Skip to comments.Doolittle Raider (Tom Griffin), Who Shunned Title of ‘Hero,’ Dies
Posted on 03/01/2013 9:43:41 AM PST by xzins
Now, hes flying with the angels.
Tom Griffin, one of just five surviving Doolittle Raiders, died Tuesday night in his sleep at the Fort Thomas VA hospital in Kentucky. He navigated one of 16 North American B-25 Mitchell bombers from an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific during the early dark days of World War II to launch a surprise daylight attack on Tokyo, lifting American morale. The longtime Green Township, Ohio, resident was 96.
By his own count, Mr. Griffin cheated death eight times during World War II. The first time was when he took off in a land-based bomber from the deck of the USS Hornet at 9 a.m. April 18, 1942. The mid-ocean takeoff made history. No land-based bomber had ever taken off from an aircraft carrier in combat. The Raiders made history later that day when they bombed Tokyo in partial payback for Japans Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
Mr. Griffins plane, which he named the Whirling Dervish, knocked the lights out in Tokyo. The Whirling Dervishs bombs flattened the Tokyo Gas & Electric plant.
The planes lacked fuel to reach safe bases after dropping their bombs. Griffin parachuted over China after the attack, eluded Japanese capture, and returned to action in bombing runs from North Africa before being shot down in 1943 and spending nearly two years in a German prison camp.
Another goblet turned.
Unfortunately you are correct, another goblet turned.
The US Army produced the toughest pilots and crews that American aviation has ever known, they still do.
Me and a friend were just talking about the raiders and the goblet this morning and wondering when the bottle would be opened at Wright Patterson AFB.
I'm going by my memory so I apologize if I'm confusing this bombing run with another.
...and because there was only enough fuel to make it to Tokyo but not a return flight.
Instead, it will be Griffin’s turn to be honored at the reunion; a goblet with his name engraved on it will be turned upside down. The private ceremony will include only Raiders, the Raiders’ historian, Casey and two Air Force cadets, there will be a roll call of the names of all the Raiders. When Griffin’s name is called, Lt. Col. Richard Cole, at age 97 the oldest survivor, will give a report on Griffin, Casey said.
At the end of the reading of names, the white-gloved cadets will pour cognac into the goblets of the survivors, and they will drink their special toast: “To those who have gone.”
Besides Cole, a Dayton native who lives in Comfort, Texas, the other survivors are Lt. Col. Robert Hite of Nashville, Tenn.; Lt. Col. Edward Saylor of Puyallup, Wash., and Master Sgt. David Thatcher of Missoula, Mont.
Casey said Thursday that the Raiders have decided not to wait until there are two survivors to have the final toast. Instead, they plan to have a special gathering later this year to share what will be their final toast. He said because of the advancing ages of the remaining survivors, it was decided to allow all those still alive late this year to take part.
Dates and details will be announced later. For their toast, they will drink from a bottle of 1896 cognac, the year their commander Lt. Col. “Jimmy” Doolittle was born.
RIP, Tom Griffin.
Though he and many others shunned the title of ‘Hero’ they sacrificed and did there jobs well for us all.
They were planning on launching from the Hornet at a location closer to Japan. They planned on having enough fuel to hit Japan and fly to landing fields in unoccupied China. However a Japanese fishing boat spotted the American ships and radioed their location to Japan. The Doolittle raiders decided to launch without enough fuel to make it to China. They never considered cancelling the raid. They took off expecting to run out of fuel over Japan. Fortunately, they encountered tail winds after they dropped their bombs and most of them made it to Japanese occupied China.
I have also read that the Doolittle raid really shook up the Japanese. One B25 flew right over the Imperial Palace. Tojo was flying in a Japanese airplane and he saw the B25’s fly past him. The Japanese then pushed up their timetable for the Midway operation and went to Midway with a smaller force. The rest is history.
RIP ....he was usually the lead talker on the Military Channels bio of the Doolittle Raiders...shame, but he led a full life and was admired by many...RIP indeed.
