Dayton native now the only living Doolittle Raider from WWII

Published: Thursday, June 23, 2016 @ 4:18 PM
Updated: Thursday, June 23, 2016 @ 4:18 PM

Doolittle Raider David Hatcher has died leaving Dayton native Lt. Richard E. Cole as the surving member.

Doolittle Raiders David J. Thatcher and Richard E. Cole last stood together in Dayton as two World War II brothers-in-arms to present the Congressional Gold Medal to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Today, one Raider survives.

Thatcher died at age 94 Wednesday in Montana, after suffering a massive stroke on Sunday, Father’s Day, the Missoulian reported.

» APRIL 2015: WWII Doolittle Raiders get Congressional Gold Medal

At 100 years old, Cole, a Dayton native who lives in Comfort, Texas, is the last survivor of the fabled 80 Army Air Force airmen who lifted the morale of a nation at war. They launched 16 B-25 bombers off the USS Hornet on a daring raid April 18, 1942 in the first U.S. strike against the Japanese homeland since a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor four months earlier.

“He’s right now probably going through the worst time in his life because he’s lost one of his best friends, but now he stands alone as the last Doolittle Raider left,” Tom Casey, the Raiders’ long-time business manager, said Thursday.

Cole, a retired lieutenant colonel, was the co-pilot in the first plane off the carrier deck with legendary airman Jimmy Doolittle in the pilot’s seat on their way to bomb a factory in Tokyo. Cole was last in Dayton in April for the Air Force museum premiere of a documentary about his life, “Dick Cole — One Hundred Years a Hero.” He will be 101-years-old in September.

» RELATED: Doolittle Raiders -The Final Toast

In a decades-old tradition, Casey said Cole was expected to travel to the museum on the 75th anniversary of the raid next April to turn over one of two 80 silver goblets still standing upright in the Doolittle Raiders exhibit. When a Raider dies, historical precedent calls for the one of the goblets to be turned upside down. This time, the transition will honor Thatcher.

“I think his passing means that our republic has lost another national treasure,” said Jeff Underwood, Air Force museum historian.

Funeral services were set next Monday in Missoula, Montana for Thatcher, who retired from the U.S. Postal Service after his time in uniform in World War II. Two bombers, a B-1 Lancer and a B-25 Mitchell, were to fly over ceremonies honoring the former tail gunner-engineer, Casey said.

» PHOTOS: Doolittle Raider 70th anniversary celebration

Thatcher, a former staff sergeant, was recognized with the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross during the war. He helped save the lives of his B-25 “Ruptured Duck” crew after the plane dropped bombs on industrial targets in Tokyo and crash landed off the Chinese coast when the plane ran out of fuel.

“He was able to not only survive the crash but gather his crew on the beach and protect them because they were all busted up so badly,” Casey said. The Chinese helped the crew evade the Japanese and return to the war.

Thatcher flew combat missions in the B-26 Maurauder in northern Africa and Europe after the famous first raid on Japan. “Some of those stories he used to tell raised the hair on my neck,” Casey said.

» PHOTOS: A tribute to the Doolittle Raiders

“Dave’s a hero and he doesn’t think of himself being a hero,” said Brian J. Anderson, 64, of Salem, N.H., a Doolittle Raiders Association member who lobbied federal lawmakers for years to get the Raiders the Congressional Gold Medal. “When you get to know Dave and talk to him he was just an average guy who worked for the post office. He was a just a nice, kind, gentle man.”

Casey, 80, of Sarasota, Fla., said Thatcher was a quiet man in years past when they first traveled together to public appearances across the country, but later he “became probably the best story teller of all the Raiders.”

Cole and Thatcher and other Raiders who have since died traveled to the Air Force museum several times for reunions and special events. In the most recent gatherings that attracted national attention, they attended ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the raid with a fleet of B-25s flying over in April 2012, the Doolittle Raiders Final Toast in November 2013 and presented the Congressional Gold Medal, now displayed the museum, in April 2015.

“When they were holding the medal, they understood, ‘Hey, this isn’t for us,” Underwood said, “it’s for all of us.”

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Top AF leader: ‘You have to learn to say, that’s not good enough’

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 10:30 PM

            Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson addressed more than 240 graduates of the Air Force Institute of Technology on Thursday evening at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. BARRIE BARBER /STAFF
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson addressed more than 240 graduates of the Air Force Institute of Technology on Thursday evening at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. BARRIE BARBER /STAFF

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson told newly minted “technical leaders” of the Air Force Institute of Technology to never stop asking why and to be innovators who build strong and trusted relationships to solve the nation’s national security challenges.

Wilson, an Air Force Academy alumnae and former Rhodes scholar at Oxford, spoke Thursday night to more than 240 AFIT graduates among an audience of 1,200 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

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Among three key points of advice, the top Air Force civilian leader told graduates to be critical thinkers who challenge assumptions about why.

“You will also now serve as technical leaders and as leaders in technology and science you have to learn four important words. You have to learn to say, ‘that’s not good enough.’”

The secretary cited recent hypoxia-like incidents among pilots experiencing oxygen loss in some of the most sophisticated aircraft, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and more basic training aircraft such as the propeller-driven T-6 Texan, as an example to keep asking why and not be pressured to cut short the search for answers.

