Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

70th Doolittle Raiders Reunion

The largest collection of B-25 Mitchells gathered since World War II

The USS Hornet's radio operator intercepted a message in Japanese at 07:45; its origins were close. Just earlier, SBD Dauntless aircraft that had launched off the USS Enterprise had spotted a small Japanese fishing vessel, and then later flew over the Enterprise's deck, dropping a message, causing Vice Admiral William F. Halsey to immediately change course. At 07:38, another patrol vessel was spotted, so with the radio interception and sightings, the hand was dealt. Halsey had no option; he ordered the USS Nashville to sink the vessel, and then flashed a message to the Hornet: LAUNCH PLANES X TO COL DOOLITTLE AND GALLANT COMMAND GOOD LUCK AND GOD BLESS YOU.

The Doolittle Raid on Japan, April 18, 1942, was a high-risk, all-volunteer, first- and last-time experiment. Not designed so much as a major strategic strike, the goal, which was accomplished, was to demonstrate to the Japanese people they weren't untouchable. Eighty men led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle from the U.S. Army Air Force launched in 16 B-25B Mitchells from the deck of the Hornet that morning. Their story is one of the great accounts of patriotism, youth and determination that was celebrated on April 18, 2012, in Dayton, Ohio, at the 70th Doolittle Raiders Reunion.

Of the 80 volunteers who made up the Doolittle Raiders in 1942, four of the five living attended the celebration: Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, co-pilot of B-25 #1 (he was Doolittle's co-pilot); Maj. Thomas C. Griffin, navigator on B-25 #9; Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor, engineer-gunner B-25 #15; and Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, engineer-gunner B-25 #7. All these heroes, now in their 90s, are an inspiration, and you could always tell when they were present with the round of applause and the large crowds straining to tell them thanks for their service!

The AZ CAF crew with pilot Spike McLane at the helm check out the right engine the night before the flight of Maid In The Shade. Grimes was a constant buzz as crews gave their B-25s some TLC, so they would be ready to please the crowds at the memorial.
While the formal Raiders Reunion was at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, it started informally at Grimes Field, Urbana Municipal Airport, on Saturday the 14th, as the B-25s for the memorial flyover on the 18th started to come in (some not making it in until Monday due to weather). Twenty B-25s from around the country flew in to participate in the ceremonies.

The Texas Flying Legends Museum also brought in their A6M Zero, P-51D Mustang Dakota Kid, Aleutian Tiger P-40 Warhawk and FG-1D Corsair. The roar of engines could be heard to the crowd's delight Saturday through Monday, as B-25 flights for the public were conducted, and the Texas Flying Legends put on a show one evening. Estimates of 10,000 folks came to Grimes to celebrate the Raiders and see the largest collection of B-25s since WWII.


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