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Raider Reunion

7:05 AM, Apr 18, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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The raid, in truth, did little damage to Japan and that was easily repaired.  But it did, undeniably, raise morale in the United States.  Still, risking half the U.S. Navy’s carriers to accomplish this might have seemed reckless except …

The Japanese high command was so shocked by the raid that it decided to send its fleet east to finish the fight with the U.S. Navy and ensure that this would never happen again.  The Dolittle raid, then, led to the Battle of Midway.

Also, Japanese message traffic increased significantly after the raid and this was a boon to American code breakers whose work was crucial to the victory at Midway.

On April 18th there is a reunion of the Dolittle Raiders. Sixty-one of the eighty survived the war. Now, there are four.  Three of them, are back in northwest Florida for this year’s reunion: Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, 97, Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, 95, and Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 92.  Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, 95, is ill and cannot attend.

There will not be another reunion, this is the last.  At every reunion, a set of 80 silver goblets, each engraved with a raider’s name, is flown from the U.S. Air Force Academy to the reunion site and the goblet bearing the name of any man who has passed in the last year is ceremoniously turned upside down.  The original plan was for the last two survivors to break open a bottle of 1896 cognac, kept on hand for the occasion, pour some into their two goblets and raise a toast themselves and the other 78.

Since there will be no more reunions, the three will fill their goblets, make that toast, drink, then turn those last goblets upside down.

A toast, then, to them all.

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