B-25s at the 70th Doolittle Raiders Reunion In two weeks, the 75th Doolittle Raiders Reunion will take place at Grimes Field in Urbana, OH and the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH. Of the 80 brave men on the mission, only one will be with us to celebrate 75th anniversary of their successful mission. But, first let’s look back to the 70th reunion.
In April 2012, I had the good fortune to attend the 70th Doolittle Raiders Reunion at Grimes Field and the Air Force Museum. On 18 Apr 1942, 16 brave flight crews took off from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier in B-25 bombers to strike the Japanese mainland in a daring mission early in WWII. Of the 80 men on the mission, five still remained with us to celebrate 70th anniversary of their successful mission. This reunion remembers them and all the brave WWII air crews who fought and sometimes died to keep us a free nation. Twenty B-25 aircraft attended the reunion along with their pilots, flight crews, and ground crews.
To see the nose art of all the B-25s at the reunion: B-25 Nose Art at the 70th Doolittle Raiders Reunion.
The day before the reunion flight to the Air Force Museum was a great day to see the planes and talk with flight crews, ground crews, and even several WWII pilots. I even met “Bud”, a Army Signal Corp photographer assigned to the 5th Air Force. He and my dad served on the same base in New Guinea in WWII. The day before gave way to the night before. The planes were ready; 0530 would come early for these hard working crews. As the sun set, the crowds began to thin out a bit and the photogs began to do their thing. Solitary B-25s, soft light, and longer exposures can sometimes make for great images. It’s going to be a short night for the crews and for the photogs as well. At 0530, Grimes Field will be alive with flight crews, ground crews, airport staff, onlookers, and the Air Force Band. Take-off will be at 0700. But, for now, it’s a peaceful place; not unlike the peaceful nights WWII bomb crews enjoyed before the next day’s mission. Wonder what thoughts crossed their minds on the night before…
And, of course, the night before gave way to dawn; the day of. So, it’s 0530. The flight crews are being briefed. The grounds crews are making last minute checks of the airplanes. By 0600, ground crews begin to move the B-25s into position. Each plane must take-off in a prearranged order. By 0600, enough dawn light allows us photogs to begin capturing images as the Air Force Band plays Stars & Stripes. And, by 0630, flight crews complete their preflight checks and soon after, the planes begin starting engines and taxiing into line to wait their turn to take-off. Now, the pilots are focusing all their attention on the mission ahead.
Take-off is not a time to be nervous, but rather a time every pilot cherishes. Today’s mission is a “milk run” to the U.S. Air Force Museum at Dayton, OH. The 20 B-25’s take-off 90 seconds apart beginning at 0700.
After landing at the U.S. Air Force Museum, the planes were on display along the Museum’s runway before, during , and after the formal reunion ceremonies. The 75th reunion will likely hold a similar display.
Champaign Gal, one of the 20 B-25s, belongs to the Champaign Aviation Museum at Grimes Airfield in Urbana, OH where the B-25s were based for the reunion. Many thanks to them for being such great hosts. They worked very hard along with Grimes Museum and the airport staff, management, and volunteers to hold a first class event.
To learn more about the Doolittle Raiders, visit their official web site, Doolittle Tokyo Raiders.