Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A final toast for the Doolittle Raiders

 It's the cup of brandy that no one wants to drink.
On Tuesday, 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.
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.

Posted over at CNN and found over at Brock's place  Free North Carolina

41 comments:

  1. Hmmm, a show of patriotism, Obummer and DHS will surely put an end to this!

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    1. Your comment shows exactly what dumbassery is all about, that you would take a story like this and spew your stupid assed political agenda. SMDH!!!!

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    2. Gary Bonanno, you're a fucking idiot.

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    3. What a great article, I didn't not serve, but my father was a Doctor in the Canadian Army,captured in Aug'42 in Dieppe France,kept as a PoW for almost 3yrs, by the Germans. Our generation (Baby Boomers -1)have NO concept of what these men (and women) went through in WWII. I have stood on the same spot where my dad was shown being captured (a pic taken by a German soldier)and have run up the same beach on gravel stones to the area where he tried to tend his wounded and save lives, until his supplies almost ran out.. but it does not make up for what they went through.. so.. I hope all the "detractors" in here, will just sit and take a moment to realize that you CAN make what-ever statements you want...ONLY because the men of my father's generation laid their- all- on the line, suffered what they did and SURVIVED for YOUR freedom and MINE! Many paid the supreme sacrifice back then and never got to ENJOY this freedom! Thanks to the original poster of this article, I hope those goblets take a long time to finally be turned over. God Bless and as we say up here in Canada, "Lest We Forget".

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    4. I WAS VERY YOUNG WHEN I READ ABOUT JIMMY DOOLITTLE AND HIS ARMADA OF BOMBERS OVER JAPAN. YES, AMERICA NEED SOME SORT OF A VICTORY TO LIFT AND RALLY THE SPIRIT OF AMERICA INTO THE WAR. WE ONLY SAW THIS FLIGHT IN THE MOVIES ON NEWS IT WAS A HUGE EVENT. THESE STORIES AND HOW EACH MAN SURVIVED PARACHUTING INTO CHINA ETC.
      YEARS LATER WHEN I WAS AT HIGH SCHOOL, JIMMY DOOLITTLE CAME TO OUR SCHOOL AND GAVE AN EXPLAINATION OF THE HISTORIC EVENTS. ONE SITUATION WAS WHEN THEY WERE IN A LIFE RAFT AND STARVING. A SEAGULL LANDED ON THE HEAD OF ONE OF THE MEN AND IT WAS SHOT FOR FOOD. ALSO JIMMY MENTIONED HOW THE LEACHES OR CRABS WOULD CRAWL UP THIER LIFE RAFT AND THEY WOULD QUICKLY GRAB IT AND EAT IT. THAT IS HOW THEY ALL SURVIVED. STORIES LIKE THESE HERO'S NEVER LEAVE ONE'S MIND. WE ALL ARE SO VERY PROUD OF THEM.

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    5. MIKE F
      DITTO TO THE ABOVE
      I WAS VERY YOUNG BUT I REMEMBER IT IN THE NEWS AT THE MOVIES. IT WAS A BRILLIANT,BRAVE AND MIND BOGGLING TO LET OUR ENEMIES KNOW THAT WE CAN TOUCH THE HEART OF THEIR COUNTRY AND INFLICT PAIN AFTER PEARL HARBOR'S SURPRISE ATTACK THIS IS JUST WHAT OUR COUNTRY NEEDED. I WAS IN THE HIGH SCHOOL THAT JIMMY DOOLITTLE CAME TO GIVE A SPEECH AFTER THE WAR WAS OVER. THE HISTORY BOOKS WILL SHOW THE SACRIFICES AND HOW BRAVE THE U.S. MEN WERE TO RISK AND ACCOMPOLISH THIS EPIC EVENT. AMERICA SALUTES YOU ALL AND WE WILL NOT FORGET YOU.

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  2. This is... intensely powerful. For the record, I hate war and believe that the United States' warmongering is unethical, illegal and genuinely evil. HOWEVER: the men who stand now, and have stood before, in uniform on the front lines are not the same men who commit such wrongs. On the contrary, they show a fortitude and nobility all but incomprehensible to those of us (me included) who have never seen battle or, indeed, been in any life-or-death situation. Men like these are why I love my country in spite of its political leaders.

    I've no idea whether any of the survivors will see this blog comment, but on the off chance they do: At least one American, seven decades your junior and a total stranger until reading this today, will never, ever forget. Cheers, gents.

