Three of America’s last surviving Doolittle Raiders shared a final toast to their comrades on Saturday, 71 years after their raid on Tokyo rattled the Japanese and brought hope to their country in the darkest days of World War II.
The men, all in their 90s, gathered at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, to raise engraved silver goblets filled with 1896 Hennessy cognac, The Associated Press reported.
“May they rest in peace,” said Army Air Force Lt. Col. Richard Cole, 98, joined by Lt. Col Edward Saylor, 93, and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, 92. The fourth surviving Raider, Lt. Col. Robert Hite, 93, couldn’t make the Veterans Day Weekend ceremony because of poor health, according to AP.
The Doolittle Raid of April 18, 1942, led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle, was the first U.S. bombing of the Japanese home islands. Though it caused little military damage, the raid and the boost it gave to American morale were immortalized in the 1944 film “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo.”
It also pushed Japanese commanders into strategic mistakes that led to American victory at the Battle of Midway in June 1942, the turning point of the war in the Pacific.
While the men have decided this reunion will be their last, the turnout at the Dayton ceremony showed their valor hasn’t been forgotten – even by generations born long since.
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 12-year-old told The Association Press. “I just felt like I owe them a few short hours of the thousands of hours I will be on Earth.”
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