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Pete O.
Republican TX 22

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  • Awarding Congressional Gold Medal to World War II Members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders

    by Representative Pete Olson

    Posted on 2014-05-19

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    OLSON. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Michigan and my colleague from Massachusetts for their kind words.

    Sir, this is overdue. I agree completely. That is why I rise today with great pride. Soon, the House will join the Senate in passing a bill to give the Congressional Gold Medal to the Doolittle Raiders of World War II. These heroes planted the seeds to win World War II. Without their attack on Japan, America might have lost the war.

    The war started on December 7, 1941, when Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor without warning. All eight of our battleships were damaged, four were sunk. Americans were scared. Japan controlled the whole Pacific.

    Sometime in 1942, Americans expected Japanese bombs to hit San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. President Roosevelt knew we must strike Japan to show all Americans that we could and would win this war. He had one problem: no American airplane had the range or payload to bomb Japan from American-controlled soil. It would be a suicide mission.

    That solution came up from Navy Captain Francis Low, who thought, maybe, maybe we can have Army bombers take off from an aircraft carrier. On February 3, they tried that out, with two B-25s loaded on the Hornet outside of Norfolk taking off, and proved it was possible. The Army again chose the B-25 as the bomber of choice. They picked the Hornet to take the B-25s to Japan and bomb Japan.

    But the most important decision was the leader: Colonel Jimmy Doolittle.

    [[Page H4453]] Colonel Doolittle assembled the flight crews in Eglin Field in Florida in late February of 1942. These weren't experienced pilots. They were chosen because they could fly a new plane--the B-25. Colonel Doolittle told these men they had a secret special mission: they were going to bomb Japan with B-25s. They had 1 month--1 month--to learn how to take a B-25 off the deck of an aircraft carrier. But they were never trained on the Hornet, another carrier. They were trained on the ground, a runway painted to model the flight deck of the Hornet.

    On March 25, 1942, they were ready. They flew to Naval Air Station Alameda near San Francisco and saw the Hornet for the first time. On April 2, they sailed for Japan with 16 B-25s locked down on the flight deck. On April 18, their mission almost ended. They were spotted by a Japanese patrol boat. America could not lose the Hornet. She was too precious. So Colonel Doolittle and Captain Mitscher decided to launch the B-25s 10 hours before it was planned. They would not have the fuel to bomb Japan and fly to safety in unoccupied China as part of the plan. They would go down in Japanese territory.

    Despite rough seas, all 16 B-25s launched off the Hornet. They bombed Tokyo and other cities. The property damage was small, but the damage to the Japanese morale could not be measured. For the first time in over 1,000 years Japan had been bombed by a foreign nation. Because of that one single raid, Japan pushed to provoke a confrontation with our Navy. They got sloppy. We ambushed them off of Midway on June 4, 1942, sinking four of their aircraft carriers that destroyed our fleet at Pearl Harbor.

    Eighty heroes took off from the Hornet. Three died when the aircraft crashed. Eight were captured by the Japanese. Three of those were killed by a firing squad. One died of malnourishment. Four spent the war in captivity as prisoners of our allies--the Russians. Of the 80 heroes who roared down that deck, 73 came home. Only four are with us today: Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hite, copilot, B-25 Number 16, the last one off the deck; Lieutenant Colonel Edward Saylor, engineer, B-25 Number 15, right before Lieutenant Colonel Hite; Staff Sergeant David Thatcher, the gunner, B-25 Number 7; and my friend from Comfort, Texas, Lieutenant Colonel Dick Cole. Dick sat next to Colonel Doolittle on B- 25 Number 1 as she roared down the flight deck and took off into history.

    {time} 1730 That is why this medal is so important.

    By passing this bill today and by having President Obama sign it into law, we tell my friend Dick Cole, his three living colleagues, and the 76 heroes who have gone to Heaven that we will never forget that they kept the torch of freedom burning brighter with the raid on Japan.

    I ask my colleagues to strongly support H.R. 1209.

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