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National Museum of U S Air Force displays Doolittle gold medal

The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders congressional gold medal is now on permanent display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, after formally being formally presented to the museum April 18 by the final two surviving Raiders.

Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, 99, second lieutenant and co-pilot for Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle’s lead B-25 Mitchell bomber, physically handed the gold medal over to Lt. Gen. John L. “Jack” Hudson, director of the museum.

Also present was the other surviving Raider, Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 93, the engineer-gunner for Crew No. 7. 

Nearly 100 family members of Doolittle Tokyo Raiders were also in attendance among the more than 500 people in the audience.

The museum is on the grounds of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The medal was available for permanent public display the morning of April 19 as part of a life-size diorama exhibit chronicling the raid through photos and rare film footage.

Also part of the display are the 80 silver goblets that the city of Tucson, Ariz., presented to the Raiders soon after World War II. Gen. Doolittle, in turn, presented the goblets to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs on behalf of the surviving members of the Raiders, for safekeeping and display between reunions. The goblets were gifted to the Air Force museum in Dayton by the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Association in 2010.

Also part of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders display is a B-25 bomber of the type that the Raiders used in their perilous mission.

The April 18 ceremony marked the 73rd anniversary of the air attack on Tokyo and four other Japanese cities with 16 five-man crews in B-25 bombers that took off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet on a 13-hour flight enroute to the Japanese mainland.

During his comments before presenting the gold medal to the museum for safekeeping, Cole remarked of the trust the Raiders had placed in their leaders, especially Doolittle. That trust was again tested when the goblets were presented to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force for historical preservation.

And, Cole said, trust was again being placed in the museum as he readied to transfer the gold medal into Hudson’s hands.

Cole jokingly recounted that Thatcher attended to his fellow crew members after their plane had ditched on the beach. In contrast, Cole said he had bailed out of his plane before it crashed, but was left stuck in a tree hanging in his parachute. Cole said he spent the night in that tree still suspended in his parachute harness. He and fellow crew members were eventually rescued by the Chinese.

Modest about their heroics, Cole and Thatcher indicated the raid was part of their job, even though that job presented the strong possibility that none of the squadron’s members would return.

The medal had been presented to the Raiders in an April 15 ceremony in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, where Lt. Gen. Hudson accepted the medal on the Raiders’ behalf.

During the April 18 Dayton ceremony, the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders congressional gold medal was carried along the red carpet to the dais by Brian “Bear” Anderson, a U.S. Army veteran and the sergeant at arms of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Association, who spearheaded the campaign to get legislation authorizing the medal drafted, introduced, passed and signed into law.

Sarah Swann from the public affairs division at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force clarified the medal's transportation from the Washington ceremony to the museum: "Following the ceremony in Washington, D.C., the medal was transported to Dayton via commercial flight. The Raiders were shown the medal at a private location prior to the presentation ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

"On the morning of April 18, 2015, the medal was flown on the B-25J 'Panchito' piloted by Larry Kelley from Dayton International Airport/Wright Brothers Aero to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Brian 'Bear' Anderson, Sgt. at Arms, Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Association, was aboard this ceremonial flight and presented the medal to Lt. Col. Dick Cole upon landing. The medal was then be transported by ground to the National Museum of the USAF for the presentation ceremony at 6 p.m. that evening."

Collectors may place orders for 3-inch bronze duplicates  of the gold medal from the U.S. Mint for $39.95 and 1.5-inch bronze duplicates for $6.95.

Following the April 18 ceremony, after the interviews were complete and all the pictures I needed taken, I took the opportunity to walk up to both Lt. Col. Cole and Sgt. Thatcher, shake their hands and thank them.

It was truly a humbling experience.

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