Final four plan a toast
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.
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.