GET READY FOR A GREAT EVENT HOUSTON!
Join the CAF Houston Wing for the annual Open House at West Houston Airport on April 22-23. This event is a great event for the whole family. At only $10/car for donation, your group will have access to some of the world's most rare World War II aircraft. Rides can be booked on trainers, SB2C and PBJ (B-25 Mitchell). For more information visit their website. http://houstonwing.org/
The Last Silver Goblet
By Jeff Thatcher
Tuesday, April 18, 2017, will mark the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, a daring bombing attack upon five Japanese cities that occurred on April 18, 1942. Eighty volunteer airmen flying 16 B-25 bombers, led by legendary aviator Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, took off from the deck of the carrier USS Hornet early that morning and struck back at Japan in retaliation for the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy on December 7, 1941.
Today only one member of the Doolittle Raid remains, 101-year-old Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Doolittle’s co-pilot. On the morning of April 18 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (NMUSAF) in Dayton, Ohio, in a private ceremony that has become famous in the annals of modern aviation, Cole will turn over the silver goblet of my late father, S. Sgt. David J. Thatcher, the second-to-last surviving member of the Doolittle Raid, who passed away on June 22, 2016 at the age of 94, and make one final toast to all the Raiders who have preceded him before drinking for the last time from his standing silver goblet.
The passage of time has taken its toll on the Raiders who, like so many other members of the Greatest Generation, stepped up during a period of world crisis to save democracy and the United States. Of the 61 Raiders who survived the raid and World War II, accidents, disease, age and finally death have carried all but one into the afterlife. But the memory of their daring action lives on.
Of the 80 Raiders who bombed Japan, three were killed after exiting their aircraft on the night of the raid; eight were captured by the Japanese – three of those were executed on October 15, 1942, one starved to death and four were held captive for 40 months; 10 were killed in action in Europe, North Africa and Indo-China; and two were killed in plane crashes in 1942 in the U.S.
In the four months after Pearl Harbor, the world was crumbling. The war in Europe had been raging for two years. A significant portion of the U.S. Pacific Fleet sat at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and the Japanese seemed unstoppable, seizing victory after victory in the Far East. In the U.S., morale was sinking and Americans were grasping for any good news.
Tasked with striking back at Japan for the attack on Pearl Harbor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Doolittle selected a band of gritty volunteers to accomplish the mission. America desperately needed a victory and Doolittle and his Raiders would deliver in stunning fashion, inflicting a blow upon Japan and shattering their belief in invincibility – which had been nurtured by no other successful invasion or attack of their homeland in the preceding 2,600 years.
The Raiders, along with supporting military personnel aboard the carrier USS Hornet, were part of an eight-ship task force that departed San Francisco Bay April 2, 1942. On April 13, well out into the Pacific Ocean, the task force merged with the eight-ship USS Enterprise Task Force, which had departed from Hawaii, to become the first joint full-scale operation between the Army Air Force and the U.S. Navy. Streaming toward Japan on a northern route to avoid detection, the 16-ship combined task force, consisting of 10,000 personnel, was discovered early April 18 by a Japanese patrol boat – well ahead of the planned departure by the 80 Raiders in their 16 B-25, twin-engine bombers.
The discovery forced the Raiders to take off 12 hours earlier and 150 nautical miles further from Japan than planned. The weather conditions were miserable with rain, 20-knot gusting winds and huge waves crashing over the bow of the carrier. Yet, despite knowing they were likely embarking upon a suicide mission, the group of 80 volunteer flyers never wavered.
One after another, each B-25 lumbered down the deck of the carrier and took off. Following each other single file and flying by dead reckoning just above the wave tops to avoid detection, they reached Japan at mid-day and fanned out to drop four 500-pound bombs each on military and industrial targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe, Osaka and Nagoya.
Although some of the B-25s encountered light antiaircraft fire and a few enemy fighters, none were shot down or severely damaged. Fifteen of the 16 planes then proceeded southwest along the southern coast of Japan and across the East China Sea toward eastern China, where recovery bases supposedly awaited them. The remaining B-25 ran extremely low on fuel and headed for Russia, which was closer.
The Raiders faced several unforeseen challenges during their flight to China: night was approaching, the planes were running low on fuel and the weather was rapidly deteriorating. Realizing they would not be able to reach their intended destinations, their options were to bail out over eastern China or crash land along the Chinese coast – both areas occupied by the Japanese. When the dust settled, 15 planes had been destroyed in crashes. The crew that flew to Russia landed near Vladivostok, their B-25 confiscated and the crew interned until escaping in May 1943.
