16 B-25s go to Tokyo

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013 by Travis Cody in

Re-posting from 19 April 2012, which was re-posted from 18 April 2011, which was re-posted from 18 April 2010, which was re-posted from 17 April 2009.  You get the idea.  This is my annual commemorative essay to honor the 79 men who flew to Tokyo with Lt Col Jimmy Doolittle to prove that the Japanese homeland was vulnerable, and to give the US a morale boost after a series of devastating defeats in the Pacific to mark its entry into World War II.

On 18 April 1942, 71 years ago, Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle led 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers off the carrier deck of USS Hornet in a raid against Toyko. Although damage was modest, the impact on American morale was immense. Click here to read a complete accountClick here to visit an outstanding memorial site.

Lt. Colonel Doolittle and his 79 volunteers proved that the Japanese homeland was not invulnerable to attack. They also forced the Japanese to recall a number of fighter squadrons to protect the island from further incursion.

The sleeping giant Yamamoto feared was awake, pissed off, and fiercely determined to take the fight to the Japanese.

Today I pay tribute to the 80 men who accepted the challenge to fly those bombers, knowing that they would barely have enough fuel to make it to China to land after the raid. Because the task force was spotted by a Japanese picket boat, the flight launched 10 hours early and 170 miles farther away from Japan than originally planned. 

Plane 40-2344, 34th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over N Chuchow, China

Lt Col James H Doolittle, pilot (14 Dec 1896 - 27 Sept 1993)
Lt Richard E Cole, co-pilot (Born 7 Sept 1915)
Lt Henry A Potter, navigator (Died 27 May 2002)
S/Sgt Fred A Braemer, bombardier (Died 2 Feb 1989)
S/Sgt Paul J Leonard, engineer-gunner (KIA Africa 5 Jan 1943)

Plane 40-2292, 37th Squadron, 17th Group
Crash landed Ningpo, China

Lt Travis Hoover, pilot (21 Sept 1917 - 17 Jan 2004)
Lt William N Fitzhugh, co-pilot (Died 31 Aug 1981)
Lt Carl R Wildner, navigator (Died 7 Mar 1994)
Lt Richard E Miller, bombardier (KIA Africa 22 Jan 1943)
Sgt Douglas V Radney, engineer-gunner (Died 28 Jan 1994)

Plane 40-2270, 95th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over SE Chuchow, China

Lt Robert M Gray, pilot (KIA enroute India to China 18 Oct 1942)
Lt Jacob E Manch, co-pilot (Killed bailing out of T-33 Nevada 24 Mar 1958)
Lt Charles J Ozuk, navigator (Died 9 Oct 2010)
Sgt Aden E Jones, bombardier (Died 9 Mar 1983)
Cpl Leland D Faktor, engineer-gunner (KIA bailing out China 18 Apr 1942)

Plane 40-2282, 95th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over SE Shangjao, China

Lt Everett W Holstom, pilot (Died 2 Dec 2000)
Lt Lucian N Younglbood, co-pilot (Killed 28 Feb 1949)
Lt Harry C McCool, navigator (Died 1 Feb 2003)
Sgt Robert J Stephens, bombardier (Died 13 Apr 1959)
Cpl Bert M Jordan, gunner (Died 3 Apr 2001)

Plane 40-2283, 95th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over SW Chuchow, China

Capt David M Jones, pilot (Died 25 Nov 2008)
Lt Rodney R Wilder, co-pilot (Died 7 June 1964)
Lt Eugene F McGurl, navigator (KIA Burma 3 June 1942)
Lt Denver V Truelove, bombardier (KIA Sicily 5 Apr 1943)
Sgt Joseph W Manske, engineer-gunner (Died 4 Apr 1998)

Plane 40-2298, 95th Squadron, 17th Group
Ditched off Wenchu, China

Lt Dean E Hallmark, pilot (Executed by Japanese 15 Oct 1942)
Lt Robert J Meder, co-pilot (Died in Japanese POW camp 1 Dec 1943)
Lt Col Chase Jay Nielsen, navigator (Died 23 Mar 2007)
Sgt William J Dieter, bombardier (Drowned 18 Apr 1942)
Sgt Donald E Fitzmaurice, engineer-gunner (Drowned 18 Apr 1942)

Plane 40-2261, 95th Squadron, 17th Group
Ditched off Shangchow, China

Lt Ted W Lawson, pilot (Died 19 Jan 1992)
Lt Dean Davenport, co-pilot (Died 14 Feb 2000)
Lt Charles L McClure, navigator (Died 1 Jan 1999(
Lt Robert S Clever, bombardier (Killed in US 20 Nov 1942)
Sgt David J Thatcher, engineer-gunner (Born 31 July 1921)

Plane 40-2242, 95th Squadron, 17th Group
Landed in Primorsky Krai, Siberia

Capt Edward J York, pilot (Died 31 Aug 1984)
Lt Robert G Emmens, co-pilot (Died 2 Apr 1992)
Lt Nolan A Herndon, navigator-bombardier (Died 7 Oct 2007)
S/Sgt Theodore H Laban, engineer (Died 16 Sept 1978)
Sgt David W Pohl, gunner (Died 18 Feb 1999)

Plane 40-2303, 34th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over S Nanchang, China

