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April 10, 2012

Mission Briefing: Doolittle Raiders 70th Anniversary Flight Prepares for Departure

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Written by: Bryan Heim
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The B-25 "Grumpy". (Photo by Bryan Heim/NYCAviation)


history records those people who change the world we live in and we read about them in newspapers, books or on the internet. This story begins in Mukilteo, Washington with a once in a lifetime opportunity for a select few men who were given the opportunity to meet one of these historic people and to feel what it is like to be part of history.

April 18, 2012 will mark the 70th Anniversary of the Doolittle Raid over Honshu, Japan. A squadron of sixteen B-25 Bombers with 80 crew members tasked with launching from an aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet, in an attempt to bomb the heart of the Japanese Empire. None of these men knew if they would be successful, but every man gave of themselves to take the small chance of changing the direction of World War II, every man volunteered for the mission, which for some was one-way.

The silence was broken in a quiet Historic Flight museum Sunday afternoon by the humble tone of living Doolittle Raider Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor, Engineer-Gunner of B-25 Plane No. 15, telling of his participation in the April 1942 Raid over Honshu, Japan. A quiet man, standing in front of thirty people, leaning on his hand carved cane and expressing what Lt. Col. Saylor called “his little part” in the events that would unite a country and eventually bring about the fall of the great Empire of Japan during World War II.

[ALSO SEE: B-25 Grumpy 360 Degree Virtual Cockpit Tour]

One of five surviving Raiders — out of the original 80 — Lt. Col. Saylor, a resident of Puyallup, Wash., was on site at the Historic Flight Foundation at the personal invitation of museum owner John Sessions to once again participate in a mission briefing that would change the lives of all those in attendance.

Historic Flight Foundation founder John Sessions delivers the Mission Briefing. (Photo by Bryan Heim/NYCAviation)

Historic Flight Foundation founder John Sessions delivers the Mission Briefing. (Photo by Bryan Heim/NYCAviation)

Almost reminiscent of the early 0500 mission briefing for the Raiders, twelve passengers, now known as “Flight Crew,” sat down with coffee in hand to learn about life on a B-25 and what was to come. Each of these individuals had previously purchased an actual seat to fly on the B-25d Bomber “Grumpy”, either to Dayton, Ohio or home from Dayton, Ohio as a once in a lifetime flight to participate in the 70th Anniversary Reunion of the Doolittle Raiders.

One B-25 Mitchell bomber, two Pilots, 12 men and an historic flight that will only happen once!

Rick Bray of the Historic Flight Foundation behind the wheel of B-25 Grumpy. (Photo by Bryan Heim/NYCAviation)

Rick Bray of the Historic Flight Foundation behind the wheel of B-25 Grumpy. (Photo by Bryan Heim/NYCAviation)

Some of the flight crew offered the reasons why they personally wanted to be part of this flight:

“It is an incredible privilege and honor to fly a WWII Era Bomber back to Dayton, Ohio for the now 70th Anniversary Reunion of the Doolittle Raid, which now maybe be the last reunion for the last five living Raiders. The opportunity to meet and thank the raiders for what they did will be the highlight of my trip! —Michael Kopp – B-25 Pilot “Grumpy”, Maple Valley, Washington
“I’ve always been interested in aircraft and flying to Dayton, Ohio on a B-25 bomber is a once in a life time situation! Meeting the Raiders, the original participants in the Tokyo Raid will be the highlight of my arrival on the B-25 for the Doolittle Anniversary.” —Rick Bray – Outbound B-25 Crew, Renton, Washington
“It’s a dream come true! I have always been a big history buff and the Doolittle Raid has always been a fascinating subject to me. Stripping the bombers and the modifications that allowed these men to fly the B-25 bomber off an aircraft carrier has always interested me. It’s a pleasure to be part of this event, and as a volunteer of the Historic Flight Museum, it’s just a dream come true!” —Rob Otero – Outbound B-25 Crew, Lacey, Washington
“I see this as living history, that’s really what this opportunity is! I’ve flown in many world war two aircraft, the B-17, B-24 and over an hour flight time in the P-51 Mustang. As a Naval aviator, every man wants to fly. My wife said, do you want to go flying in that B-25? Then go do it, I didn’t ask twice!

“This will be one of the last times we see 22 B-25 bombers flying together and this will be a very unique experience, meeting those involved, hear the stories, and shake their hand and thank them for what they did for people like me.” —Tom Hawkins – Outbound B-25 Crew, Edmonds, Washington

“It’s a bucket list item, the B-25 ride came up and I wanted to fly on a warbird to the historic anniversary of the Doolittle Raid in Dayton, Ohio. I will not be as comfortable on this B-25, by today’s passenger standards, but this grin on my face is worth the price of admission!

I am looking forward to seeing the mass flying of B-25’s and seeing the awesome museum in Dayton. This is a major bucket list check mark for me! ” —Mike Mosbrooker – Inbound B-25 Crew, Oak Harbor, Washington

Next stop for the flight crew, Dayton, Ohio and the 70th Anniversary reunion for the Doolittle Raiders at the US Air Force Museum, truly a living history event and a once in a life time story to tell forever!

About the Author

Bryan Heim



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