The last pilot from the Doolittle raid, Col Bill Bower, USAF-Ret., passed away Jan 10 at his home in Boulder CO:
As a 25-year-old first lieutenant, Col. Bower commanded one of the 16 Army Air Forces’ B-25s in the top-secret mission under the direction of then-Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle. Col. Bower and the 79 other men who participated in the bombing run came to be known as the Doolittle Raiders . . . After skimming the waves during the 600-mile flight to Japan, Col. Bower directed his plane toward Yokohama and was stunned by the island’s natural beauty.
“I had the impression that, my gosh, what peaceful, pretty countryside that was,” Col. Bower later said. “What do they want war with us for?”
When Col. Bower arrived over his target in Yokohama, about 25 miles south of Tokyo, he encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire. His crew dropped the plane’s 2,000 pounds of ordnance on Yokohama’s dockyards and an oil refinery.
Col. Bower then throttled on toward China, where the Americans had tentatively planned to land and regroup in Chuchow, 200 miles south of Shanghai.
But plans changed. The planes encountered strong headwinds and stormy weather that burned fuel.
Like many of those who survived and made it back to the States, Col Bower continued to fight:
After the Doolittle Raid, Col. Bower flew missions in England, North Africa and Italy. He became an officer in the Air Force when it was formed in 1947. He served as the commander for an Air Force Arctic supply unit and later commanded Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, Ga. He retired from the military in 1966.
With his passing, there remain five survivors in toto of the raid to carryout the annual toast:
At every reunion, the surviving Raiders meet privately to conduct their solemn “Goblet Ceremony.” After toasting the Raiders who died since their last meeting, they turn the deceased men’s goblets upside down. Each goblet has the Raider’s name engraved twice — so that it can be read if the goblet is right side up or upside down. When there are only two Raiders left, these two men will drink one final toast to their departed comrades.
From another time – another war echoes an age old sentiment: “Where do we get such men?”
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