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World War II aircrew one step closer to Congressional Gold Medal

May. 20, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Richard Cole, center, proposes a toast Nov. 9 with two other surviving members of the 1942 Tokyo raid led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle — Edward Saylor, left, and David Thatcher — at the National Museum for the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
Richard Cole, center, proposes a toast Nov. 9 with two other surviving members of the 1942 Tokyo raid led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle — Edward Saylor, left, and David Thatcher — at the National Museum for the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. (Al Behrman / AP)
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The House passed a measure Monday that would bestow the Congressional Gold Medal on the famed Doolittle Raiders for their “outstanding heroism, valor, skill and service to the United States in conducting the bombings of Tokyo” during World War II.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the nation’s highest award for distinguished achievements.

The Doolittle Raiders, 80 U.S. Army Air Forces members led by their commander Gen. James “Jimmy” Doolittle, risked their lives during a World War II bombing mission on Japan on April 18, 1942, prompted by the attack on Pearl Harbor four months earlier.

“This Congressional Gold Medal was hard earned and long overdue for a group of heroes who literally turned the tide for America in the Pacific Theater of World War II,” Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, who sponsored the bill in the House, said in a statement to Air Force Times. “I’m proud to have carried the mantle to see these men receive the honor they so richly deserve,” he said.

The Senate, which overwhelmingly passed an early version November, is expected to pass the bill this week.

'Years in the making'

Brian Anderson, the sergeant at arms for the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, and his wife, Cyndee, started knocking on doors on Capitol Hill two years ago looking for congressional support for the award. They visited all 100 Senate officers and 435 House offices. At the time, five Doolittle Raiders were still alive.

“Time wasn’t exactly on my side,” Anderson said Tuesday.

The Andersons found a sponsor in Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who represents the home state of Raider Maj. Thomas Griffin, a Cincinnati native.

Griffin died Feb. 26, 2013, the same day Brown and Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., introduced the bill in the Senate.

“The Doolittle Raiders symbolize the courage and valor of so many who fought for this country,” Brown said in an interview with Air Force Times. “This historical incident is important to me, and to this country.”

With four Doolittle Raiders surviving, “time is of the essence,” Anderson said.

Once President Obama signs the bill, a design of the medal will be sent to the U.S. Mint, said Anderson, who would not disclose the design or its artist.

One medal will be made, as the House bill states, and it will be given to the National Museum of the United States Air Force for display.

For Anderson, who was in the gallery for the House vote Monday night, the two-year effort represents a lifelong interest in the Raiders, sparked by a book report assignment on the World War II Tokyo Raid.

“They should be everybody’s heroes, and this is their legacy,” Anderson said. “When anyone looks up the Congressional Gold Medal, people should see that the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders’ names will be associated with that medal.”

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