The 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders was commemorated April 17 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a B-1 bomber from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, was rechristened the “Ruptured Duck” and its new nose art unveiled in tribute to a B-25 Mitchell bomber that was flown during the Doolittle Raid in 1942.
Ellsworth’s 34th and 37th Bomb Squadrons were the same squadrons selected by Lt. Col. James Doolittle to attack the Japanese homefront with hopes of raising the morale of allied troops during World War II.
Attending the noon ceremony, held along the Wright-Patterson AFB flight line in front of base operations, was Richard E. Cole, a retired lieutenant colonel who served as Doolittle’s co-pilot on Crew Number 1. Cole, now 101 years old, is the sole surviving Doolittle Raider. He was joined by his daughter, along with the wife and family of Sgt. David Thatcher, who flew as the engineer/gunner on the Ruptured Duck. Thatcher died in June 2016.
“Tomorrow (April 18), we will celebrate the anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, when Crew Number 7 took off from the deck of the carrier USS Hornet in their Mitchell B-25B bomber along with the 15 other crews comprising the historic mission to bomb Tokyo and four other Japanese cities in retaliation for Japan’s surprise attack of December 1941 on Pearl Harbor,” said Jeff Thatcher, David Thatcher’s son.
The newly painted Ruptured Duck nose art was revealed by Becky Thatcher, daughter of David Thatcher, and the Ruptured Duck’s dedicated crew chief, Tech. Sgt. William Hatten.
To dispel bad luck, the rear tires of the aircraft were then doused with a shot of Hennessey cognac by Dawn Thatcher, wife of David Thatcher; and her daughter Sandy Thatcher Miller.
“This action commemorates a single plane of 16, which symbolizes all the men of the Doolittle Raid who flew into an unknown fate and who completed their mission with valor,” said emcee Capt. Devin Ivy, 28th Operations Support Squadron, Ellsworth AFB. “The crews will fly in the new Ruptured Duck and carry the legacy of all the Doolittle Raider crews into the future as part of the defense of the United States of America.”
“It is with sincere gratitude that I stand before you today accepting this christening of the new Ruptured Duck,” said Col. John Martin, commander, 28th Operations Group, Ellsworth AFB. “What a privilege to stand with the wife and family of Sgt. David Thatcher, (Lt.) Col. Dick Cole and his family – two bomber legends and heroes from an epic point in American wartime folklore.”
The new Ruptured Duck’s nose art is like an icon that remains connective tissue between the Doolittle Raid and its professional posterity, he said.
“They connect past with present and present with future,” Martin commented.
Today’s modern Raiders of the 34th and 37th Bomb Squadrons proudly continue that legacy of leadership, he said.
“On the wings of aircraft like the new Ruptured Duck, the 34th and 37th Bomb Squadrons continue to write their own chapters in our nation’s history, leading with valor and punctuating their mark with the emblems of the Raider,” Martin said.
The ceremony concluded with an exchange of gifts, including flags flown during David Thatcher’s memorial service, lithographs of the aircraft and specially engraved bottles of Hennessey.
The 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raid is being commemorated with various events April 17 and April 18. For more information, go to www.nationalmuseum.af.mil, www.wpafb.af.mil, www.facebook.com/WPAFB or www.facebook.com/AFMuseum.