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Final toast to WWII Doolittle Raiders

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WWII Doolittle Raiders Gather At Weekend Ceremony

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - Known as the Doolittle Raiders, the 80 men who risked their lives on a World War II bombing mission on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor were toasted one last time by their surviving comrades and honored with a Veterans Day weekend of fanfare shared by thousands.

Three of the four surviving Raiders attended the toast Saturday at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Their late commander, Lt. Gen. James "Jimmy" Doolittle, started the tradition but they decided this autumn's ceremony would be their last.

"May they rest in peace," Lt. Col. Richard Cole, 98, said before he and fellow Raiders - Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, 93, and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, 92 - sipped cognac from specially engraved silver goblets. The 1896 cognac was saved for the occasion after being passed down from Doolittle.

Hundreds invited to the ceremony, including family members of deceased Raiders, watched as the three each called out "here" as a historian read the names of all 80 of the original airmen.

The fourth surviving Raider, Lt. Col. Robert Hite, 93, couldn't travel to Ohio because of health problems.

But son Wallace Hite said his father, wearing a Raiders blazer and other traditional garb for their reunions, made his own salute to the fallen with a silver goblet of wine at home in Nashville, Tenn., earlier in the week.

Hite is the last survivor of eight Raiders who were captured by Japanese soldiers. Three were executed; another died in captivity.

A B-25 bomber flyover helped cap an afternoon memorial tribute in which a wreath was placed at the Doolittle Raider monument outside the museum. Museum officials estimated some 10,000 people turned out for Veterans Day weekend events honoring the 1942 mission credited with rallying American morale and throwing the Japanese off balance.

Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning said America was at a low point, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and other Axis successes, before "these 80 men who showed the nation that we were nowhere near defeat." He noted that all volunteered for a mission with high risks throughout, from the launch of B-25 bombers from a carrier at sea, the attack on Tokyo, and lack of fuel to reach safe bases.

The Raiders have said they didn't realize at the time that their mission would be considered an important event in turning the war's tide. It inflicted little major damage physically, but changed Japanese strategy while firing up Americans.

"It was what you do ... over time, we've been told what effect our raid had on the war and the morale of the people," Saylor said in an interview.

The Brussett, Mont., native who now lives in Puyallup, Wash., said he was one of the lucky ones.

"There were a whole bunch of guys in World War II; a lot of people didn't come back," he said.

Thatcher, of Missoula, Mont., said the raid just seemed like "one of many bombing missions" during the war. The most harrowing part for him was the crash landing of his plane, depicted in the movie "Thirty Seconds over Tokyo."

Cole, of Comfort, Texas, was Doolittle's co-pilot that day. Three crew members died as Raiders bailed out or crash-landed their planes in China, but most were helped to safety by Chinese villagers and soldiers.

Cole, Saylor and Thatcher were greeted Saturday by flag-waving well-wishers ranging from small children to fellow war veterans. Twelve-year-old Joseph John Castellano's grandparents brought him from their Dayton home.

"This was Tokyo. The odds of their survival were one in a million," the boy said. "I just felt like I owe them a few short hours of the thousands of hours I will be on Earth."

Organizers said more than 600 people, including descendants of Chinese villagers who helped the Raiders and Pearl Harbor survivors, were invited to the final-toast ceremony.

The 80 silver goblets in the ceremony were presented to the Raiders in 1959 by the city of Tucson, Ariz. The Raiders' names are engraved twice, the second upside-down. During the ceremony, white-gloved cadets presented each of the three with their personal goblets and their longtime manager poured the cognac. The deceased's glasses are turned upside-down.

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Nessus November 11 2013 at 11:55 PM

This was reality. It was not Hollywood movies. We were losing the air war over Nazi Germany, until 1944, when American bombers had fighter escorts. We owe them more than we can ever deliver.

Nessus

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chowjc November 11 2013 at 9:31 PM

My salute to the Raiders! Their service and bravery will always have a special place in the hearts of Americans.

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jasauve November 11 2013 at 8:29 PM

Nicely done - Thank you

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jhrooney November 11 2013 at 9:39 PM

These guys were the greatest generation. They stepped up, never questioned whats in it for me, is this morally right, should I be a conscientious objector?
I doubt youth of America have the same courage and dedication today.

