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Doolittle Raid turns 75: Veterans mark anniversary of daring WWII attack

Honor Flight veterans gathered at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the daring Doolittle Raid.

Vets who served during World War II helped lay wreaths in honor of the different branches of the military.

The Doolittle Raid was the United States' retaliation to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. Four months after the attack in Hawaii, on April 18, 1942, the U.S. sent 16 B-25Bs to bomb military targets in Japan.

Doolittle Raiders honored in D.C. on 75th anniversary of the famed attack on Japan

The raid on the Japanese mainland by 16 B-25s may not have made a large impact on the war, but it gave a boost to American morale during the dark period following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Those 80 men were honored during a wreath laying on April 18, 2017 on the 75th anniversary of the historic raid. (Daniel Woolfolk and Wen-Yee Lee/Military Times)

Then-Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle of the Army Air Forces planned and led the 80-member raid. 

Although the air raid caused little material damage, it provided a boost to American morale and served as a blow to Japan's confidence, shaking the faith the country had in its leaders.

World War II veteran Ben Loechtenfeldt was serving in the Army Air Corps at the time of the Doolittle Raid.

"I was very thrilled [when it happened]," he said. "It was a big boost for the morale of all the men in the Air Corps."

Loechtenfeldt attended Tuesday's ceremony through the Honor Flight Tri-State. The Honor Flight program brings veterans to D.C. to show them their respective memorials.

The Army Air Corps vet said being at the Doolittle Raid ceremony was a wonderful memory.

"It was a great day and great support from the people," he said.

Navy veteran Ray Roeller served during World War II, but after the famed raid had already occurred.

"I'm so proud that I had served my country," he said at the commemoration. "And I'm so proud of all these veterans, and all the ones who gave their lives."

Seven of the 80 crew members in the Doolittle Raid died — three during the mission, and four as prisoners of war.

The B-25 was picked for its range, bomb capacity and short-takeoff distance. The bombers launched from the Navy's Hornet aircraft carrier without coverage from a fighter escort.

The Japanese found out the Americans were coming, so the Raiders had to launch earlier than expected. The raid was successful, but the early launch meant they ran out of fuel faster than planned, according to HistoryNet. Fifteen of the planes crashed in China with the crews bailing out unharmed. The last B-25 landed in the Soviet Union.

Doolittle himself was worried he'd be punished for losing his aircraft, but, instead, he received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the raid, according to History.

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