Chinese locals and foreign missionaries, who encountered the Raiders after they unexpectedly showed up, assisted the Raiders and selflessly guided most of them to safety. The Chinese paid dearly for their help. An estimated 250,000 Chinese were subsequently slaughtered by the Japanese.
Compared to the devastating B-29 fire bombing attacks against Japan later in the war, the Doolittle Raid did little material damage. Nevertheless, when news of the raid was released, American morale soared. The raid also had a strategic impact on the war. The Japanese military recalled many units back to the home islands for defense, where they remained while battles raged throughout the Pacific.
The Doolittle Raid also provoked Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, architect of the raid on Pearl Harbor, to attempt a hastily organized strike against Midway Island, resulting in the loss of four carriers, a cruiser, 292 aircraft and 2,500 casualties from which the Imperial Japanese Navy never recovered.
In December 1946 Doolittle and his Raiders gathered to celebrate his birthday, inaugurating what later became annual reunions around April 18 in locations throughout the U.S. During their annual reunion in 1959 the city of Tucson, Arizona, presented the Raiders with a set of sterling silver goblets, each bearing the name of one of the 80 men who flew on the mission. The silver goblets were housed in a special glass-enclosed case. Following the April 1961 reunion in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Doolittle turned them over to the Air Force Academy, which is located there, for safekeeping and display between reunions.
In 1973 Cole built a portable display case for the goblets so they could more easily be transported to the reunions. In 2005 the surviving Raiders voted to move the goblets from the Air Force Academy to the NMUSAF where they are now permanently displayed alongside an exhibit featuring a restored B-25 bomber representing Doolittle’s plane.
When transported, the 80 gleaming silver goblets were placed in Cole’s blue velvet-lined case, consisting of four separate panels. Twenty goblets stand in each panel’s compartment, placed five high and four across. Left to right they represent the crews – 1 to 16 – based upon their takeoff position in the Raid. Each column from top to bottom consists of the pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier and gunner. Each goblet has the Raider's name engraved twice – so it can be read right side up or upside down.
At each reunion, two uniformed Air Force cadets accompanied the goblets, placed them in a private room atop a table and stood guard over them. On the morning of April 18, the surviving Raiders would meet privately in front of the goblets to conduct their solemn ceremony. After calling the roll and toasting the Raiders who had died since their last reunion with cognac poured into the goblets by the white-gloved cadets, they would turn the deceased Raiders’ goblets upside down.
Photo by Mark Hrutky/U.S.A.F.
Like the goblets harkening back to the times of the Vikings, Roman legions and King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, the Raider goblets symbolize the attributes of the 80 men who participated in the mission – duty, honor and courage. Those attributes are personified by the words inscribed on the official Doolittle Raider crest: “Toujours au Danger” – “Always into Danger.”
In discussing his position last June as the last man standing among the 80 Doolittle Raiders after my father had passed away, Cole said: “Mathematically, it shouldn't have worked out this way. I was quite a bit older, six years older, than David. Figuring the way gamblers figure, he would have been the last man.”
Instead Dick Cole is the last man standing. And when he raises his silver goblet for the final time to toast his 79 departed comrades on the morning of April 18, the longstanding tradition of the Raiders’ private ceremony, which cemented the bond between the courageous volunteers, both enlisted men and officers, into a well-trained group who placed their collective duty as Americans above their individual lives, will end.
(Jeff Thatcher is the son of the late Doolittle Raider David J. Thatcher and president of the Children of the Doolittle Raiders, Inc. a non-profit group dedicated to keeping the legacy of the Doolittle Raiders alive.)
Central Texas Wing Hosts 6th Annual Casino Night
San Marcos, Texas (March 31, 2017) On April 29th, the Commemorative Air Force Central Texas Wing will host its 6th annual Casino Night in their hangar at the San Marcos Regional Airport.
Come out to this fantastic setting of gaming tables surrounded by historic vintage aircraft and enjoy a barbeque dinner, cash bar, door prizes, silent auction, $20,000 in casino money, and a chance to win a History Flight on the B-25 Yellow Rose. Blackjack, Roulette, Texas Hold ‘Em, Poker, Craps, and Slot Machines should keep you entertained. Take a break from the games and visit our historic museum, aviation library, or gift shop.
“Our aircraft are maintained and operated by volunteer members who donate countless hours to the meticulous care of each airplane” said Bill Fier, Wing Leader. “To offset costs we rely on fundraising events like this. All contributions are tax-deductible and 100% goes directly to our educational mission, so generations of Americans will value and realize the contributions of military aviation in assuring our nation’s freedom.”
