The Seventieth Reunion

My friend, Mike, is a very interesting fellow. He is an aviation aficionado of the highest standing. He is also a very funny guy whose wife must absolutely be the greatest understanding wife of all time. Sometimes, I wonder how he gets away with some of his comedy.

Mike is currently serving the nation in a way that will remain confidential. While he deploys to other areas of the world, he manages to keep up with events of the aviation community. Today, he forwarded information that the surviving members of the Doolittle Raiders are planning their seventieth reunion at the National Museum of the Air Force.

Of the 80 Raiders who took part in the raid on April 18, 1942, five survive today. They are Richard E. Cole, Thomas C. Griffin, Robert L. Hite, Edward J. Saylor, and David J. Thatcher.

In 1942 at the time of the raid, Cole was 27 years-old and served as Jimmy Doolittle’s copilot. Cole is originally from Dayton, OH.

Griffin, 94, was born in Green Bay, WI and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1939. He trained as a navigator and was a member of the crew of the ninth aircraft, the “Whirling Dervish.”

Hite flew as the copilot of the last airplane off the deck of the USS Hornet. The 91 year-old was only 22 years-old at the time of the raid. Following the raid, the Japanese captured him and he remained a POW for 40 months before liberation by American forces on August 20, 1945.

Saylor, only 12 days younger than Hite, served on board the fifteenth airplane, “TNT.” From Fort George Wright, WA, Saylor served the rest of the war in an enlisted status. He accepted his commission in October 1947 and later served as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer.

Thatcher, the engineer-gunner who flew on the seventh aircraft, the “Ruptured Duck,” turned 90 just yesterday. He is the youngest of the Raiders, while Cole, at 96, is the oldest.

These five men, the last of the 80, are nearing an event planned a long time ago by Jimmy Doolittle. At one of their earlier reunions, the president of the Hennessey Company gave the men a bottle of cognac, vintage 1896, the year of Doolittle’s birth. Two of these five, the last two living, will crack open the cognac and drink a very solemn toast to their comrades.

This coming year the reunion will include other, special, guests. Some of the Chinese who aided the raiders in evading the Japanese, along with some surviving ship’s company of the USS Hornet, will also travel to Dayton to meet with the five surviving Raiders.

The site of the upcoming reunion will be the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. According to Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jack Hudson, the director of the museum, it is “an honor and privilege” for the museum to have been chosen for the 2012 event.

“The museum’s mission is to educate current and future generations about the rich aviation history of the U.S. Air Force, and to preserve and portray the stories of men and women who have selflessly served their nation as Airmen, just as the Doolittle Raiders did nearly 70 years ago,” said the general.

In addition to the events planned at the museum, the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Association, Inc. is working to have 25 B-25 Mitchell bombers land at the museum for the flyer’s gathering. Those interested in working to secure the funding for the bomber flight may contact Tom Casey or Larry Kelley at the association at (941) 921-7361.


©2011 J. Clark

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