formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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April 24, 2012 Remembering the Doolittle Raiders

The Liberty Gazette
April 24, 2012
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: Arriving Friday afternoon for Saturday’s Bluebonnet Air Race we pulled The Elyminator up to the fuel pump before tying down for the night. Reno air racer and airplane builder Mark Frederick complimented the new paint job – a racy red and white with black and white checkerboard wingtips and tail. Mark especially likes the words which grace the underside across the wingspan: Stuck in traffic? Admittedly, I now get a kick out of flying low over I-10 and other congested freeways. For Mike, it reminisces his early days flying over crowded Los Angeles freeways. Mark began inspecting our other modifications to The Elyminator, noticing we haven’t yet replaced the original blue and white interior, which happens to match the borrowed wheel pants. Soon others gathered around the airplane; each new arrival gets the same sort of review and its ample reason to stand around and shoot the breeze.

We tied down next to Mike Smith’s red Swearingen SX300, capable of over 300 mph. He’s in a different class of competition but there’s a running joke about us passing him. Since last year’s official Indy race t-shirt featured our Cheetah reaching the checkered flag ahead of Smith’s SX300, he suggested parking downwind of his airplane might blow some of his speed onto us. We’d love that – just four more mph to break the speed record for our class.

Saturday morning dawned with low ceilings and turbulence, making for some pretty bone-jarring jolts as we knocked around the 130-mile course at low altitudes. Usually this race includes Mark and Cheryl Frederick’s grass strip as the start-finish line, but they would be out of town this time on an important historical mission.

Mike: After the bombing of Pearl Harbor 16 B-25s carrying 80 men crammed the open flight deck of the USS Hornet and blasted off on a top-secret mission, led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle. They became known as the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. It was the only time U.S. Army Air Force bombers had launched from a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier on a combat mission.

Flying at wave-top to avoid detection, the bombers encountered only light fighter and anti-aircraft resistance. None were shot down. However, too large to return and land on the carrier, the bombers flew west to China’s coast where there were several suitable air fields. Weather and impending darkness made those good runways hard to find and most of the crews crash landed or bailed out. While the raid on Tokyo was not a widely technical victory, it was a morale booster during bleak times.

Remaining Doolittle Raiders are Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, co-pilot of B-25 No. 1, Maj. Thomas C. Griffin, navigator on B-25 No. 9, Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor, engineer-gunner of B-25, No. 15, Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher, engineer-gunner, No. 7 and Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, co-pilot of B-25 No. 16. All but Lt. Col Hite attended the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Reunion on the 70th anniversary of the raid, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio on April 18. B-25s gathered for a massive formation flight over Wright-Patterson. One of them was flown by our friend Mark Fredrick who just before our race buzzed us in “Devil Dog” (the U.S. Marine Corps B-25 variant) on his way to Ohio for the reunion.

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