Doolittle Raid: Four of Eighty Men Still Living

    November 11, 2013

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