She told graduates they should not be afraid to say no, even to superiors, until a solution is known.

Wilson told them they must also be innovators.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Air Force leader says total dominance not a ‘birthright’

“Innovation doesn’t come from requirement statements,” she said. “There was never a requirement statement for a silicon chip. There was never a requirement statement for Uber. There was probably wasn’t a requirement statement for GPS.

“If you’re not making mistakes as an engineer, you’re probably only proving that what you already know really does work,” she said. “That’s not innovation. We need you to push the bounds of what you know.”

The high-flying, record-breaking Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird spy plane with a needle-like sleek shape demanded overcoming a series of technical problems, from aviators in space suits ejecting at extreme speeds and altitudes to heat-resistant glass that wouldn’t distort surveillance cameras view.

“The result was an air-breathing monster faster than a speeding bullet,” she said. “What would your innovation be?”

Developing trusted relationships is the third key, Wilson said.

“The work that you are about matters, and the people matter more,” she said.

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From her time at the Air Force Academy to serving on the national security council staff, the former New Mexico congresswoman said she could count “on one hand” people she could call on at any time.

“Those kinds of relationships are built over a long period of time are priceless in your life,” she said.

The Air Force’s top leaders listen and trust each other and see things from different perspectives to address national security issues, she said.

“You have everything to gain as young officers and civilians in the Air Force to see alternative perspectives, to find your partners in crime who are going to push you and make you better because steel sharpens steel,” she told AFIT graduates.

“The United States Air Force relies on the most advanced technology to defend our nation and project power in the air and space around the globe,” Wilson added. “We’re going to lean on you. We’re going to lean hard on you as the next generation of scientists and engineers in air and space.

“So chose to ask why, chose to be an innovator, and chose to build strong relationships throughout your professional lives,” she said. “Our nation needs you desperately and future generations are counting on you.”

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Winter Storm Watch issued for system that could bring snow to area this weekend

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 10:08 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 6:55 PM

Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini looks at the current track and forecast for another spring storm.

Those ready for spring weather likely won’t like this forecast.

Winter Storm Watch has been issued for Darke, Preble, Montgomery, Wayne, Randolph, Butler, Warren and Clinton counties from 2 a.m. Saturday through 2 a.m. Sunday. Conditions are expected to be favorable for impactful snow, sleet or ice that can make travel difficult. 

>> Winter Storm: ‘Either Dayton or Cincinnati will get nailed’

A quick-moving low pressure system will spread moisture back into the Miami Valley Saturday and Saturday night, said Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini. A band of snow will be possible that, at times, might mix with rain. The system currently is favoring the southern and western half of the Miami Valley where the watch was issued. This means areas such as Logan, Shelby, Auglaize and Mercer counties could see a sharp cut-off from moisture and possibly very little, if any, snow. 

>> Winter Weather Awareness: What are the different types of Winter Weather Alerts?

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The track and intensity of this system is still in question, and fine-tuning will come together during the end of the work week. Counties under the Winter Storm Watch have the best chance to see sticking snow that will could be more than two inches. 

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>> Severe Weather Alert Sign-up

A few factors that could limit impact in the Miami Valley: Warm road temperatures allowing for snow melt, snow falling during the day allowing for a mix with rain, the track shifting and pulling the accumulating snow further south.

A few factors that could increase impact in the Miami Valley: Staying colder than expected, a shift further north could spread more snow across the entire area and the intensity of the system. 

Stay with Storm Center 7 for the latest updates to this spring snow storm.

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Winter Storm: ‘Either Dayton or Cincinnati will get nailed’

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 7:21 PM

Another winter storm is taking aim on the Miami Valley and southwest Ohio just in time for the first weekend of spring. While the track is still somewhat uncertain, parts of the area could see significant snow Saturday. Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell says we will need to pay close attention to this early spring storm.

A clipper-type system will push through southwest Ohio this weekend, but it’s too early to tell the storm’s track.

>> 5-Day Forecast

“Here’s the bottom line: It’s an intense system and someone is going to see a lot of snow, we just don’t know where it’s going yet,” Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell said. “Right now, it looks like either Dayton or Cincinnati will get nailed.”

>> Live Doppler 7 Interactive Radar

Areas between Dayton and Cincinnati will see a lot of snow, Elwell said.

“But any small deviation in the track will play a huge role in who sees what,” he said.

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Montgomery County Dems appoint county recorder

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2018 @ 8:13 PM

A Dayton Municipal Court magistrate was appointed Thursday night to fill the Montgomery County Recorder’s Office left vacant with the passing in February of Willis Blackshear Sr.

Brandon McClain will be sworn in on March 28. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has worked in private practice and as an attorney with the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office. He is a veteran, who achieved the rank of sergeant in the Army National Guard and he mentors local youth and serves on several boards, according to a release from the Montgomery County Democratic Party.

“Whether a soldier, attorney or member of the judiciary, I have embraced my calling as a public servant and remained actively involved in the development of our community and its citizens,” McClain said. “I am humbled to serve Montgomery County and be an extension to the legacy of Willis Blackshear Sr.”

State law requires the local Central Committee of the former officeholder’s party to pick a replacement within 45 days of the vacancy. Once sworn in, McClain would have to run for election in a special election, which will be on the 2018 General Election ballot in November.

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