Friday, March 23, 2012

Doolittle Raiders holding final reunion in April. Last chance to say "Thank you."

By Mike Ullery

Chief Photographer

The word "hero" is one of the most often-used words today. Perhaps, that is because we feel the need to recognize the achievements of those who protect us from harm. It is also one of the most abused words in our language. Over-using the word dilutes the meaning when something, or someone, performs in a truly heroic manner.

That is why, when the chance comes to recognize and honor real heroes, we should not pass up the opportunity. That fact is more important when it is the final opportunity to give such recognition.

In April of 1942, the United States and her allies were knocked back on their heels and reeling from attacks by the Japanese during the early days of World War II. Only a few months had passed since the attack on Pearl Harbor.

An Army Air Corps Lt. Colonial, James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle was assigned the job of striking the first blow against the Japanese.

His assignment — bomb Tokyo. The way it was to be done was to use B-25 twin-engine bombers, land-based aircraft, flown from the deck of an aircraft carrier, on a one-way trip. They were to fly from the U.S.S. Hornet, drop their bombs, then fly on to China and ... hope for the best.

The mission was considered impossible from many standpoints. No one had ever launched a loaded B-25 bomber from an aircraft carrier. Yet, when the call went out for volunteers, all assignments were quickly filled.

The mission was carried out. American casualties included three dead and eight captured. Of the eight prisoners of war, three were executed by the Japanese and one died of disease. The 80 men who took part in the raid became known as the "Doolittle Raiders."

Jimmy Doolittle and his raiders did what American military men, and women, have done for centuries. They accomplished the "impossible." For his part in planning and leading the attack, Doolittle was awarded the Medal of Honor.

April 18 will mark the 70th anniversary of the Doolittle raid on Tokyo. Time has taken its inevitable toll on the Raiders. Of the 80 brave men who flew from the deck of the Hornet on what many thought a suicide mission, only five survive.

The five living Raiders will all be in Dayton for this 70th anniversary and their final reunion.

A full slate of events are planned for the event, including a fly-over by more than 20 World War II-era B-25 "Mitchell" bombers, weather permitting.

The bombers will stage out of Grime's Field in Urbana, Ohio, where a number of Doolittle Raider events are also planned. These events will also include rides on some of these historic aircraft.

I stated earlier that the word "hero" is over-used. I can think of no term more fitting for these men. They are truly heroes. Yet, to a man, as most heroes do, they believe they were just doing a job.

I encourage everyone to mark their calendar for one, or more, of the Doolittle Raider reunion events in April. If you love airplanes or history, this will definitely be the place to be.

The main reason to attend is the opportunity, the final opportunity, to personally acknowledge the accomplishments of, and say "thank you" to, the five living members of one of the most daring and courageous military feats in history.

To learn more about the Doolittle Raider events, visit for Grime's Airport information and for times and dates at the Air Force Museum.

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