Letter from ‘Aviation History’—March 2014

Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle (second from left) poses with his crew prior to the April 18, 1942, Tokyo Raid. From left: Lt. Henry A. Potter, Staff Sgt. Fred A. Braemer, Lt. Richard Cole and Staff Sgt. Paul J. Leonard. [Image: U.S. Air Force]
Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle (second from left) poses with his crew prior to the April 18, 1942, Tokyo Raid. From left: Lt. Henry A. Potter, Staff Sgt. Fred A. Braemer, Lt. Richard Cole and Staff Sgt. Paul J. Leonard. [Image: U.S. Air Force]

The Raiders had a beneficial effect on my life as I got to know them and their families over the past 50 years.

Editor’s note: Longtime Aviation History contributing editor C.V. Glines attended the last reunion of the legendary Doolittle Raiders this past November, during which he gave a roll call of all 80 airmen involved in the April 1942 Tokyo Raid (see his story in “Briefing,” P. 10). We asked him to share his thoughts on the importance of the Raiders to posterity and the impact they had on him personally.

I have had the privilege since 1962 to serve as the official historian for the Doolittle Raiders, and wrote three books and a dozen articles about their unique mission that changed the course of the war in the Pacific. I have always been impressed with the humble outlook they all expressed about what they had done. None sought the limelight at reunions, and all showed their gratitude to the sponsoring organizations by awarding scholarships or donating to local charities, as General James H. Doolittle had originally insisted.

The Raiders had a beneficial effect on my life as I got to know them and their families over the past 50 years. I witnessed their genuine sense of loss when the group was gradually depleted and individuals who passed on during the previous year were toasted quietly at the beginning of every reunion. I felt that loss personally, as three of the last four of them made their final toast together at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force and declared, “Mission complete.”

I also had the privilege of helping General Doolittle write his autobiography, I Could Never Be So Lucky Again. During one of our many meetings, I asked him what he thought of those 79 men who volunteered to follow him off the aircraft carrier for a “dangerous mission” but did not know what that was to be. He said: “Of all the men who served with me during World War II, I have been closest to my Tokyo Raiders and treasure the days we spent together at reunions over the years. I know a commander is not supposed to have any favorites, but these men are mine. I care deeply for them and have always considered them part of my family.”

My personal regret is that I may not see these four men again. They are truly national heroes, and I am honored to have helped them by exposing impostors and correcting the myths and errors that have been published over the years. My mission is also complete.

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