Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Toast to Doolittle
Just a wee bit of history. When Japan stuck terror in the heart of America with the Pearl Harbor attack, how were we to respond?It was left to 80 men, Doolittle's Raiders in April 1942 to strike back. These daring and selfless men undertook a mission that has not ever been duplicated. First big heavy bombers had never taken off from a carrier before. Sixteen B-25s with a five crew men each were to take off from a carrier with Lt. Col James Doolittle, who himself flew the lead plane off the USS Hornet, and they all knew that they would not be able to return to the ship. The hope was to hit Japan and then try to safely land in nearby China.
The really bad news, was that the Japanese got wind of the plan therefore they had to take off farther out in the Pacific Ocean. Thus, they would not have enough fuel to get to safety. They still took off.
They bomb Tokyo and then flew as far away as possible. Four planes crashed, 11 crew men bailed out, three died, eight were taken captive, three were executed and one died of starvation in a prison. One crew made it to Russia.
Only 62 survived the war. A movie, "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," with Van Johnson and Spencer Tracy was produced about the bravery of Doolittle Raiders. MGM proclaimed that the movie represented the story "with supreme pride."
Beginning in April of 1946 the survivors started a traditional that each year they would meet in a different city. When they met in Tucson in 1959 the city in a gesture of respect and gratitude gave them 80 silver goblets each with a name of a Raider engraved upon the goblet. Every year thereafter, a wooden display case bearing the 80 silver goblets was transported to the reunion city. Those Raiders who were no longer with them, their goblet was placed upside down. In that same case was a unopened 1896 (the year of Doolittle's birth) bottle of Hennessy Very Special Cognac. The plan was when there were only two raiders left they would open the bottle and toast their comrades.
The plan would change in April 2013 because one of the five , Tom Griffin passed away at age 96 in February 2013. Thus, at the April reunion in Ft. Walton, Florida only Dick Cole (Doolittle's co-pilot) Robert Hite, Edward Saylor and David Thacther remain and they decided to meet later this year to get together one more time very informally and in absolute privacy open the bottle fill their silver goblets and raise them in a toast to those who have gone. All of these men are in their nineties.
I do not know if the four Raiders are still with us or if they have opened the bottle yet but wanted to share the toast with them in this blog.
THE KITTY JUSTICE IS TO RAISE YOUR GLASS AND TOAST THESE BRAVE MEN.
All of the information was sent to me in an E mail with the request to forward it but I could not resist putting it on my blog.