Good Morning and Happy Friday. Today I want to take you back to an event that few people speak of or remember with any detail. The event was the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.
It is fair to say that the memory of September 11, 2001 is still a part of everyone’s life today but what about December 7, 1941? Do you, or your friends and family, remember the specifics? On 9-11-2001 there were 3000 people killed and the number of injured, based on long term health problems, is still under debate; however, do you remember that on 12-7-1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor, there were 2500 killed and 1500 injured?
The events are similar but that which I want everyone to take away from this article is the following. According to Alvin Toffler we live in a “Throw Away Society” and the permanence, my opinion, that is necessary for “We The People” to continue to prosper needs to be addressed. I live in Colombia, South America now and every day at 6:00 AM, and again at 6:00 PM, they play the National Anthem on the radio and the TV. We use to do this in the good old U.S.A., and I am old enough to remember when, but now we don’t have a need to remind people of that one simple fact that made the U.S.A. great – “We The People.”
So, take some time away from work, cable TV, and your smart phone to reach back and connect with your past and read a good history book on “We The People” and regain an appreciation for those who came before us and paved the way for the freedoms we enjoy today.
Now, let’s talk about the Doolittle Raiders……………………………………..
James Harold “Jimmy” Doolittle was born in Alameda, California, but spent much of his childhood in western Alaska. His father, Frank, was a gold prospector and carpenter in Nome, where young Jimmy learned to fight bullies and pilot a dogsled. Eventually Rosa and Jimmy Doolittle returned to California, leaving Frank behind.
Jimmy attended high school in Los Angeles, where he distinguished himself as a gymnast and boxer. He then began courses at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Mines.
In 1917 Doolittle became a flying cadet in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. He was soon soloing and serving as a flight gunnery instructor. He later requested a transfer to the European theater, but the armistice dashed his dreams of combat.
Instead, Doolittle worked at the Army’s Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas, before returning to Berkeley to complete his degree. In 1922 he became the first pilot to fly coast to coast in under 24 hours, making the journey from Florida to California with just one stop. The Army sent him to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned master’s and doctoral degrees in aeronautical engineering.
He spent the rest of the decade working as a test pilot for military and civilian planes, setting air race records and helping to develop instruments that allowed pilots to fly in whiteout conditions. In 1930 he left the army for higher-paying work at the Shell Oil Company, where he pressed for the adoption of advanced aviation fuel.
Returning to the army full-time in 1940, Doolittle continued his test pilot work until January of 1942, when he was summoned by General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold to lead a raid on the Japanese mainland. At the time Japan’s defensive perimeter in the Pacific was wide enough to make it invulnerable to conventional carrier-based attacks.
Sixteen Army B-25 bombers were rigged with doubled fuel capacity and loaded on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. The original plan called for bombing five major cities, but last-minute detection of the Hornet forced the planes to launch a day early.
With Doolittle in the lead, the planes survived storms and anti-aircraft fire to drop four bombs each on Tokyo, striking industrial facilities and a light cruiser. Several bombs hit civilian areas, killing 50 and injuring 400.
The Doolittle Raiders, as the planes’ pilots became known, flew on toward China. They had planned to land in areas controlled by Chinese Nationalists, but all ran out of fuel and crashed. Most of the crews parachuted to the ground, where with local help they were able to reach the Nationalist lines. One crew landed in Vladivostok and was interned by the Soviets. Three died in the crashes, and eight were captured by the Japanese.
In America the raid was cause for celebration. The 45-year-old Doolittle, who had worried he would be court-martialed for missing his primary targets, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and promoted two ranks to brigadier general.
The attack was a psychological blow for the Japanese, who moved four fighter groups from the war’s front lines to protect their cities. Following the raid, Japanese battalions killed 250,000 Chinese civilians in areas suspected of aiding the American airmen.
Doolittle was given a series of command roles in North Africa and Europe, eventually leading the powerful Eighth Air Force with its 42,000 combat aircraft. He modified U.S. bomber escort tactics, freeing fighters to pursue their German counterparts.
Doolittle’s last significant mark on U.S. policy came in a classified report on covert operations for Dwight Eisenhower in 1954, which stated that for Cold War espionage, “acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply.”
In 1959 Doolittle retired as a lieutenant general and returned to an executive position at Shell. In 1985 Ronald Reagan promoted Doolittle to a full four-star general. Doolittle died on September 27, 1993, at age 96.
A milestone historical event took place on November 9, 2013, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Rather than wait until there were only two Doolittle Tokyo Raiders left to turn over their own goblets as originally planned, the four surviving members decided to complete their mission publicly and make a final toast to their deceased comrades together. They were Lt. Col. Richard E. “Dick” Cole, 98; Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor, 94; and Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 92. The fourth, Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, 93, was unable to attend, but viewed the ceremony via Internet at his home in Nashville, Tenn. Outstanding cadets from the Air Force Academy handled the goblets, and the final scene was widely televised and reported.
As the oldest of the four survivors, Dick Cole opened a bottle of cognac, dated 1896, the year of their leader’s birth, which had been stored away for this final occasion. “Gentlemen, I propose a toast to those we lost on the mission and those who have passed away since,” said Cole. “Thank you very much and may they rest in peace.” Saylor and Thatcher sipped from their own goblets as the audience gave them all a standing ovation.
The attendees, many of them relatives of the original 80 mission members, rose again in tribute to their own family Raiders as the entire roster of names was read. Preceding the toast, Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning and Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh III spoke of the Raiders’ courage and the significance of their mission to Air Force history. Secretary Fanning and General Welsh presented the surviving Raiders with a silver eagle statuette in appreciation of their service.
In the afternoon prior to the evening toast ceremony, a large crowd had gathered at the museum’s Memorial Park in front of the Doolittle Raid monument, which lists all the Raiders. A wreath was laid, a lone B-25 flew overhead and Cole gave a talk summing up the Raiders’ sentiments: “Once again we meet at this Memorial Park to reflect on the mission we took part in seven decades ago. Although we designed this commemorative symbol of the plane we flew, it was not intended as a tribute to ourselves. We wanted to list for posterity the names of everyone who voluntarily participated and followed a leader who personified the finest human qualities and set a standard of American military leadership that was unprecedented. It is an acknowledgment of the admiration, trust and respect we had for him and also a reminder of the friendship we had with those who have gone before us. We all shared the same risk but had no realization of the positive effect that we had on the morale of Americans at a time of great national peril. We are grateful we had the opportunity to serve and are mindful that our nation benefited from our service.”
Have a good weekend, connect with your past, and remember that those who will follow in your footsteps are depending on you to pave the way.
Janusry 14, 2014