Monday, November 11, 2013

Scott And Carol Present - A Veterans Day Tribute

“A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers,” said President John F Kennedy, in 1963. Veterans Day is a time to remember, and honor all veterans of either sex, but we are focusing on the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders of World War II.  Even though we cannot feature all all branches of service, we must still remember their sacrifice for all of us.

A little over four months after the sneak attack of Pearl Harbor, sixteen B-25s, with five crewman each, were sitting on the deck of the USS hornet. While still 600 miles from Japan, the task force was discovered by Japanese forces and the decision was made to launch the aircraft 200 miles farther away than scheduled, due to the radio warnings sent by the picket boats. This handpicked group of eighty men would carry out the first strike on the Japanese homeland during World War II. They knew they didn’t have enough fuel to reach their planned landing sites in China but still they went. Into the heart of the Japanese homeland flew the brave eighty. Their courage raised American morale both home and abroad, for it would be over two years later before American bombers returned to Japan.

The Doolittle Toykyo Raiders had their 70th reunion in Dayton on April 18, 2012. All these B-25s attended the proceedings and participated in the flyover.

Here is a picture of the missing man flyover during the memorial  wreath laying ceremony on April 18, 2012.

Recently Scott had the opportunity to fly aboard a B-25 named Georgie’s Gal at the Thunder Over Michigan Airshow. Operated by the Liberty Avation Museum in Port Clinton, it allows present and future generations to see, hear, touch, and fly aboard one of these legendary aircraft. Scott recounts, “As we set on the end of the runway revving up the engines, the pilots going through their checklists, I wondered how those brave men felt. The plane vibrates with anticipation, and it seems like forever before it starts rolling. When the bouncing stops you see the runway fall away, and there is the mechanical sounds of the landing gear being retracked. My thoughts wandered to what they were thinking about, leaving 200 miles farther away than planned and knowing how much more difficult it would be to complete the mission under those circumstances.”

The Georgie’s Gal never flew in combat overseas; instead she flew training, patrol, and public relations missions stateside. And now she is the one of the keepers of their stories, ensuring that their bravery will not be forgotten.

The survivors began a tradition of having an annual reunion in April of 1946. General Jimmy Doolittle paid for the first reunion out of his own pocket, but he told them they could pay their own way when it was suggested to make this an annual event. The last Doolittle Raider reunion was held earlier this year in Fort Walton Beach, FL. . The four remaining Raiders decided that there are too few of them to continue the gatherings. The mission has come full circle, for their last reunion was close to Eglin Field, where they conducted their secret training for the mission.
An estimated 5,000 citizens lined the entrance to the National Museum of the United States Air Force to welcome the Doolittle Tokoyo Raiders for the final time. In 1959, thirteen years after the started their gatherings, the city of Tucson, AZ presented the group with a set of silver goblets, each bearing the name of one of the eighty men who flew the mission. During the every gathering, the survivors drink a toast to the Raiders who have passed since the last gathering, and then they turn the goblets with their names of the newly deceased upside down.

The case with the goblets has been on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force for many years and every year it is transported to the Raiders Reunion. In the case is a very special bottle of 1896 Hennessy Very Special Cognac, from the year Jimmy Doolittle was born. The Hennessy Company only recently found out about the special bottle and received permission to make a replica for display purposes. Georgie’s Girl has participated in many of the reunions, both as a flying museum, in the flyover, and several times she carried the goblets to the reunion

 The ongoing plan for many years has been for the last two survivors to open that special bottle and drink a final toast to their comrades in arms. As the years have sped by only three of the Raider are still well enough to travel, since they are all in their 90’s, so Lt. Col. Richard "Dick" E. Cole, Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor, and Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher had their final toast last Saturday back in Dayton, because they wanted to ensure that it is done properly as a last salute to their fellow crewmen, while they still can. After the final roll call, they opened that special bottle, filled the final three goblets, and had a final toast to those who are gone. Robert  L  Hite participated through a special internet connection at his residence.

You can view  The Final Toast here.

So let us all remember all the veterans, whether we know them personally or not. They made their sacrifices without knowing us, but through knowing what they stood for in their efforts. And maybe, if we can, we can remember them and their families on more than just this day.

A heartfelt thank you to all the men and women who protect our way of life, whether on land, sea, and air. We owe you and your families far more than we can ever repay.