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Ralph
08-09-2013, 01:50 PM
I missed this since I don't watch CNN. I was only 3 when the raid happened but I do remember the latter part of the war. The raid did little militarily but was a real shot in the arm for morale. I do remember reading a comic book about the event and it was mentioned in the series "Victory At Sea".

(CNN)-Bob Greene -- It's the cup of brandy that no one wants to drink.

April 4, 2013 in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, the surviving Doolittle Raiders will gather publicly for the last time.

They once were among the most universally admired and revered men in the United States. There were 80 of the Raiders in April 1942, when they carried out one of the most courageous and heart-stirring military operations in this nation's history. The mere mention of their unit's name, in those years, would bring tears to the eyes of grateful Americans.

Now only four survive.

After Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, with the United States reeling and wounded, something dramatic was needed to turn the war effort around.

Even though there were no friendly airfields close enough to Japan for the United States to launch a retaliation, a daring plan was devised. Sixteen B-25s were modified so that they could take off from the deck of an aircraft carrier. This had never before been tried -- sending such big, heavy bombers from a carrier.

The 16 five-man crews, under the command of Lt. Col. James Doolittle, who himself flew the lead plane off the USS Hornet, knew that they would not be able to return to the carrier. They would have to hit Japan and then hope to make it to China for a safe landing.

But on the day of the raid, the Japanese military caught wind of the plan. The Raiders were told that they would have to take off from much farther out in the Pacific Ocean than they had counted on. They were told that because of this they would not have enough fuel to make it to safety.

And those men went anyway.

They bombed Tokyo, and then flew as far as they could. Four planes crash-landed; 11 more crews bailed out, and three of the Raiders died. Eight more were captured; three were executed. Another died of starvation in a Japanese prison camp. One crew made it to Russia.

The Doolittle Raid sent a message from the United States to its enemies, and to the rest of the world:

We will fight.

And, no matter what it takes, we will win.

Of the 80 Raiders, 62 survived the war. They were celebrated as national heroes, models of bravery. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced a motion picture based on the raid; "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," starring Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson, was a patriotic and emotional box-office hit, and the phrase became part of the national lexicon. In the movie-theater previews for the film, MGM proclaimed that it was presenting the story "with supreme pride."

Beginning in 1946, the surviving Raiders have held a reunion each April, to commemorate the mission. The reunion is in a different city each year. In 1959, the city of Tucson, Arizona, as a gesture of respect and gratitude, presented the Doolittle Raiders with a set of 80 silver goblets. Each goblet was engraved with the name of a Raider.

Every year, a wooden display case bearing all 80 goblets is transported to the reunion city. Each time a Raider passes away, his goblet is turned upside down in the case at the next reunion, as his old friends bear solemn witness.

Also in the wooden case is a bottle of 1896 Hennessy Very Special cognac. The year is not happenstance: 1896 was when Jimmy Doolittle was born.

There has always been a plan: When there are only two surviving Raiders, they would open the bottle, at last drink from it, and toast their comrades who preceded them in death.

As 2013 began, there were five living Raiders; then, in February, Tom Griffin passed away at age 96.

The name may be familiar to those of you who regularly read this column; in 2011, I wrote about the role Mr. Griffin played at his son's wedding.

What a man he was. After bailing out of his plane over a mountainous Chinese forest after the Tokyo raid, he became ill with malaria, and almost died. When he recovered, he was sent to Europe to fly more combat missions. He was shot down, captured, and spent 22 months in a German prisoner of war camp.

The selflessness of these men, the sheer guts ... there was a passage in the Cincinnati Enquirer obituary for Mr. Griffin that, on the surface, had nothing to do with the war, but that emblematizes the depth of his sense of duty and devotion:

"When his wife became ill and needed to go into a nursing home, he visited her every day. He walked from his house to the nursing home, fed his wife and at the end of the day brought home her clothes. At night, he washed and ironed her clothes. Then he walked them up to her room the next morning. He did that for three years until her death in 2005."

So now, out of the original 80, only four Raiders remain: Dick Cole (Doolittle's co-pilot on the Tokyo raid), Robert Hite, Edward Saylor and David Thatcher. All are in their 90s. They have decided that there are too few of them for the public reunions to continue.

The events in Fort Walton Beach this week will mark the end. It has come full circle; Florida's nearby Eglin Field was where the Raiders trained in secrecy for the Tokyo mission.

The town is planning to do all it can to honor the men: a six-day celebration of their valor, including luncheons, a dinner and a parade.

Do the men ever wonder if those of us for whom they helped save the country have tended to it in a way that is worthy of their sacrifice? They don't talk about that, at least not around other people. But if you find yourself near Fort Walton Beach this week, and if you should encounter any of the Raiders, you might want to offer them a word of thanks. I can tell you from firsthand observation that they appreciate hearing that they are remembered.

The men have decided that after this final public reunion they will wait until a later date -- some time this year -- to get together once more, informally and in absolute privacy. That is when they will open the bottle of brandy. The years are flowing by too swiftly now; they are not going to wait until there are only two of them.

They will fill the four remaining upturned goblets.

And raise them in a toast to those who are gone.

robcollins
08-09-2013, 02:19 PM
I'm humbled. Good story, Ralph.

Before getting past the first sentence (remembering the story of the brandy) I was thinking "I hope they open that bottle now, how sad to be the last 2..."

Lump in my throat....

Ralph
08-09-2013, 02:49 PM
Given their age if they waited for the last two it could well be none at all. These guys were in their 20s when they flew the mission.

