The Doolittle Raiders have a final public event celebrating the raid

This is a subject very close to my heart since these airman gathered many times here on Eglin Air Force Base. One of Eglin's auxiliary fields is known today as Duke Field, and it was there, about 8 miles north of my home that the Raiders perfected their short-field takeoffs. I've been promised access to that hallowed ground in the very near future but for us all at the moment it is off-limits. I first met the Raiders when seven of them gathered here in 2008 and I had the privilege of shaking their hands. I seemed to hit it off with Dick Cole, Doolittle's copilot on that infamous raid from their base in Shangri-La, the fictitious base that President Roosevelt claimed the planes originated. One of the surviving Raiders then was Edwin Horton, a local resident of Fort Walton Beach, about 3 miles from the main gate of Eglin AFB.

This matrix of images represented the Raiders in 2008. Jimmy Doolittle's son and granddaughter are amoung the photos present. The gentleman in the lower right is a very humble man, retired Col. Carroll Glines, aviation historian. He has written numerous books regarding Air Force history.

By the way the Raider standing before the collection of Raider goblets was Edwin Horton, Doolittle gunner from Fort Walton Beach, FL.

Lt Col. Dick Cole of the Doolittle RaidersI wish to add this bit of trivia: During their final visit here, on a specific evening and at a specific time, at many of our air bases around the world a toast was offered to the Doolittle Raiders. The folks from Hennessy, the liquor maker supplied the base clubs with the drink and in unison the glasses were raised. A retired Air Force Chief Master sergeant attended the occasion.

On their final gathering held here at Eglin I saw them all again but sadly there were but three present. They were here four full days and made many public appearances. It's had for me to imagine how a 97 year old Col. Dick Cole and the rest could stand up to such a schedule. They did, God bless them all. They had some pretty steep honors bestowed on them. I can only imagine in 20 years, when airman enter the Cole Hanger or the Saylor Hanger or Thatcher Hanger not knowing that they will be entering a hanger named in honor of the three surviving Doolittle Raiders. Currently those hangers are assigned to the Air Force, Navy and Marines to perform maintenance on the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The hangers and brand new.

Lt Col Edward Saylor of the Doolittle RaidersAs a child my hero was "The Babe". I held him in highest respect.......but when the surviving Raiders extended their hand to me I was emotionally stressed to my limit and could barely utter a word. We are of the age that we can remember WWII, the air raids, the men of our community all gone off to war, our fear of the Japanese and especially the Germans and to think I was shaking the hand of a man who had struck out off an aircraft carrier, never done before, and because of fear they had been discovered knew they would't have enough fuel to fly them to safety in China, and yet kept their concentration on the task at hand and delivered their bombs on preassigned targets. They are American history and the truest of American heroes.

I'll share a few more of my photos taken on their very last gathering, some from the dedications at our local college, some on Eglin during autographing sessions and some on the final day parade. Several B-25's took part in the parade flyover, and not just once but circled for 35 minutes. Impressive.

 

 

Ssgt David Thatcher
B-25

 

Photography by Dickjenkinsphotography.com

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