A Wreath laid at the Doolittle Memorial. The three men at the front of the picture are three of the four surviving Raiders who attended at toast at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton. Chris Stewart/WHIO
Hide Caption
  Remaining Doolittle Raiders arrive at Air Force museum   Chris Stewart/WHIO
Hide Caption
People line streets waiting for the arrival of three of the four surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders. The group had a toast at the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio to honor their fallen friends, brothers and countrymen.
Hide Caption
Held at the WPAFB Air Force Museum, a toast to the living and dead Doolittle Tokyo Raiders was held for the final time. Three of the four remaining raiders were present at the ceremony.   Darin Pope/WHIO
Hide Caption
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Davey Jones (R) leads a group of men known as the 'Doolittle Raiders' drink a toast to their fallen comrades during the Solemn Goblet Ceremony at their 60th reunion April 18, 2002 in Columbia, SC. Jim Varhegyi/USAF/Getty Images
Hide Caption

Veterans Day: WWII Doolittle Raiders head to Dayton, Ohio to make final toast to fallen comrades

a a a a
Share this story

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- The last of the Doolittle Raiders, all in their 90's, offered a final toast Saturday to their fallen comrades, as they pondered their place in history after a day of fanfare about their 1942 attack on Japan.

"May they rest in peace," Lt. Col. Richard Cole, 98, said before the three Raiders present sipped an 1896 cognac from specially engraved silver goblets. The cognac was saved for the occasion after being passed down from their late commander, Lt. Gen. James "Jimmy" Doolittle, who was born in 1896.

In a ceremony Saturday evening at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton, Ohio, hundreds of people including family members of deceased Raiders watched as the three Raiders each called out "here" as a historian read the names of all 80 of the original airmen.

A B-25 bomber flyover helped cap an afternoon memorial tribute in which a wreath was placed at the Doolittle Raider monument outside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton. Museum officials estimated some 10,000 people turned out for Veterans Day weekend events honoring the 1942 mission credited with rallying American morale and throwing the Japanese off balance.

Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning said America was at a low point, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and other Axis successes, before "these 80 men who showed the nation that we were nowhere near defeat." He noted that all volunteered for a mission with high risks throughout, from the launch of B-25 bombers from a carrier at sea, the attack on Tokyo, and lack of fuel to reach safe bases.

Only four of the 80 are still alive. The Raiders said, at the time, they didn't realize their mission would be considered an important event in turning the war's tide. It inflicted little major damage physically, but changed Japanese strategy while firing up Americans.

"It was what you do ... over time, we've been told what effect our raid had on the war and the morale of the people," Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, 93, said in an interview.

The Brusset, Mont. native, who now lives in Puyallup, Wash., said he was one of the lucky ones.

"There were a whole bunch of guys in World War II; a lot of people didn't come back," he said.

Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, 92, of Missoula, Mont., said during the war, the raid seemed like "one of many bombing missions." The most harrowing part for him was the crash-landing of his plane, depicted in the movie "Thirty Seconds over Tokyo."

Three crew members died as Raiders bailed out or crash-landed their planes in China, but most were helped to safety by Chinese villagers and soldiers.

Three of the four surviving Raiders were greeted by flag-waving well-wishers ranging from small children to fellow war veterans. The fourth couldn't travel because of health problems.

Twelve-year-old Joseph John Castellano's grandparents brought him from their Dayton home for Saturday's events.

"This was Tokyo. The odds of their survival were 1 in a million," the boy said. "I just felt like I owe them a few short hours of the thousands of hours I will be on Earth."

More than 600 people, including Raiders widows and children, descendants of Chinese villagers who helped them, and Pearl Harbor survivors, were expected for the invitation-only ceremony Saturday evening.

After Thomas Griffin of Cincinnati died in February at age 96, the survivors decided at the 71st anniversary reunion in April in Fort Walton, Beach, Fla., that it would be their last and that they would gather this autumn for one last toast together instead of waiting, as had been the original plan, for the last two survivors to make the toast.

"We didn't want to get a city all excited and plan and get everything set up for a reunion, and end up with no people because of our age," explained Lt. Col. Richard Cole, the oldest survivor at 98. The Dayton native, who was Doolittle's co-pilot, lives in Comfort, Texas.

Lt. Col. Robert Hite, 93, couldn't come. Son Wallace Hite said his father, wearing a Raiders blazer and other traditional garb for their reunions, made his own salute to the fallen with a silver goblet of wine at home in Nashville, Tenn., earlier in the week.

Hite is the last survivor of eight Raiders who were captured by Japanese soldiers. Three were executed; another died in captivity.

The 80 silver goblets in the ceremony were presented to the Raiders in 1959 by the city of Tucson, Ariz. The Raiders' names are engraved twice, the second upside-down. During the ceremony, white-gloved cadets presented each of the three with their personal goblets and their longtime manager poured the cognac. The deceased's glasses are turned upside-down.

--

Contact the reporter at HTTP://WWW.TWITTER.COM/DANSEWELL

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Print this article

Comments

Hmm... It looks like you’re not a WCPO Insider. or Subscribe now to contribute!

More National News
CO town mourns on 15th anniversary of Columbine
CO town mourns on 15th anniversary of Columbine

April 20 marks 15 years since the mass shooting that killed 12 students and teacher Dave Sanders at Columbine High School in Littleton.

Boston race opens spots to some affected by bomb
Boston race opens spots to some affected by bomb

In November, Boston Marathon organizers announced that about 500 bibs would be available for those "personally and profoundly impacted…

Focus on festivities, security ahead of marathon
Focus on festivities, security ahead of marathon

Families celebrated Easter, diners enjoyed the spring weather at sidewalk cafes, and runners - easily identified by their trim builds and…

Fighter, advocate 'Hurricane' Carter dies at 76
Fighter, advocate 'Hurricane' Carter dies at 76

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a one-time middleweight title contender whose murder convictions became an international symbol of racial…

Pot holiday '4/20' looks to go mainstream in CO
Pot holiday '4/20' looks to go mainstream in CO

Tens of thousands of revelers raised joints, pipes and vaporizer devices to the sky Sunday at a central Denver park in a defiant toast to the…

PD: Man pelts GF with eggs at Easter party
PD: Man pelts GF with eggs at Easter party

Pittsburgh police say a man threw hardboiled eggs at his girlfriend during an Easter egg decorating party, then tried to attack police.

Boston Strong for a cause: Team MR8 ready to run
Boston Strong for a cause: Team MR8 ready to run

The Boston Marathon has meant more to Fran Fidler than he can put into words.

Mike Canan: Boston Marathon more than a race
Mike Canan: Boston Marathon more than a race

The 2014 Boston Marathon wasn't in runner Mike Canan's plans, after completing the 2013 race two hours before the bombing. But…

Boston kid wants to win Boston Marathon for city
Boston kid wants to win Boston Marathon for city

Shalane Flanagan grew up in nearby Marblehead with a reverence for the Boston Marathon and dreamed, like many locals and foreign…

VIDEO: Obama calls Easter time for hope, renewal
VIDEO: Obama calls Easter time for hope, renewal

President Barack Obama is encouraging Americans to draw strength and inspiration from the Easter and Passover holidays.