WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE – B-25 Mitchell bombers from around the country will once again take to the skies before landing at the National Museum of the US Air Force as part of a two-day tribute commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raid, April 17-18.
Current plans call for 17 B-25 bombers to land on the runway behind the museum on Monday, April 17 and be placed on static display from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The aircraft will remain available for public view 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, before departing for a flyover prior to the start of a memorial service in the museum’s Memorial Park at 2:30 p.m.
The memorial service is scheduled to conclude with a flight of two B-1 bombers from the 34th and 37th Bomb Squadrons at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, which were two of the four Army Air Corps Squadrons from which the B-25 aircrews were selected for the Doolittle Raid. These events are free and open to the public. (Note: All outdoor events are weather dependent. The memorial service will still take place indoors in the event of inclement weather.)
Of the 80 Raiders led by James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle in 1942, only one survives today – Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole – who served as Doolittle’s co-pilot on Crew No. 1. Cole, now 101 years old, plans to be at the museum to commemorate the anniversary and will privately honor fellow Raider SSgt. David Thatcher, who passed away last year.
On the evening of Tuesday, April 18, the Air Force Museum Foundation will present “Doolittle’s Raiders: The Final Toast,” as part of the Mr. W. Craig Willan Living History Film Series in the Air Force Museum Theatre at 6:30 p.m. The event will be opened by Cole and following the film screening, two of the Raiders’ children – Cindy Cole Chal and Jim Bower – will share stories and insight and conduct a question and answer session with the audience. Tickets for this event can be purchased by calling 937-253-4629. A limited number of packages, which include the book “Dick Cole’s War: Doolittle Raider, Hump Pilot, Air Commando,” signed by Cole and an event ticket are also available for sale.
In addition, the Air Force Museum Store will host several authors including Stan Cohen (“Destination Tokyo”); Frank Goldstein (“The Last Reunion: A Salute to The Jimmy Doolittle Tokyo Raiders”); and Dennis Okerstrom (“Dick Cole’s War: Doolittle Raider, Hump Pilot, Air Commando”), who will be available to sign copies of their books. The store will also have commemorative merchandise available to purchase. (Federal endorsement is not implied.)
Additional information on the entire event schedule, along with photos and videos of past Raider events at the museum is available at: http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Upcoming/DoolittleTokyoRaid75thAnniversary.aspx.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, America’s morale had slumped from numerous Japanese successes, and the country desperately needed a victory. President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to strike Japan as quickly as possible to bolster American spirits, and U.S. Navy and Army Air Forces planners settled on a bold plan to launch large bombers from an aircraft carrier to attack the Japanese mainland.
The top secret plan called for 16 B-25s to take off from the USS Hornet about 450 miles from Japan, bomb targets at locations such as Yokohama and Tokyo, and then fly another 1,600 miles to friendly airfields in China. At dawn on April 18, 1942, the task force encountered and sunk an enemy patrol boat 650 miles from Japan, forcing the raid to launch early in case the boat had radioed a warning. The Raiders dropped their bombs on Japanese oil storage facilities, factories, and military installations, then headed out across the East China Sea. With the help of the Chinese people, most of the Raiders safely reached friendly forces. However, eight were captured by the Japanese and held as prisoners of war and three of the eight were executed.
News of the attack lifted American optimism significantly and stunned the Japanese population—their embarrassed leaders had promised the mainland would never be attacked. The Japanese shifted forces to protect their home islands, which foretold increasing Allied pressure in the Pacific, the eventual turn of the tide against Japan, and its final defeat in 1945.
According to National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Historian Dr. Doug Lantry, the Raiders were given a bold and unprecedented mission. However, the daring raid greatly succeeded in uplifting the nation.
“The Raid was an extremely risky operation because medium bombers had never been flown from a carrier before, and the fact that they were so far into enemy territory endangered the entire task force,” said Lantry. “While the attack caused little physical damage, its psychological impact on the Japanese military and American public was immense and provided Americans with a much-needed morale boost.”
Each year since the end of World War II, with the exception of 1951, the Doolittle Raiders held an annual reunion. The museum had the privilege of hosting the Raiders in April 1965 (23rd), 1999 (57th), 2006 (64th), 2010 (68th) and 2012 (70th), before Cole, Thatcher and Lt. Col. Ed Saylor had a final toast to their fallen comrades on Nov. 9, 2013. On April 18, 2015, Cole and Thatcher returned to the museum and were presented with the Congressional Gold Medal, which is now on display as part the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders exhibit in the museum’s WWII Gallery.
Story courtesy of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.