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WWII Heroes Win Gold

Originally published by Aviation History magazine. Published Online: July 10, 2014 
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Dick Cole looks on as the president signs the bill honoring the Doolittle Raiders. AP Photo, Jacquelyne Martin
Dick Cole looks on as the president signs the bill honoring the Doolittle Raiders. AP Photo, Jacquelyne Martin

In May Congress acknowledged the heroism of two historic groups, passing bills awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) who served during WWII, and to the legendary Doolittle Raiders. The medals are expected to be minted and awarded before year's end.

Even after Pearl Harbor, participation of CAP volunteers in air defense faced resistance from the U.S. military. But continued enemy pressure on Atlantic coast sea lanes convinced first the Army, then the Navy, to rely on CAP support. CAP volunteers flew almost 87,000 missions in 18 months, and were reimbursed only about $8 a day for costs.

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President Barack Obama signed legislation honoring the Doolittle Raiders on May 23, with 98-year-old Lt. Col. Richard Cole—one of four surviving original Raiders—on hand. Cole flew with Lt. Col. James Doolittle in the lead B-25 during the April 18, 1942, bombing mission over Tokyo. Fear of observation by Japanese picket ships forced a decision to launch 170 miles farther away than originally planned. "The additional launch distance greatly increased the risk of crash landing in Japanese-occupied China, exposing the crews to higher probability of death, injury, or capture," the bill notes.
 

 



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