Doolittle Tokyo Raiders receive gold medal from congressional leadership

April 15 ceremony sees honor accepted by National Museum of the U.S. Air Force director
By , Coin World
Published : 04/15/15
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The congressional gold medal recognizing the World War II exploits of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders was accepted April 15 by Lt. Gen. (Ret.) John "Jack" Hudson, director of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Due to age, health and travel considerations, the two surviving Raiders — Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, 99; and Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 93 — were unable to attend the medal presentation ceremony.

In his videotaped message, Cole said "on behalf of the 78 fallen Raiders who we proudly served with on that famous raid, we are honored to accept this prestigious award."

The medal was presented to Hudson by the congressional leadership in ceremonies held at Emancipation Hall of the Capitol Visitor Center. Taking part in the 3 p.m. ceremony at Emancipation Hall was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Olson and Brown had introduced companion bills authorizing the gold medal.

 House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who was scheduled to preside over the event, was unable to attend because of a death in the family.

Cole and Thatcher are, however, scheduled to attend an April 18 ceremony in Dayton, Ohio, during which the gold medal is to be formally presented to the museum for permanent display. The two are also scheduled to raise silver goblets to toast two fellow Raiders who passed away earlier this year.

As a second lieutenant, Cole was the co-pilot for Crew No. 1 piloted by Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle. Thatcher was the engineer-gunner for Crew No. 7.

In total, 80 Raiders in five-man crews  boarded 16 medium-range North American B-25B Mitchell bombers and left the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, to bomb Japan’s capital and select other cities in an effort to end the war early in the South Pacific. Of the 80 Raiders that left the Hornet’s flight deck, eight were captured, two died in crashes, and 70 returned home.

Of the eight captured Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, three were executed and one died of disease.

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