DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The group of eighty men, known as the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the U.S. Congress.
On April 18th 1942, eighty men launched from the USS Hornet in B-52 bombers on a secret mission called the “Tokyo Raid.”
It was a surprise attack on Japan, led by Lt. General James Doolittle during World War II. The mission was a success.
Seventy-three years later, those men who came to be known as the “Doolittle Tokyo Raiders” were recognized Saturday night.
“It’s extraordinary that we were able to honor them with a congressional gold medal,” said Congressman Mike Turner. “There are so few congressional gold medals but really their act of heroism is something that needs to be honored.”
Two of the “Doolittle Tokyo Raiders” are alive today.
Staff sergeant David Thatcher and Dayton native Lt. Colonel Richard Cole, who flew in the same bomber as General Doolittle.
“Well, my main job was to keep Col. Doolittle happy. That’s what I had in mind,” said WWII veteran Lieutenant colonel Richard “Dick” Cole.
Filling a hanger at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, hundreds of people from across the nation came to show their appreciation for everyone the medal symbolizes.
“The navy who got them to the launch point, the North American aviation which built the airplanes, the army air forces which helped with training and of course the Chinese people on the ground who helped them escape the enemy,” said museum director Lieutenant General (Ret.) Jack Hudson.
The medal and all it represents will be on display at the exhibit paying tribute to the “Doolittle Tokyo Raiders.”
“Now to be the permanent home of the Congressional Gold Medal, which is actually written in the legislation is really an enormous honor for us,” said Hudson.
“To have it right here where everyone can see it, I think honors really the legacy that we have and the history of this museum,” Rep. Turner said. “Their mission predated the air force. So to have it in this air force museum on display really honors everyone who flew on these planes.”
The United States Air Force was formed as a separate branch of the military in 1947. Five years after the Tokyo raid.
The “Doolittle Tokyo Raiders” are now part of less than two hundred congressional gold medal recipients.
President George Washington was the first recipient of the award.
The medal is now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.