They don’t make em’ like they used to... at least not to the numerical degree of yore. Thanks for the post Chaplain. Caught the story in USA Today, earlier this morning. Just the same, glad to see it told here at my favorite source of good news, with bona fides I might add!
The best thing I can think of to honor theirs, and many others sacrifice, is to do our best here, and now, to save our country from itself...
They did their job, now we need to step up and do ours...
The Hornet was spotted by Japanese fishing vessels which doubled as picket ships before they got to their planned launch position. The fishing vessel was sunk by the Hornet’s escorts, but not before it sent off a warning to Japan. The danger was not that the Japanese would anticipate an air raid, but that Japanese naval vessels, including submarines would attack one of the three U.S. aircraft carries in the Pacific.
Since there was no possibility of continuing to the planned launch point the dilemma faced by the commander was whether to launch immediately with the prospect of ditching in or near China of calling off the raid. There was probably not a single man who would have wanted to call it off.
The attack was militarily and economically insignificant in itself, but it was a great propaganda victory and morale boost for America and a major embarassment for the Japanese Navy. The Japanese response was a plan to seize the western Aleutian islands and Midway, which would have foreclosed the opportunity for a repeat performance. The Navy knew about the plans from intercepts and they could not counter both attacks. They understood that Midway was the more important objective and defended it. The result was probably the single most decisive naval battle in history, and decisive in a way that did not favor the Japanese.
So, by luring the Japanese Navy into an ambush, the Doolittle raiders accomplished more than anyone could have realistically ever have hoped.
..the real footage...
In his book, Saburo Sakai made some interesting observations.
He said the American pilots when the war started were extremely good as were the Japanese pilots. The American planes were much inferior which gave the Japs an advantage.
As the war went on the American planes equaled then exceeded the Japanese ones. By 1944 most of the pre-war Japanese veterans were dead and their replacements inferior.
He said the American pilots also declined but their far superior planes made the difference.
Thanks for the explanation.. Refreshes my memory, especially the tail winds. What a blessing, huh? This was a suicide mission because these men went ‘knowing’ they’d probably not be retrieved alive. I recall one bomber went down along the coast line of Japan or an island?? Others made is all the way to China. Just think, if these MEN were around today, Sean Smith and Ty Woods would’ve been rescued but now we have a President who is more concerned about winning elections than the lives of BRAVE Americans in need of rescue.
They did their job, now we need to step up and do ours...
You know, stevie_d_64, that is a good post.
A mission for the ages.
RIP Tom Griffin.
The Japanese had a small number of extremely good pilots. They flew aircraft that were world beaters in the hands of an expert, and which would kill a novice. The A6M is not spectacular in any particular. It is slower than the Bf 109, the Spitfire can match it for maneuverability. Almost anything with US insignia was better armed and more durable. What made the Zero a legend was the men who flew it. Once they died the very nature of the aircraft and its successors meant that there was no way to quickly bring up replacements.
In contrast the Americans brought out planes like the F6F and F4U that could beat the Japanese in every category, and yet were durable enough to allow novice pilots to survive their first missions and become experienced. The average pilot in the late war US Navy and USAAC were vastly better then the men who went to war in 1941. One reason for that was the US tactic of bringing home top aces to teach recruits how to better fight their aircraft. In contrast in Japan and Germany the rule was fly till you die. It did mean that the Axis powers produce super aces like Erich Hartmann, Günther Ral and Saburo Sakai. However it also meant that those super aces were supported by a bunch of guys who didn't know how to set their trim tabs correctly. Quite literally as late in the war Robin Olds shot down one German who was crabbing sideways in his Bf 109 because of failing to reset his trim tabs after takeoff.
That and the fact they could take off from the carrier but couldn’t land on it.
What you say makes sense to a degree.
I am sure that I quoted Sakai, at least roughly correctly tho.
My scoutmaster when I was a boy was a survivor of a POW camp in Japan. He went down after a B-29 bombing raid the same week we dropped the bomb. He spent every bit of his captivity inches from execution as the Atomic Bomb aftermath made those late captured POWs great targets for those holding them.
