For 68th Reunion, Only Four Of Eight Could Make The Trip
Four of the remaining eight Doolittle Raiders, known for their
nearly impossible bombing raid on Japan during World War II,
reunited for the 68th year at the National Museum of the United
States Air Force April 16 through 18.
Doolittle Crew File Photo
Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, 94, of Comfort, Texas; Maj.
Thomas C. Griffin, 92, of Cincinnati; Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, 90,
Nashville, Penn., and Master Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 88, of
Missoula, Mont., came together again to share memories, sign
autographs and be recognized once again as an iconic piece of
American history that helped propel the allies to victory in World
Col. Jimmy Doolittle led a group of 80 men to fly B-25 Mitchells
from the deck of an aircraft carrier more than 600 miles to drop
bombs on Japan April 18, 1942. At the time getting a bomber
airborne from an aircraft carrier's deck had barely been
B-25 Mitchell Launches From Carrier Deck
The reunion kicked off April 16 with the men at the museum
signing autographs on books, airplanes, photos and even clothing
with hundreds waiting their turn to meet the aviators. Those who
attended were eager to hear their story and talk about the
importance of their mission in shaping the outcome of World War II.
"Well I'm an aviation historian and it's also an opportunity to
meet the great heroes of American history," said Bob Jaques who
drove to the event from Alabama.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, who attended a dinner in
their honor, said the men continue to be an inspiration to Airmen
today. "The Doolittle Raiders have a very special place in the
history of the Air Force," Secretary Donley said. "They've provided
such great examples to us of leadership, of audacity, of innovation
and personal courage, in some of the darkest days of World War
The men were honored April 17 by a fly-in of 17 privately owned
replica B-25s from all over the country onto the museum runway to
help celebrate the occasion. Museum officials said it was one
of the largest gatherings of B-25s since World War II.
The Raiders also participated in a ceremony April 17 to toast
and honor their fellow colleagues who have died. Following the
toast the last survivors overturned the goblets of those who have
died since the last reunion. The event concluded with the B-25s
taking off from the museum runways with thousands of patrons lining
the streets and fence lines to attempt to get a glimpse of the
aircraft and ensuing fly over by all 17 aircraft for a memorial
service in the early afternoon.
AF Secretary Michael Donley
The word "hero" is overused in this country and broadly applied
to sports figures, rock stars and others, said Ret. Maj. Gen.
Charles D. Metcalf, the museum director. "Today, in the truest
sense of the word, we are among heroes."