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68th Doolittle Raiders Reunion
A vintage B-25 Mitchell bomber flies near the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, during a memorial flight honoring the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders on April 18, 2010. The 68th Doolittle Raiders' reunion commemorates the anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raid. On April 18, 1942, U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle's squad of 16 B-25 Mitchell aircraft bombed Japanese targets in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)
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Famed WWII Doolittle Raiders reunite at Air Force Museum

Posted 4/20/2010   Updated 4/20/2010 Email story   Print story


by Gabriel Myers
88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

4/20/2010 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Four of the remaining eight famed Doolittle Raiders, known for their nearly impossible bombing raid on Japan, reunited for the 68th year at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, April 16-18.

Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, 94 of Comfort, Texas; Major Thomas C. Griffin, 92 of Cincinnati, Ohio; Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, 90, Nashville, Tenn., and Master Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 88, 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 WWII.

On April 18, 1942 Colonel Jimmy Doolittle led a group of 80 men to fly B-25 Bombers from the deck of an aircraft carrier more than 600 miles to drop bombs on Japan. At the time getting a bomber airborne from an aircraft carrier's deck had barely been tested.

The bold and rebellious nature of the mission personified the nations will to fight and lifted the American spirit.

The reunion kicked off Friday afternoon with the men at the museum signing autographs on books, airplanes, photos and even clothing with hundreds waiting their turn to meet the famed aviators in the modern airpower gallery. Those who attended were eager to hear their story and talk about the importance or their mission in shaping the outcome of WWII.

"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 B. Donley, who attended a dinner in their honor Friday night, 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 prior to the dinner, "They've provided such great examples to us of leadership, of audacity, of innovation and personal courage, in some of the darkest days of WWII."

The men were honored on Saturday by a fly-in of 17 replica B-25 Mitchell bombers privately owned from all over the country onto the museum runway to help celebrate the occasion. Officials say it was one of the largest gatherings of B-25's since WWII.

Also on Saturday the Raiders participated in a ceremony 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.

Throughout the weekend the men signed hundreds of autographs and spoke with well wishers who were eager to see, honor and be a part of American History.

The event concluded with the B-25's taking off on a beautiful day 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.

The word "hero" is over-used in this country and broadly applied to sports figures, rock stars and others, museum director Retired Major General Charles Metcalf told the crown at the Memorial Service.

"Today, in the truest sense of the word, we are among heroes," said Metcalf.

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