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Doolittle Tokyo Raiders awarded congressional gold medal

The congressional gold medal recognizing the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders was formally presented April 15, in Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center. The final two surviving Raiders of the 80 who participated in the April 18, 1942, raid are expected to attend when the medal reaches its destination at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, on April 18.

Images courtesy of United States Mint.

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.

One of those POWs, Lt. Col. Robert Hite, who survived 40 months in captivity before being liberated by American troops in 1945, passed away March 29, 2015, at age 95. Hite had been co-pilot for Crew No. 16.

Another Raider, Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, who was alive to see passage of the medal’s authorizing legislation, passed away Jan. 28, 2015, at age 94. Saylor was the engineer for Crew 15.

Brian Anderson, the sergeant at arms for the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders who spearheaded passage of the legislation authorizing the congressional gold medal, said the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program artists and Mint’s engraving staff “hit the nail on the head with these designs.”

“They are just the way we wanted it and what I was fighting for,” Anderson said. “I think it is one of the best congressional gold medals I have seen for telling the story.”

For the medal’s obverse, Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin, acting on behalf of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, approved a design by AIP Artist Chris T. Costello, and sculptured by Mint Sculptor-Engraver Donald Everhart II, depicts the USS Hornet launching one of the North American B-25B Mitchell bombers in choppy seas. 

Inscribed in the field above the main design is FIRST STRIKE.

Inscribed around the raised border is ? ? ? ?  ? ? ? ? DOOLITTLE TOKYO RAIDERS ? ? ? ?  ? ? ? ? APRIL 18 • 1942.

For the reverse, Bloom approved a design showing three of the bombers and the four patches of the units comprising the 17th Bombardment Group —  the 34th Squadron, represented by the Thunderbird; the 37th Squadron, represented by the Tiger’s Head; the Winged Helmet, representing the 89th Reconnaissance Squadron; and the 95th Squadron, represented by the Kicking Mule.

The design also incorporates the bombardment group’s motto: TOUJOUR AU DANGER, which translates into English as “Always in danger.”

The design was created by AIP artist and retired Mint Sculptor-Engraver Donna Weaver and sculpted by Mint Medallic Sculptor Joseph F. Menna .

The Commission of Fine Arts recommended the eventual approved designs at their Oct. 16, 2014, meeting. 

At its Oct. 14, 2014, meeting, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee recommended different obverse and reverse designs. The CCAC’s recommendations show three bombers leaving the Hornet’s flight deck on the obverse. For the reverse, the CCAC recommended a design of four bombers flying over an outline of Tokyo.

The gold medal is scheduled to be flown April 18 in a B-25 bomber from Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Dayton, Ohio, for the medal to be formally presented for permanent display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The United States Mint will also offer for sale to the public 3-inch and 1.5-inch bronze versions of the gold medal for $39.95 and $6.95, respectively.

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