WW2 Doolittle Raiders Share Stories

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WW2 Doolittle Raiders Share Stories

There has been a recent movie that ended with this scene of the Doolittle raiders taking off to bomb Tokyo, on what they all knew was a suicide mission. Well some survived... Hero's indeed..


History You Won't Find In A Book

The history books recount how eight Doolittle Raiders were taken captive by the Japanese and how four were released at the end of the war. But they don't talk about the conditions the airmen endured, locked alone in tiny cells, their only contact with the outside world the tray of slop that was shoved through the door every day.

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If you want a sense of what it was like, lock yourself in your bathroom for two years and nine months. You eat like a pig, and you live like one. retired Lt. Col. Chase J. Nielsen told about 1,000 high school students who gathered Friday in Leamy Hall at the Coast Guard Academy

Nielsen disclosed another secret to the students: lacking most of his cockpit electronics, which had been removed for security and to give his bomber greater range, he honed in on a commercial radio signal to find his target in Tokyo, which enraged his captors when they found out.

Retired Army Maj. William Weber, a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor at Westhill High School in Stamford, said he bused his students almost two hours so they could hear details like that.

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It was a golden opportunity instead of reading it from a history book, they could get it directly from the people who made history Weber said.

When the Raiders' historian, C.V. Glines, gave a pop quiz on Raider trivia, students clamored for a chance to answer a question and earn a copy of a book about the group.

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We've been studying World War II in history, and I have a great history teacher,
said Jesse Craddock, a junior at East Lyme High School who was waving his arms on every question, and was picked for the last one: What was Gen. James H. Doolittle's middle name (Harold).

We should show respect for everyone who's fought for our country, realize that they put their lives on the line to stand up for our nation Craddock said, clutching his prize, a copy of Doolittle's autobiography.

Alicia Sheppard, a high school senior from Meriden, brought a copy of her painting of a B-25 bomber for the Raiders to autograph.

I love World War II airplanes, and I love history,Sheppard said as she waited her turn.These guys influenced everything.

Nine of the surviving 17 Raiders sat on the stage as students waited in a long line for an opportunity to ask them a question.

Rear Adm. Robert C. Olsen Jr., the superintendent of the academy, welcomed the high schoolers to Leamy Hall and instructed them to pay close attention.

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You're going to meet some real heroes, Olsen said. They're not cartoon characters, these are genuine heroes. I would ask that you think, as you're listening to them, what that means.

Glines kicked off the session with a short documentary with black-and-white footage from the decks of the USS Hornet, which carried the Raiders to a spot 650 miles off Japan where they launched their attack on April 18, 1942.

We came in on the deck, Doolittle said in an interview filmed in 1980, 13 years before he died. He acknowledged the raid was insignificant tactically 16 bombers each carrying a ton of bombs, compared to hundreds of planes each carrying 10 times that ordnance a couple of years later.

But the strategic implications were incalculable, Doolittle said, because the raid buoyed the spirits of the American people, who were weary of news about defeats in the Pacific, and convinced the Japanese that they were not invulnerable.

The enemy pulled many of its forces back to defend the homeland, making U.S. defense of the Pacific possible, and moved up the schedule of an attack at Midway Island, which many believe contributed to the U.S. victory.

The Japanese never really got over the humiliation of that attack, Glines said.

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Several of the students seemed fascinated by the story of Tung-Sheng Liu, a China native who helped several Raider crews escape at the risk of his own life Japanese forces killed an estimated 250,000 Chinese as reprisal, including entire villages that they suspected harbored the Raiders.

Liu, who became a U.S. citizen in June 1954, is an honorary Raider and shared the stage with the group. He recounted how it took 10 or 11 days to travel 100 miles over mountain trails.

How did it feel, another student asked, taking off from the aircraft carrier knowing that they would not have enough fuel to return, or even to make it to a safe landing strip in China?

Nielsen said most of the airmen focused just on the next step: how to get the bomber safely into the air, because no one had ever flown a B-25 mission off an aircraft carrier before; then how to find Japan, given their poor maps and dead-reckoning navigation; then how to find their target in the clutter of Japanese cities, and avoid anti-aircraft artillery and Japanese fighters; then how to find the China coast.

