WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, OHIO – The Air Force hosted the famed Doolittle Tokyo Raiders’ final toast to their fallen comrades during an invitation-only ceremony, November 9, 2013 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
“Tonight is a night of conflicting emotions: pride in our Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, sorrow at the end of a mission, and a myriad of other emotions,” retired Maj. Lloyd Bryant, the Master of Ceremonies, said as he opened the ceremony.
On April 18, 1942, 80 men achieved the unimaginable when they took off from an aircraft carrier on a top-secret mission to bomb Japan. These men, led by Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, came to be known as the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders.
The ceremony was attended by three of the four living Doolittle Tokyo Raiders: Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor, engineer-gunner of Crew No. 15; Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, co-pilot of Crew No. 1; and Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, engineer-gunner of Crew No. 7. The fourth surviving raider, Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, co-pilot of Crew No. 16, was unable to attend due to health issues, but he was there in spirit!
Among those in attendance for the ceremony included Acting Secretary of the Air Force, Eric Fanning; and Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. Fanning and Welsh presented the Raiders with an Eagle as a token of their appreciation and gratitude.
Cole was then asked to open the 1896 cognac and give a toast. The year of the bottle of cognac is Doolittle’s birth year.
“Gentlemen, I propose a toast,” Cole said. “To the gentlemen we lost on the mission and those who have passed away since. Thank you very much and may they rest in peace.”
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 poured cognac into the participants’ goblets. Those of the deceased were turned upside-down (AFNS).