The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders will be awarded a Congressional Gold Medal on April 15 by leaders of the U.S. House and Senate.
The medal, the highest civilian honor the United States Congress can bestow, will be presented to the National Museum of the United States Air Force by Raider, Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole, during a ceremony at the museum on Saturday, April 18, the 73rd anniversary of the raid. Raider Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher is also planning to attend.
Today, just three of the Raiders survive: Cole, co-pilot of Crew No. 1; Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, co-pilot of Crew No. 16; and Thatcher, engineer-gunner of Crew No. 7.
The medal will be on permanent display at the museum following the ceremony as part of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders diorama which features a North American B-25 on the simulated deck of the USS Hornet.
Public interested in attending the ceremony and reception can purchase tickets through the Air Force Museum Foundation. Only 400 tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. No phone or walk-in orders will be accepted.
Each year since the end of World War II, with the exception of 1951, the Doolittle Raiders have held an annual reunion. The museum hosted the Raiders in April 1965 (23rd), 1999 (57th), 2006 (64th), 2010 (68th) and 2012 (70th) and also hosted Cole, Thatcher and Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor during their final toast to their fallen comrades on Nov. 9, 2013.
The raid, which took place April 18, 1942, marked the first combat use of strategic bombardment by the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II. While the attack itself caused little actual damage to Japanese war industry, the psychological impact on the Japanese military and the American public proved to be immense. It forced the Japanese military to pull forces back from the front lines to protect the home islands and showed Americans that the war could be won.
In honor of these World War II aviation heroes, the Air Force Museum Theatre will show “The Doolittle Raid: A Mission that Changed the War” with guest speaker Cindy Chal, daughter of Cole, on Friday, April 17, and Saturday, April 18, at 4 pm each day. Chal will speak following the 60-minute film. The Air Force Museum Store will also offer book signings throughout the day on Friday and Saturday.