Doolittle Raiders 65th anniversary kicks off at Randolph

  • Published
  • By By Staff Sgt. Jeremy Larlee
  • Air Force News Agency
The 65th anniversary reunion of the Doolittle Raiders launched with an opening ceremony attended by more than 250 spectators April 17 here.

The ceremony included several short speeches from Randolph Air Force Base leadership and the Doolittle Raiders' historian and manager. 

Second Lt. Austin Haygood, who is attending navigation training here, said he first heard about the raiders in high school and it was a great honor to see them in person.
"It's awesome to be in the same hangar as these historical greats," he said. "They made that first strike when no one thought it was possible. Their bravery and dedication is inspiring."

On April 18, 1942, Lt. Col. James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle and a select team of 80 pilots, gunners, navigators and bombardiers of B-25 Mitchell bombers were assembled to execute a surprise attack over the islands of Japan. The attack raised the morale of the nation after the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.

Seven of the 14 remaining raiders attended the ceremony as well as their famous goblets. The 80 goblets, one for each raider, are an integral part of the reunion. In a special ceremony, each year, goblets are turned upside down when a raider passes away. The goblet ceremony has been practiced since 1959.

The goblets were not the only piece of history at the event.

Shining in the background of the ceremony was the aircraft they flew on the raid, the B-25. The aircraft was flown to Randolph AFB by Doug Rozendaal, a civilian pilot. The pilot said this is the fourth Doolittle Raiders reunion he has participated in, and he never misses a chance to honor the heroes.

"It is a tremendous honor and a great opportunity to be a part of this," he said. "The responsibility we all have is that we make sure to keep their stories alive."

Retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole was one the raiders in attendance for the ceremony. He said that even after all of these years, he is still embarrassed to be singled out for his heroics. He said there were thousands of people in World War II who deserved to be recognized. 

Colonel Cole said he enjoys interacting with today's Airmen.

"I'm really impressed with this generation of Airmen," he said. "They are gung-ho, well educated and they really know their jobs. I don't worry about the future at all." 

Click here for Doolittle multimedia presentation.

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