Last week I spoke about heroes. Some say this day in history created heroes. Eighty men took off early that morning.
There are those who decried this as a pointless effort and waste of life. These 20-23 year old kids climbed into and flew planes off of an aircraft carrier. Did I mention these planes were never meant to do that? AND they did it knowing they did not have enough fuel to make it back, hoping they could make it to mainland China.
The results? A boost to Ally moral, a blow to the foe who thought their island untouchable and perhaps most importantly, causing the Japanese to pull back forces to protect the homeland. As bloody as the battles of Wake, Guam, Midway, and Okinawa were, those brave men and women were not facing all they could have faced. Many have sacrificed for us, thank a soldier for their efforts and give a thought to those who have gone before.
Like all stories there is more, to it. Because some Japanese fishing vessels spotted them, they took off early. This made their raid a daylight one rather than the intended night raid. Coincidentally though, he Japanese air defenses were down while an air raid drill was being conducted.
That was the last event which went in most of their favor. Eleven of the planes crash landed with crews bailing out. They had to make their own way to friendly territory. Eight were captured, of those one starved to death in a Japanese P.O.W. Camp and three were executed.
Those who survived the war began a reunion with a special ritual, a toast of Cognac in silver goblets. Each goblet had a raiders name engraved upside down. Every year, as their numbers dwindled, if a raider passed away, their goblet was turned upside down.
The last such gathering was held in 2013. Only four raiders remained to attend. At the time Lt. Col Richard Cole made a toast raising his glass before a large audience at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base and said, “I propose a toast to those who were lost on the mission and to those who have passed away since,” adding, “May they rest in peace.”
Lt. Col. Richard Cole, Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot, is now the last surviving member of the raid. At the age of 101 he was interviewed by Richard Roth of CNN at the Pacific War Museum in Fredericksburg, Texas.
“I asked Cole his secret to living past 101. He simply said, “Keep moving.” He said he would like to be remembered along “with the rest of the people that had an impact on winning the war.” I asked Cole if he felt he was a hero. A quick response. “No.”
You make the call on this, the 75th anniversary of one of America’s greatest military accomplishments.”
Anyway you call it, if you want a stirring, spine-tingling read, I recommend “30 Seconds over Tokyo” by Capt. Ted Lawson.
Thanks for reading,