The Doolittle’s Raiders Goblets

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the raid which was the first strike against the Japanese homeland. The National Museum of the United States Air Force has a B-25 that was restored by North American Aviation and presented to the Museum in 1958. The aircraft was restored and painted to represent B-25B, Serial Number 40-2344 which was flown by Doolittle. It’s displayed as though it’s on the deck of the Hornet in the days before the Raid. What you may not know, is what artifact is on display in a glass case behind that B-25. This is one of the most significant artifacts of the raid. Yet it wasn’t on the raid and didn’t even come into existence until long after the war. But as time passes, in another 50 years or so, people will really understand their significance. There are eighty silver goblets that represent each man that flew that mission. Each one has the airman’s name engraved on his goblet twice; once right side up and once upside down. These are the goblets that the Raiders used in their annual toast at each reunion. When the last Raider is gone, people will see the goblets as the men they represented. The Raider’s reunions started in December 1946 when they got together to celebrate Doolittle’s birthday. That reunion became an annual event and in 1959 the city of Tucson, Arizona presented the group with these goblets, one for each Raider. Eventually they were presented to the Superintendent of the USAF Academy for safekeeping and they were displayed there between reunions until 2005 when they were placed in the Museum as a permanent home. The goblets are placed in a case which was custom made by Doolittle’s co-pilot Richard Cole (remember him from TICO 2012, he’s still with us). The Goblets are in 4 panels, each 5 high for the crew of each airplane. Left to right they represent the crews of,1 to 16 based on takeoff position. The rows top to bottom are Pilots, Co-Pilot, Navigator, Bombardier, and the Gunner. At every reunion the survivors meet privately to conduct their “Goblet Ceremony” where they toast the Raiders who have passed since their last meeting and turn their goblet upside down. The goblets are placed in the case right side up for the living Raiders and upside down for the deceased ones. So far there are five left surviving. When there are only two left, they will meet and drink a final toast to their departed comrades. A special bottle of Hennessy Cognac has been reserved for that purpose. There are currently five surviving Raiders:

  1. Colonel Richard E. Cole, copilot of aircraft #1; born September 7, 1915
  2. Major Thomas C. Griffin, navigator of aircraft #9; born July 10, 1916
  3. Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Hite, copilot of aircraft #16; born March 3, 1920
  4. Major Edward Joseph Saylor, engineer of aircraft #15; born March 15, 1920
  5. Staff Sergeant David J. Thatcher, gunner of aircraft #7; born July 31, 1921

The oldest is 96 and the youngest is 90 years old, let’s hope that there is an opportunity for them to continue the reunion for a few more years. If you have the chance to attend or to see one of these men near you, take advantage of it. They did a lot for us and everyone who can should thank them.

You can contact the author Mark Hrutkay at TNMark@Me.Com.

Attached original photo is of the crew of Doolittle’s B-25; Crew No. 1 Crew No. 1 (Plane #40-2344, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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Mark Hrutkay

Mark has been a member of the International Association of Aviation Photographers (ISAP) for several years and attends all their events and seminars. He has won several awards for his work and has been published in several aviation magazines, domestic and foreign. You can contact Mark Hrutkay at TNMark@Me.Com.

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