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Updated: 10:50 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 | Posted: 3:17 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013

Doolittle Raiders gather at Air Force Museum for final toast

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Doolittle Raiders arrive at the Air Force museum
Chris Stewart
Doolittle Raiders arrive at the Air Force museum

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Held at the WPAFB Air Force Museum, a toast to the living and dead Doolittle Tokyo Raiders was held for the final time. Three of the four remaining raiders were present at the ceremony.

By Breaking News Staff

FAIRBORN —

Just days before Veterans Day, three of the remaining four Doolittle Tokyo Raiders gathered Saturday to perform a final toast to their fallen comrades.

On April 18, 1942, 80 men took off from an aircraft carrier in B-25 bombers on a top-secret mission to bomb Japan. Led by Lt. Col. James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle, the men later came to be known as the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders.

As of today, just four of the 80 men are still alive: Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor and Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher. All but Lt. Col. Robert Hite, who was not strong enough to make the trip from his home, gathered today at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base to toast the ones who are alive today and those who have already passed.

The Doolittle Raiders decided that this would be their last gathering to toast together.

The Doolittle Raiders know their mission was dangerous, but provided a boost in morale on the home front in the war and proved that Japan was vulnerable.

"They said we changed the course of the war," said raider Lt. Col. Edward Saylor.

98-year-old Lt. Col. Richard Cole, who was born in Dayton, had the honor of opening the last bottle used to toast the Doolittle Raiders.

A 1896 bottle of Cognac was opened and poured as the names of all the airmen involved in the Tokyo Raid were read aloud. Families of the airmen stood as they heard "their" raider mentioned.

In 1959 the Doolittle Raiders were presented with silver goblets bearing the name of one of the 80 men who flew on the mission. At each of their past reunions, the surviving Raiders would conduct a goblet ceremony in which after toasting to the Raiders who died since their last meeting, they would then turn the deceased men's goblets upside down.

Today's event was no different, but did mark the end of a public gathering for the toast. After 71 years the remaining raiders are still humble about their mission, grateful for those who gathered and surprised that their mission so many years ago was successful.

The all-day event took place at WPAFB beginning at 1 p.m. and the final toast ended after 7 p.m.

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