US Coins

Doolittle Tokyo Raider passing drops survivors to two

Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, 95, died March 29 at a Nashville nursing home, leaving the number of surviving Doolittle Tokyo Raiders at just two.

Hite was a co-pilot of Crew No. 16 and one of four Doolittle Tokyo Raiders who made it home after imprisonment in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Hite spent 40 months in captivity.

The surviving members are Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, 99, co-pilot to Lt. Col. James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle in the lead plane, and Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 93, engineer-gunner on Crew No. 7.

Hite's death comes two weeks before the congressional leadership is to present a congressional gold medal April 15 recognizing the heroic efforts of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. There were 80 Raiders split into five-man crews that took off in 16 B-25 medium bombers from the flight deck of the USS Hornet on what was billed as a suicide mission to bomb the Japanese capital of Tokyo.

On April 18, 2015, the 73rd anniversary of the mission, the congressional gold medal is to be flown aboard a B-25 from Andrews Air Force Base for presentation to the National Musum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, where it will formally join a public exhibit on the Raiders and their missions.

Collectors will be able to purchase 1.5-inch and 3-inch bronze duplicates of the gold medal. The obverse and reverse designs of the medal won't be publicized until the April 15 medal presentation ceremony in Washington, D.C.

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