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    1. Maybe, just maybe, some will realize (SOON) that the strong can stand side by side and disagree without violence. I love my country, I'm proud to say seven generations of my family served.(From Privates to Generals) However, I don't pretend to have all the answers. Having said that, I do know without question, we need a strong military, and men like those mentioned above represent the best of those that served.

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    2. To Anonymous: I respect your beliefs about war; though you apparently don't have the conviction to put your name on the dotted line. Thank your lucky stars these 80 airmen did. Otherwise, you might've been writing in Japanese or German or Russia or Farsi.

      My name is W. D. Edwards & I served proudly, as did my father and our son. Because of our country's protection & preservation of our freedoms, by other citizens; you are able to experience true freedom of speech, without fear of restrictions.

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    3. Thank you W.D. Edwards for your service. My Dad also served and I know and honor what the Doolittle Raiders mean to us and the United States of America. Hopefully, someday soon, things like this will be taught again in the public school classrooms.

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    4. I've served 27 years active duty to include a tour in Vietnam and Iraq. Until you've been to some of these other countries that are continuously plagued by war and terror, you will never know how lucky you have it here in the States. The reason you don't see these stories is because it's not newsworthy.
      Like you, I wish there wasn't war. You would have thought that after several thousands of years that man would get smart and quit killing each other, but they haven't. Be glad and wonder why you were lucky enough to be born in the USA!

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    5. If you believe America is evil and warmongering, there are ships and planes leaving every day!!

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    6. In reply to the original poster ("This is - intensely powerful...") - I would like to thank you for your intelligent and thoughtful remarks. My sentiments are much the same; you have expressed them well and with respect and dignity. We can all learn from the men and women of that generation. Thank you again.

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    7. I agree with you. Thanks.

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  3. Commenters please refrain from unnecessary comments here. This is not about you or uncalled comments about the POTUS and DHS. It’s an article about another time and another place honoring those that served their country.

    Please stop for a minute of silence and honoring those that served during World War II. God bless and God speed.

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    1. Very well said and thank you

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  4. God Bless these men for their bravery so that I might enjoy the freedom they have helped preserve.

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  5. Yes, each and every one of these Heroes should have all the respect we can give them! My father served in the US Navy for 24 years, retiring just one year before the SSN Scorpion went down, which he retired from. After he passed away, I became "pretty" involved with the Indy Honor Flight, we fly WWII Veterans to Washington DC to visit THEIR WWII Memorial. What an Honor it's been for me to meet these Heroes, and hear their stories!
    God bless ALL the Servicemen and Women, past and present.

    Jim Turner

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  6. I am so very glad I happened to be in Ft Walton on one of the days they were there. I saw first hand the planes that were there that day and saw them fly over my condo numerous times that weekend. I myself served in the US Army from 68-70 and I am honored to have had the chance to do so! I am so very thankful for the heroism of these me who helped make it possible for the rest of us to live in such a wnderful country. Hero is a word that is thrown around so much these days by the media but these men were true heroes!!!

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  7. I salute you gentlemen may god bless from one air force member to another.81st TFW.

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  8. Thank you gentlemen, God Bless you. I wish we still had the caliber of men as you in our society today.
    I am sure our country would be much better off for it. USMC Sgt. R J Snow....1986-1991

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  9. thank you brave warriors,your story shall never die as long as old glory flys,and uts thanks to you that she flys today.i wish i could have met you,but i wasnt blessed with that honor.i do feel as though i know each and everyone of you though,and when i see old glory fluttering in the wind,i give a silent prayer for our brave warrior heros such as yourselves.thank you and god bless.god bless america!

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    1. My name is Clarence V. Daily, aka. "Pat Daily".
      I am honored to have lived in a time when we as American Citizens can still "thank all the men and women for their service to our country". I am especially honored to be able to thank you wonderful men who were "The Doolittle Raiders". Thank you, thank you thank you. God Bless you and God Bless America.

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  10. UHRAY CHEER's You deserve it !
    Swamptater!

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  11. Thank you!!!! You will NOT be forgotten!!!

    Bob Pace
    Knoxville TN

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  12. I have read Ted Lawson's book, "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," many times since I received it in the 1950s. It never fails to fill me with awe at the courage these men showed, flying off the USS Hornet knowing that there was only a slight hope of reaching safety. I hope that this latest generation learns the lesson these men taught. The true heros are men like these, not rock stars or movie stars, Nd patriotism is not a dirty word.

