Thousands of visitors streamed to the national Air Force museum Saturday to pay a Veterans Day weekend tribute to the few surviving members of the Doolittle Raiders, airmen whose daring raid on Japan helped boost American morale during World War II, as they planned to make their ceremonial final toast together.
Here is a recap of the event from the eyes of Adam White, producer of “The Restorers – They Were All Volunteers“
On Friday a semi-formal dinner for the families and sponsors was organized. The great theme for the evening was that the families of the Doolittle Raiders, living and those who have passed on, had the opportunity to be in one room and share stories.The Doolittle Raider family members had the opportunity to thank the B-25 crew members for volunteering their time and aircraft for the event. The good tidings were returned in kind by the flight crews, humbled to be in the room. In addition to all of this, the Hennessey Company provided cocktails in the theme of the evening.Jas Hennessy & Co., or more simply Hennessy, is a cognac house with headquarters in Cognac, France. Today, the company of Jas Hennessy & Co. sells about 50 million bottles a year worldwide, or more than 40 percent of the world’s Cognac, making it the world’s largest Cognac producer.
Saturday started with a free screening of “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” in the museum’s IMAX theater , followed by “The Restorers – They Were All Volunteers“. Afterward was the entrance of the Raiders .A parade of sorts led by American flag waving motorcycles, leading the motorcade down the Museum’s main drive, lined with hundreds of cheering fans.The wreath ceremony; part celebration, part bomber memorial a mood that permeated the whole weekend.Adam White, producers of The Restorers commented:” It was a beautiful, if not windy, day for November and the ceremony was attended by many, culminating with a B-25 missing-man flyover- it was really special”.
The weekend culminated yesterday evening with the grand event, the final toast of the Doolittle Raiders. Three Raiders were in attendance: Richard Cole, Edward Saylor and David Thatcher. Surviving Raider Robert Hite could not travel to Dayton, but watched the proceedings online. After more than a few statements were read by politicians, the evening got to where it needed to be, just about the toast.
At toast time, Raider Historian C.V. Glines read some information and stories first. One was about the first Doolittle Raider reunion, held in Miami in 1945. The event existed due to a promise by Jimmy Doolittle to his Raiders, before the famous mission even began. He promised if they came through, he would throw them all a grand party. Accordingly to C.V. Glines, it was quite a show, involving an all-night affair of drink, dancing, swimming and rough-housing, warranting a letter of complaint from the hotel’s head of security. The hotel manager stated the the Raiders have earned an evening like that, and had them autograph the security complaint.
Another aspect to the evening was the revelation that the bottle of Cognac that has been on display all these years, was not the “real” cognac. The actual bottle of Henessey, vintage 1896 (birthdate of Jimmy Doolittle) was always in the possession of a Raider. The real bottle made its first appearance last night, when Dick Cole opened it.
Cole, Doolittle’s copilot in Raider number 1, provided the words of the toast: “May they rest in peace.”
Officials at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force said more than 600 people, including Air Force leaders and Raiders widows and children, were expected. Also expected were relatives of Chinese villagers who helped Raiders elude capture and two U.S. survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor five months earlier.