Of eighty men, three of the four surviving members of Doolittle’s Raiders, all now living their ninth decade, met publicly — and, they say, for the final time — during the week of April 15, at Eglin Air Force Base, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of their April 18, 1942, one-way mission to bomb Japan. The three members present were 97-year-old Col. Richard Cole; 91-year-old Staff Sergeant David Thatcher; and 93-year-old Lt. Col. Edward Saylor. The fourth surviving member, 93-year-old Lt. Col. Robert Hite, was unable to attend the reunion. All of the men had trained for the mission at Eglin in the winter of 1942. And this year Cole was afforded a flight (and reportedly flew a good portion of it, including the landing) in a B-25 owned by Larry Kelley. The men say they toast each year to the comrades who shared their mission and have since passed. But they have decided a special toast will now come sooner than originally planned.
Over the years, the men have made and kept a case of 80 silver goblets. Each goblet is inscribed twice with the name of a raider. One inscription is upright, the other upside-down. Each year, the surviving men toast to the comrades they’ve lost and turn upside-down the goblet of any man lost that year. But they have also kept a bottle of Hennessy cognac from 1896, the year their leader James Doolittle was born. The bottle was meant to remain untouched and saved for the last two surviving members. But they have decided to change that. According to a story filed from the gathering by The Associated Press, the men have decided that later this year they will meet together privately and, all four, share a drink from that bottle.Find more information about the Doolittle Raiders, here.