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  13. God Bless these men for their sacrifice and God Bless America.. Air Force veteran, early 70s.

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  14. Jeanie Hartley LudwickMay 16, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    I was very impressed with this "story" though I do not remember learning of it in school...memories have a way of fading. But, I would like to say Now that I'm so appreciative to these brave souls who had the internal fortitude to carry out such a mission, protecting my family and five generations since. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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  15. Reading this, I already knew about it being from the ww2 era. Those boys were so brave to fly planes off a crrier deck. My brother flew in a dive bomber off the old Enterprise and he said that deck never got any bigger. Those boys to know they probably were going to be captured were so brave. I just can't imagine. I am surprised there were that many that made it to the end of WW2. I had brothers and uncles and cousins all in the navy and other branches and now have a grandson going on his 20 yrs. in the navy.
    I can't imagine the emotion that will be in the last meeting and drinking the wine. Old men are pretty emotional. To bad they just can't live on forever.

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    1. God bless these brave and heroic men. I know He must have a special place in heaven where they can continue their annual reunion

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  16. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. God Bless you all!!!

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  17. Bless Doolittle's Raiders. Enjoy your Brandy at your next meetup and imagine that all of us in the USA are thankful that you courageously made this mission to Tokyo.

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  18. Thank you for your outstanding service to our nation. It's men like you and stories of your heroism that inspire others to carry your torch. By the reading of other comments here, I confirm that there are many who do not understand war. Nobody likes war but it will always be necessary and honorable until the return of Christ. To murder is sin but to kill in the defense of one's nation is an honor and Biblically sanctioned. Those who fail to prepare are dumed to live as slaves. The Doolittle Raiders were a beacon of light in dark times. Their generation is called the Greatest Generation and I believe 100% they earned that title. It's the generation of my parents who I miss dearly. Gentlemen, may God bless you and keep you eternally when your time arrives to take that final flight. Until then, raise up a glass in remembrance of those who have gone before you who return your salute from heaven on high.
    Gregory Horton PM...

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  19. To Jimmy Doolittle, my hreo and all his Brothers that flew with him, may the sky be clear and you have favarable tailwinds!!

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  20. Although I am of a very different generation, I want to express my deepest thanks to all the Raiders for what they have done for our country. If it were not for men like these we would not be where we are today. My husband finished serving his 20 years this past year and the bonds that is formed among soldiers is like none other I have observed in my life time. We truly wish you the very best at the end of an each of your lives. My grandfather 92 was an orthopedic surgeon in the Army and he to remembers well your mission.

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  21. The oldest book in my personal library is "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" and for years I have resisted weeding it out. They were my heroes while I was growing up. Van Johnson who was the subject of the movie made about the raid and the brave airmen who took part was an idol. I was born in Poland, but came to the USA at the age of four in 1939. While the war in Europe was a part of my legacy, the Doolittle raid occupied a special place in my upbringing and in being an American.

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  22. To the final four,as you raise your glass in honor of those that have gone before you,there is no doubt in my mind,that 76 more glasses will be raised along with yours. If you look up the word "heros" you should see an album of eighty "MEN".

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  23. I am just in aww. Anonymous at 8:16am, my words could not compare to yours. thank you

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  24. Normamd Doyon

    I remember the Doolittle raid although I did not know what it really meant at that time. I was born in 1940 and my father served in WWII and died on 22 May 1945. I served in the Navy from 1958 to 1977 when I retired. I volunteered for duty in Vietnam and was wounded but finished my tour there but 4 of my men did not. My wife served in the Navy as a hospital corpsman, my son served in the Army and my daughter tried to serve in the Navy but due to a back complication was discharged. Her husband served 20 years in the Navy as a SeaBee but saw no combat. We in this family all remember the Doolittle raid and saw more than ounce the movie 30 seconds over Tokyo. They were all brave men and should be HONORED for their service. There are a lot of brave men and women serving in our military today and they should not be forgotten either. My God Bless all of them.

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  25. Great article. My husband and I were born after WWII. We say thanks to every VET. These men are my heros. Many thanks.

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  26. I get misty-eyed and my heart swells with pride when I read comments from others saluting the bravery, guts, and selfless patriotism of the 80 Doolittle Raiders so many years ago. The last four men, God willing, will savor the final toast in Dayton, Ohio on Saturday, November 9 in the company of family and friends. As niece to one of these men and friend to another, both now deceased, I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones to be able to present and to participate in this final solemn tribute of gratitude to these great American heroes.

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