Fi­nal four plan a toast

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

An an­niver­sary of some his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance to New Zealan­ders has passed by with lit­tle or no pub­lic recog­ni­tion. On April 18 1942, 16 medium range Mitchell bombers led by Lt Col James Doolit­tle were launched from the United States Navy air­craft car­rier ‘‘Hor­net’’ to ex­e­cute the first bomb­ing raid against the Ja­panese main­land. There are many New Zealan­ders still alive, who re­call the pal­pa­ble sense of fear which gripped New Zealand fol­low­ing the bomb­ing of Pearl Har­bour by the Ja­panese. The Doolit­tle Raid re­sulted in neg­li­gi­ble dam­age to non-mil­i­tary tar­gets but to­gether with the sub­se­quent rout of the Ja­panese fleet at the bat­tle of Mid­way Is­land, it was in­stru­men­tal in bol­ster­ing the morale of New Zealand cit­i­zens liv­ing in fear of an im­mi­nent Ja­panese in­va­sion. Of the 80 Raiders, 60 sur­vived World War II and have since held a re­union each year. Cen­tre­piece at th­ese gath­er­ings is a box con­tain­ing 80 sil­ver gob­lets, each one en­graved with the name of a Raider, which are up­turned in the box at the re­union fol­low­ing his death. Also in the box is a bot­tle of 1896 Hen­nessy Very Spe­cial Co­gnac for which there has al­ways been a plan: the last two sur­viv­ing Raiders would open the bot­tle and at last drink from it, toast­ing their de­parted com­rades. Now, only four sur­vivors re­main – they have de­cided that some­time later this year they will come to­gether in pri­vate and open the bot­tle. They will fill the four re­main­ing gob­lets and raise them in a toast to those who are gone. Per­haps we should do no less. ● Graye Shat­tky is an old sol­dier who lives in St Bathans and, from time to time, is tempted to wave his rusty sword at im­por­tant is­sues.

Photo: REUTERS 626341882

Me­mo­rial flight: The Mitchell B-25 ‘Devil Dog’ takes off for a flyover as four of the last five sur­vivors of the Doolit­tle Tokyo Raid gather for their 70th an­niver­sary re­union in Day­ton, Ohio on April 18 last year. Seventy years ear­lier in 1942, 80 men led by Lt Col James H ‘Jimmy’ Doolit­tle took off from an air­craft car­rier on a top se­cret mis­sion to bomb Ja­pan and came to be known as the Doolit­tle Tokyo Raiders.

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