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2 replies
bcrnbs2 jhrooney November 11 2013 at 9:56 PM

i have to disagree, that was a different time, and i know because i served with a lot of good man, who step up when needed.. how about the seals who went in to get osama.. ..
no its a different time, but i believe that the youth of today if called and needed would anc oould step up

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1 reply
cherokee bcrnbs2 November 11 2013 at 11:06 PM

You have made a very good point. I am almost 80 years old and served in the service in the 1950's, and I agree with your thoughts about our young people. In spite of what our so called leader in doing I believe that they WILL step up and take over when the time comes.

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jcante5605 jhrooney November 11 2013 at 10:29 PM

I serve with the youth of America. The "kids" in the Army today are courageous and dedicated. As a 62 y/o I have served 0ver 30 years. These guys are great. I just returned from my tour in Afghanistan. Would go back with these "kids" anytime.

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dave and mary November 11 2013 at 8:56 PM

Take a good long hard look at that picture of the Doolittle Raiders. It's a pice of history that will be gone forever as we slide into the Gomorrah life that will doom us.

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2 replies
madlyfem dave and mary November 11 2013 at 9:26 PM

Nonsense. You doom sayers are all alike. Those people who people like you disparaged in the 30's as bums, Okies, and Arkies, fought the War in the 40's. Hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their lives to keep us free, and free Asians and Europeans. People like you were against the G.I. Bill of Rights as welfare. You would still deny rights to people YOU disapprove of, no matter how much they have done to earn those rights.

You are backward, bigoted, and un-American. You are not worthy of the men and women who sacrificed their futures that we may have ours.

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1 reply
dgcajun101 madlyfem November 11 2013 at 10:41 PM

ask any high school kid a few questions on ww2 and I will bet they know so little that it would really surprise you. I doubt as he say's that very many know about the doolittle raiders and doubt. I doubt any of them at all know about the 442 regiment that was all Nisei (japanese descent). many if any would know about the dam busters that flew lancasters to try to bust dams on the ruhr valley in order to get rid of or badly delay war production in the area. this is what he is getting at and I have to agree with him. recently there was a survey amongst kids and very very few of them knew much about ww2. they just aren't being taught like I was in the late 50's on about our history prior to, during and since ww2. the only thing they know anything about is what they hear on the tv about current events. God Bless these fellas!! they gave us the shot in the arm with this raid that we badly needed to raise morale after the strike they made on pearl harbor. there were several times these boys were given the chance to drop out of the training and raid but none of them did. in fact the guys that were cut due to their aircraft having problems tried their best to trade with someone else with no takers. everyone wanted to go on this raid!!! they knew the likelihood that they wouldn't come back in one piece but they still wanted to go.

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GoldLions dave and mary November 11 2013 at 9:27 PM

Salute a toast to them and you, for your comment says it all.
Fully agree, America seems to have lost it's focus on anything morally correct!

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rmoorebigdaddy November 11 2013 at 7:55 PM

My son is in The Army and he and some fellow soldiers are in Lake Charles, Louisiana awarding The Medal of Honor postumously. I think servicemen, servicewomen and veterans from any branch are very special and I think one day a year is not enough to honor them.

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maryeconnelly November 11 2013 at 10:43 PM

Along the bottom of each and every envelope that leaves our home and on the back of every check we write, the following message is sent:

God Bless America and the men and women who defend and defended Her!

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2 replies
cherokee maryeconnelly November 11 2013 at 10:58 PM

That is absolutely great.

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Virginia maryeconnelly November 11 2013 at 11:04 PM

Amen....

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esher45@aol.com November 11 2013 at 10:39 PM

I lift a Toast to all brave men and women of the free world for their uncanny sacrifice...today could be the first day of lasting peace on earth. Best hope is that men kind finds the true meaning of the language of Love....expressed and unconditional..

Gethsemanie

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JNHarris@luckymail.com November 11 2013 at 10:41 PM

Working as a nurse in a Veterans' Hospital, several years ago I had the honor of taking care of one of the Doolittle Raiders. These men were tough, just as were thousands of WWII Veterans. I am proud to have had the priviledge of caring for all Veterans, but I can honestly say that those WWII Vets. were "One Of A Kind."

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paulmdonnam November 11 2013 at 9:02 PM

May their deeds of bravey and sacrifice never be forgotten. We are free because of such people as these.

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