Four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, 80 men took off from an aircraft carrier on a top-secret mission to bomb Japan. They were led by Lt. Col. James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle, and soon after, they became known as the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. Saturday, November 9th, 2013 will mark the last time survivors of the raid will gather together to honor their fallen comrades.
The remaining Raiders are between the ages of 98 and 92 years old, and now, 71 years after their historic mission, three of the four remaining members will gather at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Lt. Cols. Richard Cole, and Edward Saylor, along with Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, are expected to attend the ceremony. Because of health concerns, Lt. Col. Robert Hite hopes to watch a live feed of the ceremony from his home in Tennessee.
It is the last time that, together, they’ll remember how in April 1942, 80 men flying 16 B-25 bombers launched from the USS Hornet knowing they didn’t have the fuel to return.
Lt. Col. Richard Cole was Jimmy Doolittle's copilot. They were on the first bomber to depart.
“For me," said Cole, "the scariest time of the whole mission, was standing at 9000 feet in an airplane that you knew was going to run out of gas and you were going to have to bail out through that little black hole into someplace that you’d never been, and never planned to be.”
Cole and his fellow crew members parachuted from the plane in stormy weather, in the dead of night. They landed in China where they received help. Other Raiders weren’t as lucky, but what each of these 80 men accomplished 71 years ago will be remembered this weekend, and a final toast to the ones who have died will be raised.
Although the final toast ceremony is not open to the public, a LIVE feed of the event will be broadcast on The Pentagon Channel at 6 p.m. EST. A link to the LIVE stream will also be available on the day of the event at www.nationalmuseum.af.mil and www.af.mil.
**CORRECTION An earlier version of this story mistakenly said Lt. Col. Robert Hite would be attending and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher would be watching from home.