Doolittle Raiders honored at Wright-Patt reunion

68th reunion held at National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

April 19, 2010

(Left-right) C.V. Clines, Doolittle Raiders historian and author
moderates a question and answer session between news media
and Doolittle Raiders Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Lt. Col. Robert L.
Hite, Major Thomas Griffin, and Master Sgt. David J. Thatcher.
The session was held at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio on April 16, 2010.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)

DAYTON, Ohio — Good weather and eager crowds welcomed the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders 68th reunion at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force last weekend, April 16-18. The events included one of the largest gatherings of B-25s since World War II. 17 participated in a static display on the runway behind the museum on April 17 and a fly-over before the Raiders’ memorial service in the museum’s Memorial Park on April 18.

This reunion honors the Doolittle Raiders, who on April 18, 1942, achieved the unimaginable when they took off from an aircraft carrier on a top secret mission to bomb Japan. These 80 men were led by Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle.

Of the eight living Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, four were able to travel to the reunion events:

Lt. Col Richard E. Cole was the co-pilot for Doolittle in aircraft No. 1. After the raid, Cole remained in the China-Burma-India theater and flew with the famed 1st Air Commandos in support of Aliie4d operations behind Japanese lines.

Maj. Thomas C. Griffin flew on aircraft No. 9 as the navigator. Following the raid, Griffin remained on active duty and severed in the Mediterranean theater. He was shot down over Sicily in 1943 and spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner.

As the co-pilot of aircraft No. 16, Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite’s plane crash-landed after he completed the mission, and he spent 40 months as a prisoner by the Japanese. He was liberated in 1945 by American troops. Hite remained on active duty for two more years, then re-entered the service during the Korean War.

Master Sgt. David J. Thatcher, engineer-gunner of aircraft No. 7, will also be present. His aircraft crashed into the sea following the mission, avoiding capture by Japanese forces in the Zhejiang Province, China. Thatcher continued to serve in the military in both England and Africa until 1945.

Those Raiders unable to attend were Col. William M. Bower, pilot of aircraft No. 12, Lt. Col. Frank A. Kappeler, navigator of aircraft No. 11, Capt. Charles J. Ozuk, navigator of aircraft No. 3, and Lt. Col Edward J. Saylor, engineer-gunner of No. 15.

[SEE RELATED ARTICLE]

Vintage B-25 Mitchell bombers prepare to take off April 18, 2010,
from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright Patterson
Air Force Base, Ohio, to take part in a memorial flight honoring the
Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. The 68th Doolittle Raiders reunion
commemorates the anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raid in 1942
during which U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s squad of 16 B-25s
bombed Japanese targets in response to the attack on Pearl
Harbor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey/Released)

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