Tickets are $40 each and available online at the wing’s website, www.centraltexaswing.org, or by contacting Phil Bonasera at (512) 781-9284. Only 400 tickets will be sold. Tickets must be purchased by April 25th to include the dinner.
About the Central Texas Wing
The Central Texas Wing is part of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), an educational non-profit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1957. The CAF has more than 11,000 members and 165 vintage military aircraft located around the nation. These aircraft comprise the world’s largest flying museum, and are operated for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Central Texas Wing was established in March 1974, and at present consists of 150 members who come from both military and civilian backgrounds. All members are volunteers and the Wing is housed in a World War II hangar at the San Marcos Regional Airport restoring and maintaining CAF and private historic aircraft, as well as a World War II museum and military library. Wing aircraft provide history flights, perform flyovers, and attend air shows around the country. A Casino Night, Golf Tournament, and Veteran's Day Dinner Dance are three major fundraisers held annually to support the restoration and maintenance of our historic aircraft. The Wing is open M-W-F-Sat from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for tours to school groups, civic and military organizations, ROTC cadets, scout organizations and the general public from throughout the Central Texas Region. Being involved in local communities is a major goal of the Wing as it has joined four local Chambers of Commerce; San Marcos; Buda; Kyle; and Canyon Lake.
A lawsuit has been brought against the Planes of Fame Air Museum by the Yanks Air Museum, Flying Tigers Aviation, SOCAL MRO, and Zangeneh Aeronautics with the sole intent to stop the 25th Annual Planes of Fame Air Show at Chino Airport slated for May 6 & 7, 2017. The allegations involve the experience of economic hardship over Air Show weekend and an inconvenience to operations.
Please send all comments, concerns and questions to email@example.com
Sole Surviving Doolittle Raid Veteran to Highlight World War II Heritage Days
PEACHTREE CITY, Georgia (April 3, 2017) –The only surviving veteran of the famed World War II Doolittle Raid over Japan will join other World War II heroes at the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Dixie Wing WWII Heritage Days April 22-23 at the CAF Dixie Wing Warbird Museum, Atlanta Regional Airport-Falcon Field, Peachtree City. Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, 102, served as Jimmy Doolittle’s copilot during the 1942 Doolittle Raid, as a “Hump” pilot during the China-Burma-India campaign, and finally as a C-47 pilot and Air Commando during the invasion of Burma. His wartime experiences are recounted in a book, “Dick Cole’s War.” A restored B-25 Mitchell like the one Cole flew also will be on display for the weekend.
Betty Bishop is returning to World War II Heritage Days representing the thousands of “Rosie the Riveter” women who worked the production lines in the 1940s, turning out aircraft, ships, weapons and other war materials as part of the “Arsenal of Democracy” that helped win the war. Bishop actually helped build the recently restored P-63 Kingcobra that is part of the CAF Dixie Wing Museum collection of operating aircraft.
“As the number of World War II veterans diminishes each day, we are proud to invite several of them and allow the public to get acquainted and hear their stories,” said Dixie Wing Leader Jay Bess. “Veterans and homefront workers are a key part of the purpose of WWII Heritage Days – an era of heroes that must never be forgotten.”
The Veterans Administration estimates fewer than 700,000 World War II veterans survive today.
The history festival is the largest WWII and 1940s-themed event in Georgia and a unique experience for anyone who enjoys nostalgia, big-band music, swing dance, historic aircraft and military vehicles, antique cars and vintage fashion. The program features reenactors portraying Axis and Allied troops, sailors, airmen and Women Army Service Pilots (WASP).
“The mission of WWII Heritage Days is to celebrate the 1940s, salute the Greatest Generation and inspire all ages to preserve the legacy of America’s veterans,” said Bess. “The event brings hundreds of participants and guests to the area from throughout the southeast.”
For more information, visit www.wwiidays.org.
About the CAF Dixie Wing Warbird Museum
The CAF Dixie Wing, based in Peachtree City, Georgia, was founded in 1987. The Wing, one of the largest units of the Commemorative Air Force, maintains and flies seven World War II aircraft including a P-51 Mustang, an FG-1D Corsair and rare types such as the SBD Dauntless dive bomber and P-63A Kingcobra. The Dixie Wing organizes two large events a year -- WWII Heritage Days and the CAF Atlanta Warbird Weekend. The unit, composed of 300 volunteers, is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that relies on contributions of time and funds to carry out the mission of the CAF. For more information go to www.dixiewing.org.
The Commemorative Air Force is a non-profit organization dedicated to flying and restoring World War II aircraft. Based in Dallas, Texas, the organization has more than 11,000 members and operates a fleet of more than 165 World War II aircraft. www.commemorativeairforce.org