He had a self published account in AF archives, “Behind the Blindfold”.
He told me of this all after I was grown, and never mentioned it when he was a scout leader, but the other Dads knew of it and held him in the highest regard.
Additionally, there was no way to recover/land a B-25 on a carrier.
You served your country well!
I’ve read one interesting observation about US pilots, from both Japanese and German aces. Starting as early as the Flying Tigers, they were often amazed to see a single US plane, or just a few, turn into vastly superior numbers of enemy planes and fight against bad odds. They said the US pilots were fearless.
I think the Great Depression played a part in making that generation tough. Whatever it was they were brave, capable, and effective.
Torpedo Squadron 8 had no air cover and their slow lumbering planes while carrying torpedoes were a sitting duck yet they went in and tried losing every man but one. None of their torpedoes made a hit but the Japanese fighters having been drawn down to just about the waves could do nothing as the dive bombers attacked and within a few minutes either 3 or 4 of their carriers were in flames.
The Japanese and Germans of that era were also extremely capable and brave. In other words we were not fighting a bunch of pansies but some of the best in the world.
I recall another tid bit from Saburo Sakai’s book. They were stationed at Lae on New Guinea when he got word that American Marines had landed at “Buna?” or somewhere. The message was that the Americans were fighting like demonic beings and they could not hold against them.
I would say the U.S. Marines had the respect of the Japanese.
It isn’t often you can call someone a hero and it be true, but these guys were truly heroes in every sense of the word!(and probably a little crazy too)
What those men did was remarkable at the time, pulling off what could easily be considered a ‘suicide mission’.
I’ve seen the actual footage of those planes taking off, and it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up just to look at it. Those planes just BARELY made it off the deck. They were so slow, it almost looked as if the carrier just moved out from under the plane, rather than the plane taking off. Wow....
I have his autoraph, which I received at an air show. What a brave patriot.
R.I.P. Mr. Griffin. Thanks and gratitude.
I met both Col. Cole and Hite, Hite’s son was a cadet with me at military school. My roommate’s father was a flyer with VF229 on the Canal.
Not least by causing the Japanese to recall their fleets in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific to initiate said attack.
TODAY....Our President won’t us a Carrier because of a sequester of 85 billion a year when we are printing 85 EVERY DANG MONTH!
Good observations about the US policy of bringing top pilots (often Aces), back home to teach trainees how it was in real combat (as opposed to just reading about it).
A couple comments: At the National Archives in College Park, Md., some of the military record collections, esp. those of the Navy, have what are collectively called “After Action Reports”, but more specifically are intelligence debriefings of hundreds of pilots, navigators, ship crewmen, etc. on what happened during a battle(s) and how American equipment stood up against that of the Japanese, as well as which tactics worked or didn’t work.
There is one printed/mimeographed collection of such reports which I recently looked through with a friend who is gathering them for an article/book he is working on. Among the pilots was Major Pappy Boyington.
There are other pilot reports scattered in the Army Air Force records (Record Group 18), which have similar intelligence debriefings and talks. The P-38 was held by their pilots to be the equal of the Jap Zero if the pilots knew how to fly it properly. Other American fliers loved the P-40 Flying Tiger WarHawk (The Russians loved the P-39 Aerocobra as a tank destroyer).
Then came the “Flying Tank” P-47 and later the P-51 Mustang, probably the best all around aerial combat plane in the war. British actor Christopher Lee once flew in the Royal Air Corps, flying Spitfires and then, later, American Mustangs, which he loved. (”Chistopher Lee: Tall, Dark and Gruesome”, about 1999).
Our training programs, as noted, got better by the year, esp. when the new trainees worked with seasoned combat veterans on strategy and tactics.
At the end of the war, we had the best Air Force in the world. A salute to all of them and their mechanics and armorers. They did one helluva job.
Rest in peace now Tom Griffin. You served with honor.
I would trust Sakai’s word on the quality of American pilots over some historian any day.
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