City set to welcome Doolittle Raiders

04/16/2009 12:01 AM

05/19/2009 2:28 PM

Five of the nine surviving Doolittle Raiders arrived quietly in Columbia on April 15.

The next day they found a few new honors around town to celebrate their famous 1942 bombing raid on Tokyo.

Most notably, on April 17 the U.S. Air Force will emblazon the 34th Squadron’s flagship B-1 bomber with the Raider crest. The Raiders were drawn from the World War II version of the 95th, 34th, 37th and the 89th Recon squadron of the 17th Bomb Group.

The crest reads: Toujours au Danger — “Always into Danger.”

It’s a fitting motto for the Raiders who, on April 18, 1942, flew 16 Mitchell B-25B bombers off the pitching deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and bombed Tokyo and three other Japanese cities in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.

It is the most famous air raid in U.S. history, which began when the Raiders volunteered for the mission in Columbia.

The motto is fitting for today’s 34th Squadron as well.

The bombers were the first to attack Afghanistan after 9/11, said Ken Breivik, director of public affairs for the Celebrate Freedom Foundation, which is organizing the 67th anniversary reunion.

“The Raiders’ legacy lives on,” he said. “And active-duty soldiers, airmen and sailors still care about that legacy.”

Video: History, in their own words

The unveiling of the emblem is the latest honor bestowed on the Raiders. Others:

 Eighty palmetto trees line Gervais Street in front of the S.C. State Museum, each bearing a plaque with the name of one of the 80 Raiders. There’s also a historical marker.

 A model of the Hornet is on the third floor of the museum, along with items donated by the late Raider Horace “Sally” Crouch of Columbia, museum curator of history Fritz Hamer said.

 A small display about the raid is located at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. It is being augmented with some additional materials this week, airport executive director Mike Flack said.

 And the intersection of Interstate 26 and Airport Boulevard is named for the Raiders.

There have been some last-minute changes to the Raiders’ schedule. Edward Saylor, engineer of Plane No. 15, will not be able to attend.

Also, an autograph session today advertised on the Celebrate Freedom Foundation Web site has been scratched because of a scheduling conflict. And the Saturday autograph session has been moved from the downtown Marriott to the airport.

The foundation’s Breivik noted this is the Raiders’ third, and perhaps last, visit to Columbia, considering their ages.

“We wanted to get them back in Columbia while we could,” he said. “It’s such a compelling story, we wanted to make sure people here could hear it one more time.”

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