President Obama on Friday honored the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, 80 airmen who made history in April 1942 by striking back against Imperial Japan only a few months after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
In the Oval Office, the president signed a resolution honoring the men, only four of whom are still living.
“Eighty brave American aircraft crewmen, led by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle, volunteered for an ‘extremely hazardous mission’ without knowing the target, location or assignment, and willingly put their lives in harm’s way, risking death, capture and torture,” the resolution reads in part.
The raid was the first American retaliation against Japan following the bombing of Pearl Harbor four months earlier. Sixteen B-25 bombers took off from a Navy aircraft carrier — the first time that had been done — and dropped bombs over Tokyo and other Japanese cities before making a quick escape to China.
The mission “was the beginning of the end” for the Japanese war effort, Thomas Griffin, a navigator on plane No. 9 who later in World War II served 22 months in a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp, told The Washington Times in 2012 as part of the Times’ award-winning feature on the surviving Raiders.
“It gave the initial warning to them that we were coming and they had more than they could handle,” he said.
Griffin passed away last year at the age of 96.
The four surviving Raiders — Edward Saylor, Richard Cole, David Thatcher and Robert Hite — continue to gather each year in Dayton, Ohio, for a ceremony honoring the raid.