US World War Two Raiders to receive Congressional Gold Medal

A group of World War Two heroes are to receive the US Congressional Gold Medal for their role in the war and are going to donate the medal to the Air Force Museum so it can be preserved for future generations.

The ‘Doolittle Tokyo Raiders’ was a group of 80 crew in 16 B-25 bombers which undertook daring raids on Japan during the war in the Pacific. Their most famous and renowned bombing raid took place 73 years ago as they inflicted damage across Japan only a few months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and brought the US into World War Two.

Their attack was widely reported in the media back at home, and was a huge morale boost to the troops and civilians in America. Military historians say that the attack also shook Japanese confidence and was a turning point in their offensive strategy in the Pacific.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor that US Congress can award.

Of the Raiders, there are now only two surviving members, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Cole and Staff Sergeant David Thatcher. They will both attend the medal award ceremony along with the families and relatives of all 80 Raiders.

The ceremony will take place at in Washington, and then they plan to hand over the medals to the National Museum of the US Air Force for display in its museum in Dayton, Ohio. The medals will become part of an exhibit which shows the launch of the bombers from an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.

Survivor Richard Cole, who is now 99, says that the medal is for every one of the 80 Raiders and especially their leader who was General James Doolittle, who died in 1993, the Military Times reports.

Cole recalls how the mission was such a success they completed everything they had set out and planned to do.

The Raiders were said to have been humble about their mission and duties during the war, seeing it simply as doing their job.

The National Museum’s director, Lieutenant General Jack Hudson, said the Raiders were the epitome of bravery, proficiency and loyalty to their country. He has promised that the medal will remain a part of telling the Raiders’ inspiring story for generations to come.

During their missions, eight Raiders were captured and taken prisoners of war, three of those were executed, and one died whilst in captivity. Three more Raiders were killed during crash landings.

The four remaining Raiders in captivity were freed by US troops at the end of the war.

Ian Harvey

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