By: Hannah Jennings
April 18th 1942. Four months, one week, and four days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle and 79 other courageous volunteers set out on a mission that would boost the morale of America and change the course of the war forever.
On the deck of the USS Hornet sat sixteen B-25 Mitchells. Over 600 miles away from their targets, the USS Hornet was spotted by a Japanese patrol boat who radioed an attack warning to Japan, which made Doolittle decide to take off early. Because of this, each plane had to add ten more cans of fuel to land in China. Now, with the added weight and a payload of 2,000 pounds of bombs, the Raiders had to replace their tale guns with cut down broom sticks that were painted black.
Ten of these crews successfully hit their assigned targets. While failing to locate their designated targets, five others still bombed industrial installations on the Japanese mainland; only one plane had to jettison its bombs without hitting a target area. Unfortunately, they did not have enough fuel to safely land in China. Some crews had to bail out of their planes and others had to crash land in China and one crew in the Soviet Union. Three men drowned while bailing out and eight men were captured by the Japanese. Three of these men were executed and another man died of malnutrition. After 40 months in a Japanese prison camp, 4 Raiders returned home.
Fortunately, former TARS Hannah Jennings and Ashley Meyer had the honor of meeting four of the five remaining Doolittle Raiders in December of 2011. Since that time, four Raiders have passed away. Maj. Tom Griffin on Feb. 26, 2013, Lt. Col. Edward Saylor on Jan. 28, 2015, Lt. Col. Robert Hite on March 29, 2015, and SSGT. David Thatcher on June 22, 2016.
At the 2013 TAR Leadership Conference Ashley Meyer, Hannah Jennings, and several other Teen Age Republicans went to numerous offices in the Senate and House buildings from approximately 32 different states to get support on a bill honoring the Doolittle Raiders with the Congressional Gold Medal for their courage while on a “suicide mission” fighting to protect our country and our freedom. After the conference several other TARS– Austin Fitzgerald, Amanda and Elizabeth Oien, and Zarianna Hurley–helped by speaking with some of their Representatives and Senators in their home states.
On May 23, 2014 the bill, H.R. 1209 and S. 381, honoring Gen. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle and his Raiders was approved by the House, Senate and President Obama.
Gen. Doolittle was honored by a burial in Arlington National Cemetery along with his beloved wife Josephine “Joe” Doolittle in lot 7A. At this time, there is one remaining Doolittle Raider, Col. Richard Cole, the co-Pilot of Gen. Doolittle on crew #1 during the raid. Col. Cole will be 102 on Sep. 7 of this year.
Gen. Jimmy Doolittle said this, “The first lesson is that you cannot lose a war if you have command of the air, and you cannot win a war if you haven’t.”
Written by Hannah Jennings. While a former member of the Republican Teens of Slidell, Hannah remains active with the TAR Club and honors our veterans.