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You don't really think too much about tomorrow, Nielsen told the student. I don't think we were planning more than 100 miles in front of the aircraft anywhere on the route.
By netchicken: posted on 17-4-2005

Here's another article on it...

For a self-proclaimed "history buff" like Lt. Col. Scott Panagrosso, meeting four of the men who helped jump-start America's response to the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese was nothing short of amazing.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Panagrosso said. "These are living legends right here."

He was referring to four members of the Doolittle Raiders, the group of U.S. pilots who, under the leadership of Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, carried out a daring bombing raid on Tokyo and other Japanese cities 63 years ago next week, on April 18

The men - Col. Richard Cole, Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, Col. William Bower and Sgt. Ed Horton - are in Mystic through Sunday for the Raiders' annual reunion, the first time the event has been held in southern New England. The Raiders were at Groton-New London Airport Thursday to meet members of the 1109th Aviation Classification and Repair Depot, a locally-based military unit that returned from Iraq a little over a year ago after a one-year deployment.

Panagrosso, executive officer with the 1109th, was one of about a hundred soldiers who greeted the Raiders with loud applause and a standing ovation.

"I want to thank you graduates of the University of Baghdad for your service," Cole said to the assembled men and women, who returned from Iraq in March of 2004.

The meeting between the legendary flyers and the troops defending an Iraq that is rebuilding itself took place in a maintenance hangar at the airport. The Raiders and the assembled audience sat opposite large military helicopters inside the hangar.

To this day, the men who flew with him have the greatest respect for Lt. Col. James Doolittle.

"General Jimmy Doolittle was the most inspiring person of my life," Bower said, using Doolittle's later rank.

The Raiders told the troops - many young enough to be their grandchildren - anecdotes and facts about the historic raid that used the then-novel idea of launching B-25 bombers from the aircraft carrier Hornet to strike at targets deep in Japan.

A group of 79 volunteers had the mission of flying 800 miles over water into hostile territory and bombing several cities in Japan. The mission succeeded, but not without peril.

The bombers, outfitted with only enough fuel for a one-way trip, landed or crashed in China, where pilots and crews had to make their way to the city of Chungking.

Fifteen planes crashed in China. One plane and crew was captured by the Russians and the crew was held as prisoners of war. They later escaped.

Seven men did not make it - two drowned, one died in bailout, another from disease and three were executed by the Japanese, who also took revenge on the Chinese for helping the American soldiers. Some 250,000 Chinese were reportedly executed.

Thatcher's plane crew and the Doolittle mission were immortalized in the 1944 film "Thirty Seconds over Tokyo," but to meet and talk with some of the real participants was thrilling, Panagrosso and others said.

About a dozen soldiers, including Panagrosso, asked the Raiders questions about the mission, and their lives before and after the raid.

"We had to show off a little bit back home," after the raid made them famous throughout the country, Bower said.

The first reunion, in North Africa in 1943, was "a pretty liquid affair," Thatcher recalled. The group reunited again in Miami in 1945 and has met annually since then.

The four men stayed after the question and answer session to sign autographs and pose for pictures with members of the 1109th.

"It was phenomenal to be in the presence of such history," 1109 AVCRAD Chief Warrant Officer Chad J. Copeland said.

Panagrosso agreed.

"A lot of people just aren't able to appreciate what these guys did," he said.

Compared to today's military, the Doolittle Raiders operated in a different world, Panagrosso said.

"Their mission had them totally behind enemy lines with almost no support," he said.

The reunion events will include dinners, autograph sessions and Raiders' tours of area historic and military landmarks, including the Sub Base and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

The Raiders' visit is being sponsored by the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce and presented by the City of Groton and Groton Utilities.

More than a get-together of old war buddies, the reunion helps good causes, too.

"They're here to also raise money for local charities and to distribute scholarships," Tom Casey, the Doolittle Raiders business manager, said.

Casey, who was 7 at the time of the raid, remembers vividly the April day his father held up a newspaper with the headline announcing the Doolittle raid and the bombing of Tokyo.

"It brought the country up from its knees," he said. "The raid turned the war around in the Pacific."
By netchicken: posted on 17-4-2005

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