Doolittle Raiders make their last toast

November 19, 2013

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — The B-25 flew overhead and the goblets were turned over in the final toast of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders marking the end of a tradition on Saturday, Nov. 9 at the National Museum of the US Air Force.

The world witnessed the historical moment as three of the four survivors met for the last time.

A live feed broadcast on The Pentagon Channel and a live stream on the day of the event at www.nationalmuseum.af.mil and www.af.mil showed the private toast ceremony.

On April 18, 1942, 80 men achieved the unimaginable when they took off from an aircraft carrier on a top secret mission to bomb Japan. Led by Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, these men came to be known as the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders.

Just four of the men survive: Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, 98, , co-pilot of Crew No. 1; Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, 93, co-pilot of Crew No. 16; Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor, 93, engineer-gunner of Crew No. 15; and Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 92, engineer-gunner of Crew No. 7. At this time, Cole, Saylor and Thatcher plan to participate on-site and Hite hopes to watch the ceremony from his residence due to health concerns.

In 1959 the city of Tucson, Ariz., presented the Doolittle Raiders with a set of silver goblets, each bearing the name of one of the 80 men who flew on the mission.

At each of their past reunions, the surviving Raiders would conduct their solemn “Goblet Ceremony.” After toasting the Raiders who died since their last meeting, they would then turn the deceased men’s goblets upside down. The Nov. 9 event will mark their final toast. They decided in 2005 to make the museum the permanent home for the goblets.

In addition the public had an opportunity to celebrate these World War II aviation heroes throughout the day. Thousands turned out to witness this historical honor.

A wreath-laying ceremony took place at the Doolittle Raiders memorial in Memorial Park, followed by a flyover of B-25 aircraft. The B-25 Mitchell Bombers arrived at the Grimes Field Airport in Urbana.

The Air Force Museum Theatre showed Doolittle Raider and World War II-themed movies throughout the weekend: “The Restorers: They Were All Volunteers,” “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” and others.

In January 1942, Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold selected Lt. Col. James Doolittle to lead a special project, the bombing of Japan. Doolittle, who enlisted n the Army in 1917, become a flying cadet and received his commission in 1918. In the late 20s and the early 30s, he won awards. He made the first blind flight in 1929 during which he took off, flew and landed while being completely dependent upon aircraft instruments. Doolittle left the Army Air Corps in 1930, but when war appeared imminent, in 1940 he returned to active duty.

On April 18, 1942, airmen of the Us Army Air Forces led by Doolittle, carried the Battle of the Pacific to the heart of the Japanese empire with a daring raid on military targets at Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Nagoya and Kobe. This attack against these major cities was the result of coordination between the Army Air Forces and the US Navy which carried the 16 North American B-25 medium bombers aboard the USS Hornet.

Author Stan Cohen was available to sign his book “Destination Tokyo” in the museum store throughout the day on Nov. 9. That book, as well as several others related to the Doolittle Raid, and a limited quantity of the medallion and goblet created to commemorate the Final Toast will be available for purchase in the store.