Lt Harold F Watson, pilot (Died 14 Sept 1991)
Lt James N Parker Jr, co-pilot (Died 19 June 1991)
Lt Thomas C Griffin, navigator (10 July 1917 - 26 Feb 2013)
Sgt Wayne M Bissell, bombardier (Died 9 Jan 1997)
T/Sgt Eldred V Scott, engineer-gunner (Died 31 July 1978)

Plane 40-2250, 89th Recon Squadron
Bailed out over NE Chuchow, China

Lt Richard O Joyce, pilot (Died 13 Feb 1983)
Lt J Royden Stork, co-pilot (Died 2 May 2002)
Lt Horace E Crouch, navigator-bombardier (Died 21 Dec 2005)
Sgt George F Larkin Jr, flight engineer (KIA India to China 18 Oct 1942)
S/Sgt Edwin W Horton Jr, gunner (Died 26 Nov 2008)

Plane 40-2249, 89th Recon Squadron
Bailed out over NE Chuchow, China

Capt C Ross Greening, pilot (Died 29 Mar 1957)
Lt Kenneth E Reddy, co-pilot (Killed in US 3 Sept 1942)
Lt Frank A Kappeler, navigator (Died 23 June 2010)
S/Sgt William L Birch, bombardier (Died 18 Nov 2006)
Sgt Melvin J Gardner, engineer-gunner (KIA Burma 3 June 1942)

Plane 40-2278, 37th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over NE Chuchow, China

Lt William M Bower, pilot (Died 10 January 2011)
Lt Thadd H Blanton, co-pilot (Died 27 Sept 1961)
Lt William R Pound Jr, navigator (Died 13 July 1967)
T/Sgt Waldo J Bither, bombardier (Died 25 Feb 1988)
S/Sgt Omer A Duquette, engineer-gunner (KIA Burma 3 June 1942)

Plane 40-2247, 37th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over N Nanchang, China

Lt Edgar E McElroy, pilot (Died 4 Apr 2003)
Lt Richard A Knobloch, co-pilot (Died 13 Aug 2001)
Lt Clayton J Campbell, navigator (Died 17 Nov 2002)
Sgt Robert C Bourgeois, bombardier (Died 13 Nov 2001)
Sgt Adam R Williams, engineer-gunner (Died 30 Nov 1993)

Plane 40-2297, 89th Recon Squadron
Bailed out over SE Shangjao, China

Maj John A Hilger, pilot (Died 3 Feb 1982)
Lt Jack A Sims, co-pilot (Died 9 June 2007)
Lt James H Macia Jr, navigator-bombardier (Died 21 Dec 2009)
S/Sgt Jacob Eierman, engineer (Died 16 Jan 1994)
S/Sgt Edwin V Bain, gunner (KIA Rome 19 July 1943)

Plane 40-2267, 89th Recon Squadron
Ditched off Shangchow, China

Lt Donald G Smith, pilot (KIA Britain 12 Nov 1942)
Lt Griffith P Williams, co-pilot (Died 14 July 1998)
Lt Howard A Sessler, navigator-bombardier (Died 9 Feb 2001)
Sgt Edward J Saylor, engineer (Born 15 Mar 1920)
Lt (Dr) Thomas R White, gunner (Died 29 Nov 1992)

Plane 40-2268, 34th Squadron, 17th Group
Bailed out over Ningpo, China

Lt William G Farrow, pilot (Executed by Japanese 15 Oct 1942)
Lt Robert L Hite, co-pilot (Born 3 Mar 1920)
Lt George Barr, navigator (Died 12 July 1967)
Cpl Jacob DeShazer, bombardier (Died 15 Mar 2008)
Sgt Harold A Spatz, engineer-gunner (Executed by Japanese 15 Oct 1942)

At each reunion, the surviving crew members perform a roll call and then drink a toast to the Raiders who have passed since they last met. Each man has a special silver goblet engraved with his name. The goblets of those Raiders who have passed are turned down.  There are four Raiders still living. 

A final toast between the last two surviving Raiders will be with a bottle of vintage Hennessy cognac from the year of Colonel Doolittle's birth, 1896. The bottle and the goblets have traveled to each reunion since 1960.

It is the nature of time that they leave us.  One day, all of those goblets will be turned down.  The deed will live on as we choose to remember it.

Gentlemen, you have my profound gratitude for your service and your sacrifice.

Let me also recognize the 57 US Army maintenance crew, without whom the planes could not have been properly prepared to succeed.

USS Hornet

And lest we forget...the crews of USS Hornet, USS Enterprise, and Task Force 18 cruised into harm's way with the precious tonnage of an American Navy still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor just a few short months before.

USS Enterprise

I also recognize the Chinese citizens who assisted the Raiders, at great personal risk.  I and thank those people for their courage and sacrifices.


  1. There was an article recently that stated there are now only four crewmen left. They have had their last public reunion this year. Somewhere, in a very private ceremony, these four will meet again, open the bottle of scotch and toast their comrades from silver goblets. At that point, another chapter in the history of WWII will close. We are losing "The Greatest Generation" at an alarming rate. Most of them are in their upper 80's or lower 90's now. They will not be with us much longer.

  1. I was just reading an article in Stars & Stripes about their reunion (this week?). It was wonderful to see people of many different ages stop get their autographs and have photos taken with them.