Lt. Col. Robert Hite of ‘Doolittle Tokyo Raiders’ dead at 95

One of the famous World War II “Dolittle Tokyo Raiders”, Lt. Col. Robert Hite, has passed away in his home in Nashville, Tennessee. He was 95.

The “Doolittle Tokyo Raiders” rose to fame after their fairly successful bombing campaigns in Japan. After the deadly Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy thought it could easily take on the US Army on its soil.  An urgent and fierce response was the need of the hour, and the US Army decided to hit back hard. A team of 80 pilots was selected for a bombing mission on Japan.

On board 16 B-25 bombers, their mission was to hit important military targets in mainland Japan. Although these bombings did not cause a lot of damage to the Japanese Imperial Army, they did something more than that. They shook Japanese confidence to its core. The morale of the US Army went back up, all due to this bombardment by the US pilots. This 80-man team was later dubbed the “Doolittle Raiders”.

These raids were not as successful as one might think. Some of the planes crashed and the pilots were taken prisoner by the Japanese Army. Three of those who were captured got executed by the Japanese, and a few more died in the prisons. Hite was amongst the captives and stayed in a Japanese prison camp until 1945. They were released and brought back home after American troops broke through Japanese defences and liberated them.

After the war, Hite was not involved in any direct military operations for a period of five years. He returned to the US Army in 1951, to serve as an active soldier during the Korean War. He provided his services to the US Army for another four years as an active soldier overseas. In 1955 he got discharged, and went back to civilian life.

Hite was battling Alzheimer’s disease in later years of his life. His family remembers him as a very resilient and brave person, who lived like a hero. He always proclaimed his love for his country. When asked about the raids, he would reply that he was only doing his job, and that there was nothing special about him.

The US government has decided to honour the “Doolittle Tokyo Raiders” with the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington on 15th April.

On 18th April, the medal will then be presented to the National Museum of the US Air Force, on the 73rd anniversary of the raids, the Military Times reports.

After the death of Robert Hite, there are now only two of the “Doolittle Tokyo Raiders” alive, Staff Sgt. David Thatcher and Lt. Col. Richard Cole.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE