Thousands remember Doolittle Raiders at ceremony

101-year-old Dayton native Richard Cole, only living member of WWII team, takes part in 75th anniversary celebration.


With bombers streaking overhead, thousands gathered Tuesday at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force to catch a glimpse of 101-year-old Doolittle Tokyo Raider Richard E. Cole and to mark the 75th anniversary of the Raiders’ daring raid against Japan in World War II.

RELATED: Crowds swarm AF museum as B-25s arrive to honor Doolittle Raiders

Doug Bruser took one day off work to see something he and others may never see again in an event both somber and festive.

“It’s a once-a-lifetime chance to do it,” said Bruser, 55, of Mason.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldein compared the bravery of the Raiders on “a one-way mission” that for most ended in crash landings or bailing out over China to the signers of the Declaration of Independence who stood up to an oppressor.

Eighty Army Air Forces airmen climbed aboard 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers, taking off from the deck of the USS Hornet on a mission to bomb Japan on April 18, 1942, in retaliation for the Japanese attack on the U.S. fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Legendary airman Jimmy Doolittle led the attack and Cole, a Dayton native who lives in Texas, was his co-pilot. Doolittle was given the Medal of Honor for leading the attack.

RELATED: 101-year-old Dayton native relives WWII raid

“Like our Founding Fathers, this all-volunteer force acted as the force of all Americans,” Goldfein told those gathered.

“… They provided an uncertain America with hope, that yes, the war could be won,” the four-star general said. “… The power of a few men ensured that imperial aggression did not go unchecked and they set in motion a course of events shaping the outcome of World War II and our America’s future.”

Fifteen of the 16 bombers crashed landed or were abandoned in the air as crews bailed out after the raid. One bomber landed in Russia where the U.S. crew was interned until they escaped in 1943.

The Japanese captured eight airmen in China and held them as POWs. Three were executed.

RELATED: Photos of the life of Richard E. Cole

The downed airmen were helped by the Chinese, who paid a heavy price: Japan killed 250,000 in retribution for aiding the Americans, historians say.

Bombers take to the skies above Dayton

Under clear skies Tuesday, 11 World War II-era B-25 bombers from as far as California and Texas rumbled over in a salute to Cole and the Raiders.

About an hour later, two B-1 Lancer bombers streaked over near the speed of sound as a bugler played the final notes of Taps.

The Air Force museum estimated 16,000 attended the memorial ceremony while 8,000 toured a line-up of B-25s on the runway Tuesday. Another 5,000 viewed the bombers after they arrived Monday.

Cole, wearing a white Doolittle Raiders cap and blue jacket, sat next to Goldfein as thousands heard about the Raiders accolades decades ago.

“I was actually hoping to catch a glimpse of Col. Cole,” said Ann Unlenhake, 58, of Riverside, and a retired Air Force nurse standing in the crowd.

Sixty-year-old Bruce Scheib of Mason said his late father, a U.S. Army soldier, credited the Raiders and later the atomic bomb attacks on Japan for saving his life to avoid an invasion of Japan.

“These men are the true heroes of this country,” Scheib said. “The young generation needs to take note.”

RELATED:WWII 75 years: 101-year-old Dayton man relives Doolittle Raid

In a private ceremony earlier in the day Tuesday, Cole turned over one of two silver goblets that were still standing to mark the death of fellow Raider David J. Thatcher, who died at age 94 last June in Missoula, Mont.

For his son, Jeff Thatcher, the finality of the act was emotional.

“It was a really powerful moment and really hit me harder than I thought,” said Thatcher, 61, of Little Rock. Ark.

As a former Air Force Academy cadet, Goldfein remembered seeing the goblets and reflecting on what they meant. The goblets were later brought to the Air Force museum, also home to a Congressional Gold Medal given to the Raiders.

On Tuesday, he came full circle witnessing Cole turn Thatcher’s goblet upside down.

“There are moments in a career when the whole idea of service and the long blue line just washes over you and today is one of those moments,” Goldfein said later.

The museum has 80 goblets, each engraved with the names of the crewmen on the Doolittle mission.

Today, only Cole’s stands upright.

MORE COVERAGE

Watch photos from Tuesday’s ceremony honoring the Doolittle Raiders, see photos, read past stories and more at MyDaytonDailyNews.com



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Accused driver who hit, dragged Dayton officer indicted
Accused driver who hit, dragged Dayton officer indicted

A driver accused of striking a Dayton police officer last month at the Summit Square Apartments is facing felony charges. Marcus Blackwell, 21, of Dayton, was indicted today for felonious assault of a police officer. He is ordered to appear Nov. 2 for arraignment in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. Blackwell is the suspected driver of a blue Ford...
Senate News: Ben Sasse spills Dr. Pepper on Ted Cruz; epic Twitter war follows
Senate News: Ben Sasse spills Dr. Pepper on Ted Cruz; epic Twitter war follows

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has honed his comedic skills on Twitter over the last year; on Wednesday he showed his prowess while dueling on social media dueling with Senator Ben Sasse. According to TheHill.com, Sasse accidentally spilled Dr. Pepper on Cruz during a heated exchange between U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Minnesota Senator Al Franken...
Avoid the pain, get the gains: 5 most common exercise-related injuries
Avoid the pain, get the gains: 5 most common exercise-related injuries

For those that take their workouts seriously, be sure to add one more fitness goal to the list: avoiding exercise injuries.  Not only does getting hurt in the gym or on the trail cut back on how much time you spend getting fit,  it's also painful and treatment can be costly. Personal trainer Justin Price, M.A. told Men's Fitness...
Amazon HQ2 bonanza includes Cincy/Dayton submission, other Ohio cities
Amazon HQ2 bonanza includes Cincy/Dayton submission, other Ohio cities

Dayton and Cincinnati’s combined bid for Amazon’s second headquarters will be met with fierce competition around Ohio and across the U.S. The e-commerce giant sparked a bidding war when it asked for proposals on where in North America to invest $5 billion in its second headquarters, which it said will employ up to 50,000 people and rival...
Bridge used by 20,000 vehicles a day coming down for safety reasons
Bridge used by 20,000 vehicles a day coming down for safety reasons

A bridge that 20,000 vehicles use daily between Harrison Township and the city of Dayton will be demolished and rebuilt because of safety concerns, Montgomery County Engineer Paul Gruner said. The Keowee Street Bridge over the Great Miami River will close in December, or as soon as the new Helena Street Bridge is opened. Eagle Construction’s...
More Stories