21 February 2014

Fwd: WW2 Heros


Their  70th Anniversary Photo


Because  of these heroes, and others, we are free today!

God  Bless them All.... 


They  once were among the most universally admired and revered men in the  United  States . There were 80 of the Raiders in  April 1942, when they carried out one of the most courageous and  heart-stirring military operations in this nation's history. The mere  mention of their unit's name, in those years, would bring tears to the  eyes of grateful Americans.

 Now  only four survive.

After  Japan 's sneak attack  on Pearl Harbor , with the United States reeling and  wounded, something dramatic was needed to turn the war effort  around.

Even  though there were no friendly airfields close enough to  Japan for the  United  States to launch a retaliation, a daring  plan was devised. Sixteen B-25s were modified so that they could take off  from the deck of an aircraft carrier. This had never before been tried --  sending such big, heavy bombers from a carrier.


The  16 five-man crews, under the command of Lt. Col. James Doolittle, who  himself flew the lead plane off the USS Hornet, knew that they would not  be able to return to the carrier. They would have to hit  Japan and then hope to  make it to China for a safe  landing.

But  on the day of the raid, the Japanese military caught wind of the plan.  The  Raiders were told that they would have to take off from much farther out in the Pacific Ocean than they had  counted on.   They were told that because of this they would not have enough  fuel to make it to safety.    And  those men went anyway. 

They  bombed Tokyo , and then flew as far as they could.   Four planes crash-landed; 11 more crews bailed out, and three of the Raiders died.    Eight more were captured; three were  executed.  Another died of starvation in a Japanese prison camp.   One crew made it to Russia .



 The  Doolittle Raid sent a message from the United States to its enemies, and to the rest of  the world:   We will fight. And, no matter what it takes, we will  win.
Of  the 80 Raiders, 62 survived the war.   They were celebrated as national  heroes, models of bravery. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced a motion picture  based on the raid; "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo ," starring Spencer Tracy and Van  Johnson, was a patriotic and emotional box-office hit, and the phrase  became part of the national lexicon.   In the movie-theater previews for the  film, MGM proclaimed that it was presenting the story "with supreme  pride."


 Beginning  in 1946, the surviving Raiders have held a reunion each April, to commemorate the mission.   The reunion is in a different city each year.   In 1959, the city of Tucson, Arizona, as a gesture of respect and gratitude,   presented the Doolittle Raiders with a set of 80 silver goblets.   Each goblet was engraved with the name of a Raider.   

 Every  year, a wooden display case bearing all 80 goblets is transported to the reunion city.   Each time a Raider passes away, his goblet is turned upside down in the case at the next reunion,  as his old friends bear solemn witness. 


 Also  in the wooden case is a bottle of 1896 Hennessy Very Special cognac.   The year is not happenstance: 1896 was when Jimmy Doolittle was  born.  
There  has always been a plan:   When there are only two surviving Raiders, they  would open the bottle,  at last drink from it, and toast their comrades who preceded them in death.  As  2013 began, there were five living Raiders;  then, in  February, Tom  Griffin passed away at age 96.  


 What  a man he was. After bailing out of his plane over a mountainous Chinese forest after the Tokyo raid,  he became ill with malaria, and almost died.   When he recovered, he was sent to Europe to fly more combat missions.   He was shot  down, captured, and spent 22 months in a German prisoner of war  camp.  
The  selflessness of these men, the sheer guts ... there was a passage in the  Cincinnati Enquirer obituary for Mr. Griffin that,  on the surface, had nothing to do with the war, but that emblematizes the depth of his sense of duty and devotion:  "When  his wife became ill and needed to go into a nursing home, he visited her every day.
He walked from his house to the nursing home, fed his wife and at the end of the day brought home her clothes. At night, he washed and  ironed her clothes.   Then he walked them up to her room the next morning.    He did that for three years until her death in 2005."

So  now, out of the original 80, only four Raiders remain:  Dick Cole  (Doolittle's co-pilot on the Tokyo raid), Robert Hite, Edward Saylor and David Thatcher.  All are in their 90s. They have decided that there are too few of them for the public reunions to  continue.
The events in Fort Walton Beach marked the end. It has come full circle;  Florida 's nearby Eglin Field was where the Raiders trained in secrecy for the Tokyo mission.  The town planned to do all  it can to honor the men:  a six-day celebration of their valor, including  luncheons, a dinner and a parade.

Do the men ever wonder if those of us for whom they helped save the country have tended to it in a way that is worthy of their sacrifice? They don't  talk about that, at least not around other people. But if you find  yourself near Fort Walton  Beach this week, and if you should  encounter any of the Raiders, you might want to offer them a word of thanks.   I can tell you  from firsthand observation that they appreciate hearing that they are  remembered.

The  men have decided that after this final public reunion they will wait until a later date -- sometime this year -- to get together once more,  informally and in absolute privacy. That is when they will open the bottle of brandy.  The years are flowing by too swiftly now; they are not going to wait until there are only two of them.
They  will fill the four remaining upturned goblets.  And  raise them in a toast to those who are gone.

Their  70th Anniversary Photo

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