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moose 57

CUP OF BRANDY...........‏

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This is an interesting bit of history.......

It's the cup of brandy that no one wants to drink.

On Tuesday, in Fort Walton Beach , Florida , the surviving

Doolittle Raiders gathered publicly for the last time.

They once were among the most universally admired and revered men

in the United States . There were 80 of the Raiders in April 1942,

when they carried out one of the most courageous and

heart-stirring military operations in this nation's history. The

mere mention of their unit's name, in those years, would bring

tears to the eyes of grateful Americans.

Now only four survive.

After Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, with the United

States reeling and wounded, something dramatic was needed to turn

the war effort around.

Even though there were no friendly airfields close enough to

Japan for the United States to launch a retaliation, a daring

plan was devised. Sixteen B-25s were modified so that they could

take off from the deck of an aircraft carrier. This had never

before been tried -- sending such big, heavy bombers from a

carrier.

The 16 five-man crews, under the command of Lt. Col. James

Doolittle, who himself flew the lead plane off the USS Hornet,

knew that they would not be able to return to the carrier. They

would have to hit Japan and then hope to make it to China for a

safe landing.

But on the day of the raid, the Japanese military caught wind of

the plan. The Raiders were told that they would have to take off

from much farther out in the Pacific Ocean than they had counted

on. They were told that because of this they would not have

enough fuel to make it to safety.

And those men went anyway.

They bombed Tokyo , and then flew as far as they could. Four

planes crash-landed; 11 more crews bailed out, and three of the

Raiders died. Eight more were captured; three were executed.

Another died of starvation in a Japanese prison camp. One crew

made it to Russia .

The Doolittle Raid sent a message from the United States to its

enemies, and to the rest of the world: We will fight. And, no

matter what it takes, we will win.

Of the 80 Raiders, 62 survived the war. They were celebrated as

national heroes, models of bravery. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced

a motion picture based on the raid; "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo ,"

starring Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson, was a patriotic and

emotional box-office hit, and the phrase became part of the

national lexicon. In the movie-theater previews for the film, MGM

proclaimed that it was presenting the story "with supreme pride."

Beginning in 1946, the surviving Raiders have held a reunion each

April, to commemorate the mission. The reunion is in a different

city each year. In 1959, the city of Tucson , Arizona , as a

gesture of respect and gratitude, presented the Doolittle Raiders

with a set of 80 silver goblets. Each goblet was engraved with

the name of a Raider.

Every year, a wooden display case bearing all 80 goblets is

transported to the reunion city. Each time a Raider passes away,

his goblet is turned upside down in the case at the next reunion,

as his old friends bear solemn witness.

Also in the wooden case is a bottle of 1896 Hennessy Very Special

cognac. The year is not happenstance: 1896 was when Jimmy

Doolittle was born.

There has always been a plan: When there are only two surviving

Raiders, they would open the bottle, at last drink from it, and

toast their comrades who preceded them in death.

As 2013 began, there were five living Raiders; then, in February,

Tom Griffin passed away at age 96.

What a man he was. After bailing out of his plane over a

mountainous Chinese forest after the Tokyo raid, he became ill

with malaria, and almost died. When he recovered, he was sent to

Europe to fly more combat missions. He was shot down, captured,

and spent 22 months in a German prisoner of war camp.

The selflessness of these men, the sheer guts ... there was a

passage in the Cincinnati Enquirer obituary for Mr. Griffin that,

on the surface, had nothing to do with the war, but that

emblematizes the depth of his sense of duty and devotion:

"When his wife became ill and needed to go into a nursing home,

he visited her every day. He walked from his house to the nursing

home, fed his wife and at the end of the day brought home her

clothes. At night, he washed and ironed her clothes. Then he

walked them up to her room the next morning. He did that for

three years until her death in 2005."

So now, out of the original 80, only four Raiders remain: ****

Cole (Doolittle's co-pilot on the Tokyo raid), Robert Hite,

Edward Saylor and David Thatcher. All are in their 90s. They have

decided that there are too few of them for the public reunions to

continue.

The events in Fort Walton Beach this week will mark the end. It

has come full circle; Florida 's nearby Eglin Field was where the

Raiders trained in secrecy for the Tokyo mission. The town is

planning to do all it can to honor the men: a six-day celebration

of their valor, including luncheons, a dinner and a parade.

Do the men ever wonder if those of us for whom they helped save

the country have tended to it in a way that is worthy of their

sacrifice? They don't talk about that, at least not around other

people. But if you find yourself near Fort Walton Beach this

week, and if you should encounter any of the Raiders, you might

want to offer them a word of thanks. I can tell you from

firsthand observation that they appreciate hearing that they are

remembered.

The men have decided that after this final public reunion they

will wait until a later date -- some time this year -- to get

together once more, informally and in absolute privacy. That is

when they will open the bottle of brandy. The years are flowing

by too swiftly now; they are not going to wait until there are

only two of them.

They will fill the four remaining upturned goblets.

And raise them in a toast to those who are gone.

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Wow - my eyes are starting to sweat again -

 

The story of the Doolittle Raiders has always been one of my favorites.  Being a soldier and a military history buff, these type of things always move me.

 

 

 

I work at Fort William H. Harrsion in Helena, MT.  Most people don't know that this is the birthplace of the Special Forces.  The First Special Service Force was activated on 9 July 1942 as a joint Canadian-U.S. force of three small regiments and a service battalion here.

 

On April 1st, 2012, the last 2 surviving origonal members who lived in MT - Mark Radcliffe, 94, and 92-year-old Joe Glass - both passed away within 12 hours of each other. Radcliffe, was born in Farmington, N.M., and Glass was originally from Samia, Ontario.  Both returned to Helena after the war and live here until they passed.

 

 

I was honored to take part in the funeral form SGT Joe Glass.  Even though he was a Canadian and technically had never served with the US military, he was buried with full US military honors. From what I understand. the DoD actually sent a waiver to allow this to be done.  This is one of the very few times a member of a "foreign" military has been honored in this way.

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