Living History: Doolittle Raiders celebrate final reunion tour in Destin, Fort Walton Beach (PHOTOS)

Doolittle Raiders
Nick Tomecke | Northwest Florida Daily News
Published: Friday, April 19, 2013 at 03:02 PM.

The airspace over Destin has been anything but quiet this week, as the sky has been dotted with historic B-25J Mitchell Bombers, which are in town for the final reunion tour of the Doolittle Raiders.

"It's really nice what the community is doing for these guys," Councilman Larry Williges, a 22-year Air Force veteran.

As part of the Doolittle Raiders 71st Reunion Tour, three out of the four airman that are still alive from the 1942 raid over Tokyo have taken part in a series of celebrations this week, culminating in a "Parade of Heroes" today at 11 a.m. in Fort Walton Beach and a Victory Celebration dinner at the Northwest Florida Fairgrounds.

For 97-year-old Lt. Col. Dick Cole, who had trained at the then Eglin Field back in 1942, the Raiders final hurrah along the Panhandle is bittersweet.

"I'm saddened by it," said Cole, who enlisted into the service in 1940 and flew in the same plane as Lt. Col. James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle.

Members of the Doolittle Raiders have been gathering for reunion tours almost every year since their famed raid in 1942, when a crew of 80 men took part in a bombing mission high above Tokyo. The four active members of the Doolittle Raiders range in age from 92 to 97, and include Cole, Bob Hite, David Thatcher and Ed Saylor.

Williges, who is now in his 80s, told The Log that he was 12-years-old at the time of the Doolittle raid, but remembers the historical significance of the event.

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