The Doolittle Raiders , named for their commander, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, attacked Japan in April 1942 by launching their land-based B-25 bombers from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. The bombing did little physical damage, but it boosted American morale while shattering Japan’s sense of safety.
The raid became a legend, inspiring the Hollywood blockbuster “30 Seconds Over Tokyo”.
At the Air Force Academy, home to Doolittle Hall, a display in honor of the Raiders remained for years until it was moved to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio in 2006. A silver goblet was included for each of the 80 who flew on the mission along with a bottle of cognac, vintage 1896. Those goblets were inverted in their display case for each man who died.
The airmen agreed as a group that the last two living Raiders would split the bottle in memory of their comrades.
The final four raiders are changing the playbook at bit. Rather than waiting for two more men to die, they’ve decided to meet in Dayton on Nov. 9 to raise their goblets for that final toast.
The four are Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, co-pilot of crew No. 1; Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, co-pilot of crew No. 16; Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor, engineer-gunner of crew No. 15; and Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, engineer-gunner of crew No. 7, the Air Force said in a news release.
It’s a private ceremony, but it will draw some high-powered guests.
“Among those scheduled to attend the ceremony to pay tribute to the Raiders are Air Force Acting Secretary Eric Fanning and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III,” the Air Force said.