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They bombed Tokyo 74 years ago…
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.
Even though there were no friendly airfields close enough to Japan for the United States to launch a retaliation, a daring plan was devised. 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.
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 Raiders 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 was emblematic of 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 first hand 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
By Maj. Tony Mayne, September 7, 2016
While at ORNL, Rodeheaver was mentored by Distinguished Inventor James Klett, Ph.D. and contributed to a variety of military-specific projects. Rodeheaver was exposed to the additive manufacturing process using three dimensional printers as a potential solution for lightweight ballistic body armor. He was also involved with a research initiative to design enhanced breaching capabilities for special operators.
The USSOCOM Care Coalition partnered with the not-for-profit Sentinels of Freedom Scholarship Foundation to make Rodeheaver’s internship possible. The Care Coalition is one of five Department of Defense warrior care programs. The Sentinels of Freedom provides select special operation veterans access to financial support for housing, mentoring for personal, academic and professional success, and employment networking.
Disclaimer: The article is not a Department of Defense or 75th Ranger Regiment endorsement of Sentinels of Freedom Scholarship Foundation.
On September 11, 2001 I was in my senior year at Centennial High School and walked into my criminal justice class and sat down next to Ben Miller. The world as I knew it was about to change. I said hello and Ben didn’t even blink an eye or respond. He was staring at the TV in the front of the room, and I wanted to know what the big deal was, then I noticed the lone tower standing without its twin. As I gazed at the television, I listened to the news broadcaster talk about two planes colliding into the twin towers, and as he was explaining this, I saw the second plane fly into one of the towers on a re-play. Like everyone else old enough to remember, I watched the second tower fall and crumble to the ground. As my classmates and I watched in confusion, my teacher turned to the class and asked, “Are any of you eighteen years old?” I raised my hand and he looked at me and said, “We are at war!” I remember the impact that those words had on me, and I can still hear them echo in my mind as if my teacher had said it fifteen minutes ago.
Fifteen years later whether our society likes it or not we are still at war. Today, as we reflect and memorialize our fellow country men and women that died on 9/11 in both the attacks in 2001 and 2012 we must also remember the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who made the ultimate sacrifice in the War on Terror.
Furthermore, we must also ask ourselves if we are doing everything we can to keep events like this from happening again, especially on our homeland. Because, if we forget the impact of these events and become complacent, my worst fear is that one day our country’s children will have to experience a similar event. To sum up how we need to act as a country can best be described by the Latin phrase Si vis pacem, para bellum translated as, “If you want peace, prepare for war”.
God bless America!
A small unit leaders in the 75th Ranger Regiment spends the majority of their time coaching, training, and mentoring their younger Rangers to take their leadership position inside the organization. 3d Ranger Battalion veteran Myles Grantham is continuing to provide that same leadership to Rangers transitioning from the military.
A former sniper team leader, Grantham joined the 75th Ranger Regiment in 2003 to fulfill his desire to make a direct impact on the Global War on Terror.
“I wanted action, adventure, to be tested mentally and physically, and full fill my obligation to defend my homeland from terrorists,” Grantham said.
After five combat deployments, graduation from the U.S. Army Ranger School, and service as a 75th Ranger Regiment noncommissioned officer, Grantham was ready for his next challenge. That mindset would lead Grantham to Columbia University and provide him the platform to give back to his Ranger Regiment.
“Everywhere I go, I want to be around people who are going to challenge me the most and this was a continuation of that philosophy,” Grantham said. “Columbia University is not only one of the best colleges in the world, but it is also located in one of the most important cities globally.”
Immediately upon enrollment at Columbia, Grantham built a network of fellow 75th Ranger Regiment veterans. The Columbia Ranger network developed a vision to provide transitioning Rangers access to the same benefits that they were reaping from their service. It allowed the veterans to continue to live the Ranger Creed.
“Why give back to Rangers? Why not?,” Grantham stated.
“Ranger Regiment has allowed me to full fill a lot of my lifelong ambitions, the least I can do is help fellow Rangers, who have also sacrificed for this great country, transition into a top tier institution. I started helping Rangers transition on my own two years ago through word of mouth. I built relationships with the Warrior Scholar Project and Service to School to help me successfully transition Rangers to Columbia University,” Grantham reported.
“Mr. Jim Regan and his wife Mary, Gold Star parents of fellow 3d Ranger Battalion Ranger Sgt. James Regan, created the Army Ranger Lead The Way Fund not-for-profit,” Grantham continued. “He allowed for us to venture into a new opportunity to provide increased access to Rangers at the nation’s top colleges and universities.”
Grantham explained that with the assistance former 2d Ranger Battalion 1st Sgt. Ret. Jesse Yandell the Army Ranger Lead The Way Fund established the Collegiate Access Program (CAP). 75th Ranger Regiment veterans, enlisted and officer, utilize the leadthewayfund.org website to begin the process of registration for Service to School and the Warrior Scholar Project resources that ultimately lead to competitive application packets and preferred admissions at schools such as Columbia. Grantham emphasized that all the organizations he partners with are part of the United States Special Operations Command Care Coalition, one of five Department of Defense warrior care programs.
“Connections are everything, and the ability to have a network to tap into for some of these much needed contacts is significant in being successful in all future endeavors,” Grantham said.
For more information on the Army Ranger Lead The Way Fund CAP program visit https://www.leadthewayfund.org/programs/collegiate-access-program-cap/.
Disclaimer: The article is not a Department of Defense or 75th Ranger Regiment endorsement of any non-federal entity in this feature story.