The Doolittle Raiders

Meet the Signers of Your Personal Commission Print:
William S. Phillips’ Toward the Setting Sun
will be signed at the 68th reunion by the five Raiders in attendance…

Richard E. Cole, Colonel
Co-Pilot Crew 1

Cole was the co-pilot of Doolittle’s plane and the first off of the Hornet’s deck, around 0800 (8:00 am ship time) April 18, 1942. Close to 1330 (1:30 pm ship time), they dropped their first bombs on Tokyo. They continued on toward China. At 2120 (9:20pm ship time) after 13 hours in the air, and having covered nearly 2,250 miles, Cole and the rest of his crew bailed out over China.

Cole enlisted November 22, 1940. He completed pilot training and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, July, 1941. Cole remained in China-Burma-India until June, 1943 and served again in the China-Burma-India Theater from October, 1943 until June, 1944. Cole was relieved from active duty in January, 1947 but returned to active duty in August, 1947. He was Operations Advisor to Venezuelan Air Force from 1959 to 1962. His peacetime service included posts in Ohio, North Carolina and California. Cole rated as Command Pilot. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal and the Chinese Army, Navy and Air Corps Medal, Class A, 1st Grade.

Robert L. Hite, Lieutenant Colonel
Co-Pilot Crew 16

Hite’s plane, Bat out of Hell, slid on the Hornet’s deck in the rough seas before take-off and in the process a sailor lost an arm in the propeller’s blades. After bombing Nagoya they made for the Chinese coast. After he and the crew bailed out south of Hanchung, they were captured by the puppet government forces, though Hite was the last to be caught. The Japanese executed fellow crew members Lt. William Farrow and Corporal Harold Spatz. Hite and the rest of his crew spent the next 40 months in POW camps.

Hite enlisted September 9, 1940. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and rated as pilot on May 29, 1941. Hite was captured after Tokyo Raid and imprisoned by the Japanese for 40 months. He was liberated by American troops on August 20, 1945 and he remained on active duty until September 30, 1947. Hite returned to active duty during Korean War on March 9, 1951 and served overseas before relief from active duty again in November, 1955. Decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster and Chinese Breast Order of Pao Ting.

Edward Joseph Saylor, Major
Engineer Crew 15

Saylor’s plane was nicknamed TNT and bombed an aircraft factory and dock yards of Kobe. He and all his crew escaped injury when they ditched near an island west of Sangchow, China. Lt. T.R. White, M.D., who flew with Saylor, would amputate the leg of the Ruptured Duck’s Lt. Lawson in China.

Saylor enlisted December 7, 1939 and served throughout World War II in enlisted status both stateside and overseas until March, 1945. Saylor accepted a commission in October, 1947 and served as Aircraft Maintenance Officer at bases in Iowa, Washington, Labrador and England. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Chinese Army, Navy and Air Corps Medal, Class A, 1st Grade.

Thomas Carson Griffin, Major
Navigator Crew 9

Griffin was navigator on the Whirling Dervish. After a smooth take off and bomb run over the Kawasji truck and tank factory in Tokyo the crew headed for China. They bailed out about 100 miles south of Poyang Lake.

Griffin entered service on July 5, 1939 as Second Lieutenant, Coast Artillery, but requested relief from active duty in 1940 to enlist as a Flying Cadet. He was rated as a navigator and re-commissioned on July 1, 1940. After the Tokyo Raid, Griffin served as a navigator in North Africa until he was shot down and captured by the Germans on July 3, 1943. Griffin remained a POW until release in April, 1945. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Chinese Army, Navy and Air Corps Medal, Class A, 1st Grade.

David J. Thatcher, Staff Sergeant
Engineer-Gunner Crew 7

Thatcher flew on Lt. Lawson’s Ruptured Duck. On take-off, the plane’s flaps were not extended and the plane seemed as if it would fall into the water. They recovered and went on to bomb an industrial section of Tokyo. He was the only member of his crew not seriously injured when his plane crashed in the water short of the beach on which they were trying to land. Thatcher’s exploits can be read in detail in Lawson’s Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.

Thatcher enlisted December 3, 1940. After the Tokyo Raid, he served in England and Africa until January, 1944. Thatcher was discharged from active duty in July, 1945. His decorations include the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Chinese Army, Navy and Air Corps Medal, Class A, 1st Grade.

Though the window for ordering William S. Phillips’ Toward the Setting Sun will close shortly, time itself is closing the door on your opportunity to own an authentic piece of Doolittle Raid history. The story of the Doolittle Raiders’ Goblets drives that point home.

There are 80 silver goblets, one each for the 80 men who flew on the Doolittle Raid against Japan. Only the eight belonging to the surviving Raiders remain upright in their cabinet, while seventy-two have been turned upside down, each representing one of the Doolittle airmen that has passed away. Over the years, these goblets have taken a highly symbolic place in the history of military aviation.

When five of these eight survivors gather at Wright-Patterson AFB in a few short weeks, they will conduct their somber “Goblet Ceremony.” Each Raider that has passed since their last reunion will be formally toasted and his goblet will be turned upside down. This year, Colonel James H. “Herb” Macia, Jr. will be remembered. Each goblet has the Raider’s name engraved twice — so that it can be read if the goblet is right side up or upside down.

A bottle of Very Special Hennessy cognac from the year of Doolittle’s birth, vintage 1896, is reserved for when only two Raiders remain. When that time comes, those two men will drink the final toast to their departed comrades from that bottle.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is the current home of the 80 silver goblets and the site of the 68th reunion. The goblets were a gift to the Raiders from the city of Tucson, Arizona, presented to Doolittle during a Raiders’ reunion in that city in 1959. Later that year Doolittle turned them over to the United States Air Force Academy during halftime of the Air Force-Colorado University football game.

The Goblets travel to each Raider reunion, guarded by a pair Cadets from the Air Force Academy. The portable display case used to transport them to the reunions was built in 1973 by Richard E. “Dick” Cole, Doolittle’s copilot during the raid.

The bottle of 1896 Very Special Cognac is a legend unto itself. Presented to Doolittle by the president of the Hennessy Company, it was in turn made part of the goblet collection with the caveat that the last two surviving Raiders use it to toast to their fallen brethren. In 1970, the bottle went missing. No one was ever identified as the “thief,” nor has anyone tried to claim “credit” for its disappearance. The Hennessy Company has since donated another bottle of Very Special Cognac, vintage 1896, but that remains in the possession of the Raiders themselves.

Toward the Setting Sun

3 Replies to “The Doolittle Raiders”

  1. Just came across this and wondered if there were any signed prints available. Thanks, Jim

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