Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Last Cup of Brandy: Bravery and Bombs

It's the cup of brandy that no one wants to drink.
For the 71st time, on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 in Fort Walton Beach , Florida,
the surviving Doolittle's 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:
 Dick 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 April 16-20
 marked the end. It had come full circle;
 Florida's nearby Eglin Field was where the Raiders
 trained in secrecy for the
Tokyo mission.
 The town did all it could 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.

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.

The above is a story that I did not write, but felt compelled to share.
 My brother passed this story along  to me and we wish we knew who authored it!

 I guess you could say I come from a family of fiercely patriotic individuals, lead by  a father who served in World War II. He put  his life on hold at the age of 24, as did so many, many  enlisted men,  upon the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. He rarely spoke of what he lived in those five years. What he did share has become like diamonds to us. 

Rare and beautiful.

I write much about my pride in my Dad and all US servicemen and women.  They epitomize selflessness. They live their value for freedom and are willing to lose their lives to ensure that their country continued to be The  Land of The Free and The Home of The Brave.

The war in Iraq is "over." Where were the parades? The confetti? The speeches of appreciation led by our Commander in Chief welcoming our heroes?  Are their jobs and businesses intact and waiting for them? Has the nation taken care of their mortgages and their children's student loans while they were serving to protect us? 

 The apathy our current administration exudes  for our armed forces is clear and strong.  It is contagious and dangerous.  I fear that my Dad would be quite saddened to see what we've become in this regard. 

Why wait until Veteran's Day to show how much we appreciate our way of life? 
And how much we respect our veterans? 

Thank you, Dad.
Thank you, to  all our  veterans.

The "clearest" picture I have of my Dad
in 1943, US Army Infantry.
Protecting the people of the beautiful Philippines
 during the Japanese occupation.
If you're new here, 
this is a reflection I posted several months ago,
that I'd loved to share.

Thank you for visiting, friends.
I very much appreciate the time you're taking to stop in.

(If you are new here, please stop over to my online mega book sale...
Curriculum, teacher resources, kid lit from preschool to middle school)
I look forward to seeing you here again, very soon.

Until next time,



  1. Thank you for sharing that excellent story. I salute these men and all men of our military. Those NOT being honored for the sacrifices they make for us. WE know the truth. And we will always be grateful and proud for the freedom they protect.GOd bless them every one ! Gratefully xoxoxo

    1. True, we do know the truth, Denise...
      Thanks for stopping over to visit and share your view, friend.


  2. THANK YOU for sharing this story!!! As mother of a USMC and (unofficially) "adoptive" mother of a Solider, this story touched my heart in ways that only other parents of servicemen/women can understand! I agree whole-heartedly regarding the apathy that the "majority" of American's have for those who protect them and their liberties!!! Thank you for pointing this out on this public forum!!! God Bless you and all those who serve and have served!!!

    1. Lora
      Thanks for stopping in and taking the time to share your thoughts......
      Yes, God bless them...

      we do know the truth of their sacrifice...

      Take care Lora...

  3. Thank you for your father's service and for your support of military members and veterans. Thanks for sharing at Inspire Us Thursday at Organized 31.

    1. Thanks for stopping in, Susan...
      You are well aware, much more so than myself of the sacrifices that military families make in this day and age....

      I appreciate your visit.


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