Significance of Doolittle Tokyo Raid must live on

  • Published
  • By Annette Crawford
  • Air Force Print News
I have new wallpaper on my computer.

Not an earth-shattering development, but the new one is quite a change from the previous image of Aerosmith -- it’s of retired Lt. Gen. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle.

Seeing the photos taken at the Doolittle Raiders’ 64th reunion in Dayton, Ohio, April 18, I was struck by the faces of the heroes. Now well into their 80s, they still exuded the same spirit and resolve that carried them through their historic mission over Tokyo in April 1942.

I was also moved by a picture of the goblets. Housed in a wooden case, the 80 sterling silver goblets each bear the name of a Raider. The goblets of those Raiders who have passed away are turned upside down. Only 16 remain sitting right-side up.

The goblets are now permanently kept at The National Museum of the Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. But until last year, when they weren’t at the site of the group’s annual reunion, they were on display at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. More than 20 years ago, that is where I came to know about these precious goblets and what they signify.

At the time, I was assigned to the Public Affairs office. While the Air Force Academy Chapel was certainly impressive, it was the Doolittle Raiders display that I enjoyed “showing off” the most to our visitors. When we would get to that part of the tour at Arnold Hall, I would tell the group the story of the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo -- how a daring group of 80 brave men bombed Japan and boosted America’s morale after being devastated by the Pearl Harbor attack.

Then I would explain how a goblet was turned upside down when a Raider passed away. Twenty-something years ago, the display case held about an even mix of goblets right-side up and upside down. When I looked at the photo this morning of the display case, the difference was staggering. How long before they were all turned over? More importantly, who would make sure that future generations would know the magnitude of what the Doolittle Raid meant to America?

One of those academy tours of yesteryear was for entertainer Burl Ives and his wife. I was nearly done with my tour of the Doolittle exhibit when Mr. Ives turned away, wiping tears from his eyes. His wife, seeing the panic on my face, took me aside to assure me it wasn’t presentation skills that upset the performer. She explained that General Doolittle was her husband’s idol -- he was the only person Mr. Ives had ever written a “fan letter” to, and seeing the exhibit was an incredibly emotional experience for him.

On another one of those tours, I had finished the tour of Arnold Hall for a large group of visitors and we were on our way to our next location. One of the men came up next to me and introduced himself as one of the famed Raiders.

“You did a great job,” he said. “Your story of the raid was perfect.”

That even beat making Burl Ives cry.