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Susan K. Smith

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The Last of the Doolittle Raiders
By Susan K. Smith   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Sunday, April 12, 2015
Posted: Saturday, April 11, 2015

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Those critical 30 seconds, April 18, 1942, was a great morale boost for America.

wikipedia/Doolittle Raider RL Hite blindfolded by Japanese 1942
Ever hear of the Doolittle Raiders?

On Sunday, March 29, 2015, one of the last of the Doolittle Raiders, Robert Hite, passed away at 95.   [reference:  Robert Hite, 95, Survivor of Doolittle Raid and Japanese Imprisonment, Dies - NYTimes.com ]

And his obituary included the photo, shown above in this public domain picture.  And it can be found on wikipedia with the following description:

U.S. Army Air Force Lt. Robert L. Hite, blindfolded by his captors, is led from a Japanese transport plane after he and the other seven flyers were flown from Shanghai to Tokyo. Hite was co-pilot of crew 16 (B-25B s/n 40-2268 Bat out of Hell, 34th Bomb Squadron) of the "Doolittle Raiders". After about 45 days in Japan, all eight were taken back to China by ship and imprisoned in Shanghai. On 15 October 1942 three were executed, one died in captivity. The four others, including Hite, were liberated on 20 August 1945.

And here's some background to this story.


December 7, 1941  

The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, caught America by surprise and the country was not prepared for war.

Below is an inspiring clip for the Pearl Harbor (2001), where FDR gathered his top advisers to come up with plan to strike back at the heart of Japan.




The Doolittle Raid

In the clip above, the scene ends with the entrance of Captain Francis S. "Frog" Low.  This submarine officer formed an ingenious strategy, launching army bombers from an aircraft carrier.  This gave birth to the Doolittle Raid.

* Spring of 1942

Those early days of the war, American moral was at its nadir.  Imperial Japanese forces in the Pacific had pushed American troops into retreat.  Many men were lost in the fall of the Philippines, culminating in the infamous Bataan Death March.

* April 18, 1942 

Meanwhile, Lt. Colonel James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle trained and lead a crew of 80 to strike back.  So on April 18, 1942, sixteen B-25s took off from the desk of the USS Hornet, 650 miles south of Japan.
    

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo became the title of the book (1943) written by Ted Lawson and the movie (1944)  as shown in this clip below:



Those critical 30 seconds, April 18, 1942, was a great morale boost for America.  Though the war would not end for three more years, September 1945, the Doolittle Raid gave hope that we could win.

For a list of the 80 men that took part in the raid, 5 men in each of the 16 planes, check out:  Doolittle Raider 80 Brave Men

The sacrifice 

Here are the causalities of the brave men who suffered and gave their lives:

* One man, Faktor, was killed on a bail-out after the mission

* Two men, Fitzmaurice and Dieter, drown in a crash landing off the China coast

* Eight men, Hallmark, Meder, Nielsen, Farrow, Hite, Barr, Spatz, and DeShazer,
     were captured by the Japanese:
     *  Three men executed by firing squad:  Hallmark, Farrow, and Spatz
     *  One died as a POW from malnutrition, Meder
     *  The remaining four, Nielsen, Hite, Barr, and DeShazer,
          survived 40 months of prison,
          most of which was in solitary confinement
     *  And Hite lived till 95, passing away March 29, 2015

* Capt. Ted W. Lawson  survived his plane's crash off the coast of China.
    Though the underground rescued him, his injured leg had to be amputated.
     He lived to write the book, turned movie:  Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

Now only two of the original Doolittle Raiders survive as I type (April 11, 2015):  retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher.

* April 12, 1945

FDR would not live to see the allied victory over Europe or Japan, as he died on April 12, 1945.  But this Commander-in-Chief, struggling with a debilitating handicap, gave courage to the country to carry on, to take risks, to do what it takes to win, and to never give up during dark days.

And the Doolittle Raid is part of America's story.

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Other posts in this series:




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Photo from: wikipedia/Doolittle Raider RL Hite blindfolded by Japanese 1942 

Web Site: smithsk: America's Story (part 17) - The Last of the Doolittle Raiders


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Reviewed by Ronald Hull 4/12/2015
I remember their brave, almost suicide mission, very well from several documentaries and movies that I've seen. I was only a year old at the time that it happened, but the raid certainly was a morale booster, followed by the Battle of Midway, another morale booster for the war in the Pacific.

It's hard to imagine what Hite went through in captivity for 40 months.

Another wonderful and very informative article, Susan.

Ron

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