From Wilkipedia:

The survivors are:

Colonel Richard E. Cole, copilot of aircraft No. 1 - co-pilot to Doolittle
Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Hite, copilot of aircraft No. 16
Lieutenant Colonel Edward Joseph Saylor, engineer of aircraft No. 15
Staff Sergeant David J. Thatcher, gunner of aircraft No. 7

"Thirty Seconds over Tokyo" was based on a book of the same title by Doolittle Raider pilot Captain Ted W. Lawson, who lost a leg and had other serious injuries as a result of a crash landing off the coast of China. Spencer Tracy played Doolittle and Van Johnson portrayed Lawson. The movie is considered to be a reasonably accurate and unsensationalized depiction of the mission. The movie has the general approval of the Raiders. Footage from the film was later used for the opening scenes of Midway and in the TV miniseries War and Remembrance.

In addition to the morale boost the raid did have positive effect. The Japanese pulled their fleet out of the Indian Ocean to defend the home islands and the raid was a factor in Yamamoto's decision to attack Midway, resulting in a decisive defeat of the japanese force. Before Midway, we never won a battle, after Midway we never lost one.

widowshooter
08-09-2013, 03:26 PM
Reading that makes me proud to be an American, and more proud to be serving my country.

Take-a-knee
08-09-2013, 03:59 PM
I wonder how many are aware of John Birch's role in the rescue and survival of many of the Dolittle Raiders?

http://www.jbs.org/commentary/john-birch-rescued-survivors-of-1942-doolittle-tokyo-raid

http://www.military.com/Content/MoreContent?file=ML_birch_bkp

Tim in Washington
08-11-2013, 07:57 AM
Great read Ralph,Thanks
I just finished "War on the Run" by John F. Ross its all about Robert Rogers (Rogers Raiders fame)Allot of it takes place in your area.I love this stuff I grew up reading about D. Boone and George Rogers Clark.
Tim

snakey2
08-12-2013, 09:47 AM
They make very few like them any more. Great men! They deserve a toast.

Ralph
08-12-2013, 10:07 AM
Tim, "Northwest Passage" by Kenneth Roberts also features Roger's Rangers and is a great read.

You are right, a lot of the historical novels of the period 1700-1800 take place here or close by. This was at the time the western frontier. The home of Sir William Johnson, British Governor of the Mohawk Valley is right down the road. The newly elevated St. Kateri also lived here and her shrine is also close by. It is an interesting place to live.

I'm not so sure that the spirit of the raiders isn't around much. "Bull" Halsey used to say "There are no great men, there are great challenges that ordinary men have to meet." He had a point, I think the problem we have today is that the challenges tend to be kind of vague and a lot of leadership is equally vague.

We have gotten involved in wars - from Korea on - where essentially few other than the 1% or so who are seving are involved in any tangible way so the war(s) keep slowly grinding on, never being resolved.

In WWII the objective was victory and nothing less. Everyone was involved and from a virtual standing start with an understaffed army and a navy not much better in 1939 with no active combat until 1941 in 4 years we defeated the two most powerful military forces in the world simultaneously, our aircraft and ships coverd the sky and the sea from horizon to horizon, not to mention tanks, trucks, boots and GI belt buckles - every single piece made in the USA. We did this because everyone, and I mean everone, in the country was involved in one way of the other with prosecuting the war. The objectives were clear and unchanging and ordinary men rose to meet the great challenges.

Could we do it again? Yes, I really think so as long as we have leadership with clear vision and objectives. Unfortunately, right now we have leadership with none of these qualities.

robcollins
08-12-2013, 12:31 PM
Unfortunately, right now we have leadership with none of these qualities.

Nail hit squarely.

jljmonky
08-12-2013, 01:37 PM
I'm not so sure that the spirit of the raiders isn't around much. "Bull" Halsey used to say "There are no great men, there are great challenges that ordinary men have to meet." He had a point, I think the problem we have today is that the challenges tend to be kind of vague and a lot of leadership is equally vague.

We have gotten involved in wars - from Korea on - where essentially few other than the 1% or so who are seving are involved in any tangible way so the war(s) keep slowly grinding on, never being resolved.

In WWII the objective was victory and nothing less. Everyone was involved and from a virtual standing start with an understaffed army and a navy not much better in 1939 with no active combat until 1941 in 4 years we defeated the two most powerful military forces in the world simultaneously, our aircraft and ships coverd the sky and the sea from horizon to horizon, not to mention tanks, trucks, boots and GI belt buckles - every single piece made in the USA. We did this because everyone, and I mean everone, in the country was involved in one way of the other with prosecuting the war. The objectives were clear and unchanging and ordinary men rose to meet the great challenges.

Could we do it again? Yes, I really think so as long as we have leadership with clear vision and objectives. Unfortunately, right now we have leadership with none of these qualities.


First and foremost, Northwest Passage is my favorite book, even bought the poor movie version, wish it included the second half of the book and would love to see it redone in the spirit of Last of the Mohicans... anyway...

Ranger Up military clothing has a 0.45% t shirt, though 1% of the nation serve in the military only about half of them (.45%) actually deployed in support of the current conflicts. As a serving member of the .45% I can tell you that it has been very frustrating to see a disinterested public, they are not affected so they pay little attention and it bothers me deeply. Nothing has been forfeited, no sacrifice made by the majority of the American public... give them some required war rationing (fuel and steel) and ask for some victory gardens to feed themselves so food can go overseas to our fighting force and you will see patriotism stream back (in my opinion).

Something I wanted to start and just cannot find time between work and volunteer activities in the community is a voluntary victory garden, home grown goods are prepared and canned in the forms of Jellies, Jams, Salsas, Sauces... things "joe" on the move can use and mailed overseas to give a taste of home and show that there are people supporting joe at home. It says more than tooth paste and beef jerky... just thoughts I wanted to share about your 1% comment.

Wasn't there another more recent Doolittle movie though?