Columbia, SC newspaper dated Wed. April 15th, 1992. |
Contributed by Veteran, Bernard C. McMurray.
Article written by G. G. Ribsby, Associated Press Writer.
Doolittle's Raiders, the men who led the first air raid on Japan during World War II, are gathering at the place where it all began to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the attack.
Half of the 80 raiders are still alive, and 36 plan to attend the reunion, which runs from Thursday through Saturday. As young men they met at the Columbia Army Air Base before going to Florida to train in short takeoffs and landings.
Missing from the reunion will be James H. Doolittle, who as a lieutenant colonel led the daring team. Doolittle, 95, lives in Carmel, CA.
On April 18, 1942, 16 B-25 bombers took off from the USS HORNET, the first fully loaded bombers ever to take off from an aircraft carrier.
The raid was the United States' answer to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor four moths earlier. Although the bombs Doolittle's Raiders dropped inflicted no serious damage, the mission was a much-needed boost to American morale.
The crews planned to unload their bombs over Japan, then land in Chinese territory that was in friendly hands. But stormy weather made it impossible for them to reach safe haven, and most of the planes crash landed in China after running our of fuel, some in Japanese held areas.
One ended up in the Soviet Union and its crew was held for a year before being released.
Seven of the 80 airmen drowned or were killed when they parachuted. Eight were captured by the Japanese; of those, three were executed, one died in prison, and four were released when the war ended.
The three former POWs still alive plan to attend the reunion.
"I harbor no ill feelings toward anyone," said Chase Nielsen, 75, of Brigham City, Utah, who was a lieutenant and navigator when he was captured.
He said he was tortured, starved and suspended in handcuffs so that his toes barely touched the floor. The Japanese "were fighting the war the same as we were," he said.
Jacob DeShazer, a corporal and bombardier, wrote poems on an imaginary blackboard and memorized Bible verses to pass the time he spent in prison camp.
After the war, DeShazer, now 79 and living in Salem, OR., became a minister and spent 30 years as a missionary in Japan and China.
"I just love the Japanese," he said.
Robert Hite, 72, of Camden, AR., saw his weight drop to 80 pounds during his stay in a Japanese prison. He was bitten by bugs, rats and lice, suffered starvation and had water poured down his nose.