Preserving the Legacy
Letter from the Editor
by Tim Holbert
It is a story well known to us all. On April 18, 1942, just over four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, sixteen B-25 bombers launched from the deck of the USS Hornet on a daring secret mission. Their targetâ€”Japan. Taking the enemy by surprise, the B-25s, led by then-Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, struck military targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe, Osaka, and Nagoya.
Despite inflicting minimal damage compared to later bombing raids on Japan, the Doolittle Raid was a tremendous boost to American morale. Since Pearl Harbor, U.S. forces in the Pacific had been reeling, and Japan had been asserting its domination over an expanding empire. Doolittleâ€™s attack struck fear into the Japanese command, which recalled fighter aircraft units back home to defend against further raidsâ€”a strategic shift that would have huge consequences at the next turning point of the warâ€”Midway.
The Doolittle Raid was not without cost. Two crew members were killed during the crash-landing of their plane, while another died attempting to bail out of his aircraft. Eight were captured by the Japanese after their plane was crash-landed. Three of whom were executed, while one died in captivityâ€”all suffered cruel and inhumane treatment.
Like so many of Americaâ€™s veterans of World War II, the Doolittle Raiders realized the dangers of the mission they were given, but they approached it with bold determination to succeed. They knew the cost of defeat, and refused to accept it. Over sixty years later, too often we believe that victory was inevitable, that the might of the United States and its allies was bound to prevail. But during these dark early days of the war, none could be so sure. Victory was achieved by the heroic sacrifices of millions of Americans of all ages, races, and creeds, who saw the war through, and preserved democracy over tyranny.
On Veterans Dayâ€”November 11, 2006â€”the World War II Veterans Committee will honor the surviving Doolittle Raiders at the Edward J. Herlihy Awards Banquet, part of its Ninth Annual Conference. These men represent the finest of the greatest of generations, and will be joined by heroic veterans of later erasâ€”from Korea, Vietnam, and our brave young service members currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is fitting that this celebration of Americaâ€™s veterans from across the generations begins with the veterans of World War II, who so many of us have long admired.
Preserving the legacy of the World War II generation has been the mission of the World War II Veterans Committee since its inception. As is tradition, the summer issue of World War II Chronicles is dedicated to those who are working to keep the history of Americaâ€™s World War II veterans alive. Following a recap of the Committee-sponsored National Memorial Day Parade, we include an article by Laura Ymker, a college student and aspiring historian who this summer served as an intern with the Committee. Lauraâ€™s dedication to telling the story of Americaâ€™s veterans was strongly evident, and if she is any indication, the legacy of our veterans is in safe hands.
In essence, this issue is a demonstration of the entire mission of the World War II Veterans Committee: to provide a forum for the veterans of World War II to pass their knowledge and experiences on to younger generations, who in turn will keep that legacy alive for generations to come. And while we hope that you will join us for the upcoming Ninth Annual Conference, whether you are a veteran, know a veteran, or admire our veterans, we hope that you will take the opportunity, this Veterans Day, to share the history of Americaâ€™s veterans with a young person. They will appreciate it more than you know.