WWII bomber pi­lot and POW

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - Times staff and wire re­ports news.obits@la­times.com

Lt. Col. Robert Hite, one of the Doolit­tle Raiders who bombed Ja­pan in 1942, has died at 95.

Re­tired Lt. Col. Robert Hite, one of the famed World War II Doolit­tle Tokyo Raiders, has died. He was 95 and had Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

Hite died Sun­day at a nurs­ing fa­cil­ity in Nashville, ac­cord­ing to his son Wal­lace Hite.

Hite was among 80 men aboard 16 B-25 bombers whose mission was to strike Ja­pan in April 1942. Although the attack in­flicted only scat­tered dam­age, it was cred­ited with boost­ing Amer­i­can morale while shak­ing Ja­pan’s con­fi­dence and prompt­ing strat­egy shifts less than five months af­ter the Ja­panese attack on Pearl Har­bor.

Eight Raiders were cap­tured and three were ex­e­cuted; one more died in cap­tiv­ity and three oth­ers were killed by crash-land­ing or ditch­ing at sea. Hite, the co-pi­lot of the 16th bomber, was among the Ja­panese cap­tives and was im­pris­oned for 40 months, much of that time in soli­tary con­fine­ment.

He was lib­er­ated by Amer­i­can troops in 1945.

“When he was cap­tured, he was a lit­tle over 6 feet tall and about 175 pounds,” Wal­lace Hite said of his fa­ther in a 2013 in­ter­view with the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette. “When he came out, he weighed 76 pounds.”

In 1951, Hite re­turned to ac­tive duty dur­ing the Korean War and was sta­tioned at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Okla., and in Morocco. He left ac­tive duty in 1955 and man­aged ho­tels in Cam­den, Ark., and else­where.

Hite was born March 3, 1920, in Odell, Texas, and joined the Army Air Corps in Lubbock, Texas, when he was 20.

Among his dec­o­ra­tions were the Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Cross and the Pur­ple Heart.

Wal­lace Hite said his fa­ther would want to be re­mem­bered for his pa­tri­o­tism, and for oth­ers to share that sen­ti­ment.

“I think he would want two things: That’s the at­ti­tude we ought to have about our coun­try; and the sec­ond is, he was just do­ing his job,” he said.

Hite’s death leaves two other sur­viv­ing Raiders: re­tired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole of Texas, who was Doolit­tle’s co-pi­lot, and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher of Mon­tana.

The Raiders will be hon­ored with the Con­gres­sional Gold Medal on April 15 in Wash­ing­ton, then present it on April 18 — the 73rd an­niver­sary of the raid — to the Na­tional Mu­seum of the U.S. Air Force.

The gold medal will go on dis­play at the mu­seum near Dayton, Ohio, join­ing an ex­hibit de­pict­ing the launch of the Raiders’ 1942 attack from an air­craft car­rier.

Be­sides his son Wal­lace, of Nashville, Hite is sur­vived by a daugh­ter, Catherine Lan­ders of Hot Springs Vil­lage, Ark.; five grand­chil­dren, seven great-grand­chil­dren, two great-great­grand­chil­dren; his brother, Ken­neth Hite of Lubbock; and his sis­ter, Hazel Rick­etts of Scotts­dale, Ariz.

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