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The Madera Tribune

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A legend died this week

June 26, 2016

I was saddened to learn that one of the last two members of the Doolittle Raid, Cpl. David Thatcher, 94, had passed away from a stroke on Wednesday.


Amidst the clamor of debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and hash tags for forgettable causes, the men and women of my generation might mostly be unaware of the loss of a living legend. They may not know what the Doolittle Raid was. However, I am grateful to know of what those brave airmen did, and more grateful still for the chance I had to meet two of them.

 

On April 18, 1942, at 8:20 a.m., 80 men embarked on a death-defying mission. Just four months after more than 2,400 Americans were killed at Pearl Harbor, America’s morale was at a dangerous low. The United States, it was decided, needed to hit the enemy back with an attack by air on the Japanese homeland itself. What followed was a fleet of 16 B-25 bombers, led by the flamboyant Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle, taking off from the deck of the U.S. Navy carrier Hornet, even though the ship was considered too small to accommodate the runway needs of the B-25s, which would be loaded with fuel and bombs.

 

The bombers took off early, hitting targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Nagoya, Kobe, and Osaka. After the raid, 15 of the 16 bombers crashed in China, or off the Chinese coast, and one landed in Russia. Three of the men were killed, and eight were captured. Among the prisoners, three were executed, and one died from starvation in a POW camp...

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