The four remaining Doolittle Tokyo Raiders of World War II will hold a final toast to their fallen comrades during an invitation-only ceremony Nov. 9 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
The toast will honor the 80 men who went on a top-secret mission to bomb Japan months after Pearl Harbor. It was the first combat use of strategic bombardment by the Army Air Forces in WWII, showing the Japanese they were vulnerable to an American attack and boosting American’s morale.
“While the attack itself caused little actual damage to Japanese war industry, the psychological impact on the Japanese military and the American public proved to be immense,” retired Lt. Gen. Jack Hudson, the museum director, told Air Force News Service.
Led by Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, only two co-pilots, Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole and Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, and two engineer-gunners, Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor and Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, are alive today. All four surviving Raiders plan to attend the event.
“The last official, public reunion [of the surviving Raiders] was this past April in Florida,” said Rob Bardua, public affairs director for the museum. “There was always a plan that when two remained, they would open the bottle of cognac and make a final toast. But in October of 2012 they voted not to wait until only two remained or until they could no longer travel as they were advancing in age, but just to go ahead and go forward with a final toast this November with all the surviving Raiders who could attend.”
The Raiders’ toast is a solemn and private event that dates back to 1959, when the city of Tucson, Ariz., presented the Doolittle Raiders with a set of silver goblets, each bearing the name of one of the 80 men who flew on the mission.
“The goblets are unique in that each goblet has the Raider’s name engraved twice so that it can be read if the goblet is right side up or upside down,” said Bardua. “When they toast at each reunion they would toast the Raiders who had died since their last meeting and then turn the deceased men’s goblets upside down. There’s only four left that are right side up.”
Although the goblet ceremony will be private, the museum also plans to hold a wreath-laying ceremony at the Doolittle Raiders memorial and a flyover of B-25 Mitchell bombers.