16 April, 1942 — Japan
The successful Tokyo "Doolittle Raid" was on 18 April, 1942. Col Bill Bower was the last Command Pilot of the Raiders (now 5 remain). Bill was laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery 16 May, 2011 with his wife Lorraine... Bill passed quietly at his family home in Boulder Colo. His family was with him, the result of complications from a fall the year before.
Lt Col William "Bill" M Bower was the Commanding Officer of the 428th Bomb Squadron of the 310th Bomb Group, the 57th Bomb Wing in the 12th Air Force. He was given the COMMAND of the 310th Bomb Group near the end of WWII ...in July of 1945.
The Nation honored Col Wm. "Bill" Bower on 16 May, 2011. Col Bower was the last surviving Command pilot of the 18 April, 1942, Doolittle Raid, the risky surprise attack on the Japanese home islands that bolstered American morale in the early, tragic months of World War II. Col Bill Bower died on 10 Jan. at age of 93 and was laid to rest Monday 16 May, at Arlington Cemetery.
The Doolittle Raid was one of the "gutsiest" calls ever made by a president. Shortly after the Dec. 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, Franklin Delanore Roosevelt issued a directive that the United States should hit the Japanese homeland as soon as possible. Those were dark days for the homeland of America. America was in an existential fight, not with ragtag bands of violent extremists but with the mightiest armed forces in history, then at the height of their power. The Japanese Empire enjoyed an unbroken string of victories after Pearl Harbor, having boosted their confidence and feeling completely safe from the Unites States. Bombing JAPAN was intended to deliver a blow to Imperial pride, and indeed, it had the desired devestating effect.
The raid was planned and led by Lt. Col. (later General) Jimmy Doolittle.
***** 80 Brave Men;
Eighty volunteers were tasked to fly 16 B-25 medium bombers from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet to bomb Tokyo and other targets. The plan carried incredible risk. The Hornet could be detected by enemy naval forces and sunk. The weather might force a scrub or cause the bombers to miss their targets. The lightly armed aircraft might be shot down before reaching Japan. Even if successful in dropping their payloads, the crews would have to ditch their aircraft, parachute to Earth and survive the hunt by the Japanese ARMY through Manchuria.
Despite these challenges, the raid was a success. The bombers launched from the Hornet and flew undetected to strike their targets without losing a single aircraft. The raiders did minimal damage to Japan's industrial base, but they inflicted a telling blow to the Japanese sense of security and caused decisionmakers in Tokyo to radically shift strategy. President Roosevelt maintained the air of mystery by sharing none of the operational details of the attack, and quipped to reporters that the raid was launched “from our new secret base at Shangri-La.”
The aftermath of the attack is as much a tale of human endurance and courage as the raid itself. Most of the crew members survived the mission. Col Bill Bower bailed out of his plane in the darkness and waited for dawn on a mountaintop wrapped in his silk parachute for warmth. He linked up with other members of his crew and was smuggled out of China by Nationalist guerrillas. Of those who didn’t make it back, two men drowned and another was killed while bailing out. Eight were captured by the Japanese, of whom three were executed and one died of disease. The highest price was paid by China. An estimated 250,000 Chinese civilians were murdered in reprisal actions by Japanese forces for the assistance given to American flyers.
Col Bower displayed the amazing modesty of our heroes from the Greatest Generation. He was doing his job. He was doing what needed to be done. The Doolittle Raiders remained close after the war, getting together for hunting and fishing trips well into old age. Doolittle himself died in 1993 and is just uphill and to the west of Col Bill Bower, below the Tomb of the Unknowns.
The Honor Flight for Col Bower was a silver B-25 that flew over the cemetery this week glinting in the bright sunlight, flying low enough for those on the ground to hear the recriprocial sound of her twin engines . A caisson drawn by a team of white horses stood in the shade of a nearby copse of trees. Col Bower was given a 21-gun salute over the hills and valleys of Arlington. Col Bower's life-time freind Col. Richard E. Cole, 95, (co-pilot of Crew 1) walked slowly to say his last goodbuys to his special friend.
Please see the Arlington Cemetery link under the MAP to the left.