hunt the man who let the people know? That is not American. That is the action of tyranny. Respect the sacrifice of all troops. Respect them by bringing them home to their families.

  • William

    You equate our nation to that of Nazi Germany, really? When was the last time our country conquered and occupied a foreign country? When was the last time our country eliminated millions of its own citizens? When was the last time our country sought to expand its borders by force? Those of us who served and those who currently serve do so at the behest of our political leaders that you elected. If anything we should look at what has happened to our nation since WWII, particularly our politicians lack of clarity and resolve when committing our military to go in harms way. Remembering and honoring those who have served, particularly those few remaining WWII vets, is anything but “blind patriotism.” but is on of the most honorable things our people can do. Certainly you have heard the axiom “Learn from your history or you are doomed to relive it.” If you really want to be concerned about the future of our nation be wary of historians that want to rewrite WWII history and can hardly wait for the last survivor to pass so these self proclaimed scholars can reshape history to meet their own misguided objectives like yours.

    • @William

      Really William? Really? Did you even read what you wrote?

      1) When was the last time our country conquered and occupied a foreign land? My God, we are in every country in the freaking middle east. Do you really think the people in those countries want us there? Would you like China to come and put a military base in the middle of your freaking state? No, you wouldn’t.

      2) We expand our borders in peacetime by putting bases in every country in the world. We have thousands of them. They don’t call it American Imperialism for nothing.

      3)The soldiers who fought for Germany in WWII did so at the behest of their political leaders. Just like what is occurring now. That is what soldiers do. They follow orders and are told not to question. Following orders doesn’t make it right.

      4)Yes, you remember the vets of WWII. Nothing wrong with that. But 1940s America is not even remotely close to America of 2013. That was 7 decades ago.

      5)Yes, learn from history. Learn from all history. Not just your own because history is sculpted by those who win wars. Believe me, the rest of the world has a history too and it is vastly different than American history. Also, lately haven’t you noticed a trend of lying in American history. Everything from WMDs to Pat Tillman to Jessica Lynch to Benghazi. How can you trust anything our government tells us?

      6) No, America does not eliminate millions of people. However, we do arrest millions. We arrest more than any other nation in the history of mankind. We also make billions off of it. Yeah, we don’t kill people, but we sure as hell profit off of suffering. In fact, we have well over 2 million people in prison right now and we are continually building new prisons, privatizing them and listing them on the NYSE.

      No one said it was wrong to honor our veterans. No one said we are Nazi Germany. Read what I wrote closer and don’t read into what I wrote. Yes, honor the scarifies of veterans, but don’t ignore the realities of America either. One day, you just might wake up and find that everything you fought for is gone and it was by the hand of the very country you fought for.

    • @William

      I don’t think anyone is saying we are Nazi Germany. What the person is trying to say is that we have to be realistic about who we are today. Not nostalgic about who we were 70 years ago. Yes, you learn about the past. You study it. But you better keep a fixed eye on the present because if you don’t, the future can be taken from you in a heartbeat. Evil knows no nationality, race, or era. Evil is evil and it can come to any land and at any time. Tyranny can come to any land and our founding fathers knew this all too well.

  • IMHO

    I think America needs to look at who they are today and not who they think they are or who they were. There is a big difference.

  • John Q. Citizen


    My Dad fought in Korea and lived through the horrors of WWII. My family has always been very patriotic. Mom, Dad, Apple Pie, Football, and all that nonsense. I was very surprised the other day when we were having lunch and my Dad just up and says that he has great concerns for this country. He said the country he fought for in the past is not the country of today.
    You may get a lot of thumbs down for your comment, but I for one, have heard the very things you wrote about. I don’t think you are being un-American but realistic. We have changed a lot.

  • L. Beane

    I went to the 9/11 site. Molten steel was found under Building 6 even though it was not even hit and Building 7 looked exactly like a controlled demolition site. Ever since then, I have no idea what to believe in America. I am a nobody and don’t have any answers, but I know what I saw. I am also an airplane buff. Again, not an expert, but I have seen crash sites and Shanksville did not look like an airplane crash site. There was nothing there. Literally. Compare it to others and you will see. I find it hard to believe that after the Columbia shuttle crashed they were able to find body parts and 83,000 pieces of the craft. Columbia was going 17,000 mph. Yet, in Shanksville they found nothing. Not one freaking body. Ever since 9/11, I find it very hard to believe in my country. The fake Pat Tillman story and Jessica Lynch stories have not helped either. I will respect veterans but have lost faith in my country because frankly I think we are being lied to on a daily basis.

    • @L

      Sad but true. I too have many questions and concerns. For me personally, it is the Pentagon that is the problem. I work for an aircraft engine manufacturer. Those engines are indestructible. The say they found 1 engine but it doesn’t look to be the proper size for that plane. For me it is very simple, the Pentagon is surrounded by cameras. The buildings surrounding the pentagons have cameras. All they need to do is release a tape of the plane hitting the Pentagon. Yet, they won’t do that. They claim national security. I don’t see the problem with seeing the event occur. It isn’t going to make us less safe. It is evidence the American public deserves to see. If they are withholding evidence then there is a reason why. Something is amiss. Something is not right.

  • Being American

    Here is what upsets me about America. We spent more money on investigation Monica Lewinsky than we did on the 9/11 investigation. We literally spent more money on a woman sucking a **** than we did on finding out how 3,000 of our own citizens died. We can say all the patriotic things we want but the reality is that we have not honored our dead. You know how you honor your country? You put your money where your mouth is and you find the truth. No matter how hard it is to swallow.