Post 18 receives Doolittle artifact
CENTREVILLE — A special presentation was held at the December general membership meeting at the Centreville American Legion Post 18. Sons of the American Legion member Robert J. Koenke of Centreville presented a framed certificate signed by the late Lt. Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle, who flew the first bombing missions in early 1942 against the Japanese, just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which brought the U.S. into World War II.
The large, framed certificate includes a photograph of one of 16 B-25 bombers used by Doolittle in the retaliation attack on Japan. Fifteen of those bombers made it to mainland China in hope of landing there following their attack on specific locations of the island mainland of Japan, including Tokyo. The long-range bomber assault which took off from the deck of the U.S. Aircraft Carrier Hornet in the Pacific Ocean was considered at the time a great embarrassment to the Japanese militar y.
However, four of the bombers were unable to land safely as a tremendous storm had arrived before them in China, and four bombers crashed, including Doolittle’s. The wreckage of the four bombers was not recovered until the mid-1990s through the efforts of an organization known as “MIA Hunters,” which has earned the reputation of being the best organization in helping find former military personnel who were lost in combat,
and deemed “Missing In Action” (MIA). The reputation was bestowed upon the organization by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Inside the frame certificate is a small piece of armor plating that had been placed inside the bombers as additional protection behind each pilot’s seat. Several parts of the bombers were recovered in the 1990s through the efforts of MIA Hunters.
The framed artifact and certificate were presented to Post 18 Commander Vince Higgins who announced that it would immediately be mounted in a prominent location inside the post.
Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolitte is one of the most famed pioneer American aviators ever. He enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Private First Class in 1917. He was trained in what became known as the U.S. Army Air Corps that preceded the creation of the U.S. Air Force. He literally saw the beginnings of the use aviation in the U.S. military. He remained in the military until retiring during the Great Depression during the mid-1930s, earning a reputation for pioneering the flight of aircraft using instrument panels only.
He was called back to active duty in 1940, about one year prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. On April 18, 1942, Doolittle led the top secret bomber attack on Japan. It was considered a great morale-building victory at the time, and Doolitte was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor and leadership in what became known as “Doolittle’s Raid.”
He retired again after WWII in 1946, however, was consistently recognized as an American hero until his death in September 1993. He was even presented as an honorar y rank of a four-star general by President Ronald Reagan in a special ceremony held at the White House in Washington, D.C. in 1985.
The certificate at the American Legion was signed by Doolittle prior to his death in 1993, authenticating the armor plating from his former bomber and work done by the MIA Hunters organization in retrieving it, honoring the men who served with Doolittle’s very early attack on Japan.
Sons of the American Legion member Robert J. Koenke, left, presents a framed picture and metal artifact of one of U.S. Army Air Corps Lt. Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle’s missing B-25 American bombers that was in action over Japanese occupied China during World War II, to Centreville American Legion Post 18 Commander Vince Higgins.