NICEVILLE — The Niceville City Council passed a resolution Tuesday supporting the renaming of the city’s post office in honor of the Doolittle Raiders, a daring group of World War II airmen who trained during 1942 at what was then Eglin Field.
The action came as a prelude to Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., introducing the required federal legislation to change the name of the facility.
“The federal government does not need our approval,” said Councilman Sal Nodjomian, who brought the resolution to the council after being contacted by retired Air Force Capt. Nate Nelson, Gaetz’s military affairs director.
The contact from Gaetz’s office was, Nodjomian said, “more of a courtesy,” with the intent of getting the city on board with the proposed name change.
“As a courtesy to the city council — since, technically, the post office falls within our boundaries and jurisdiction — (Gaetz’s office) felt it would be nice if we would be a party to that, which I agreed with,” Nodjomian said.
The Doolittle Raiders were the 80 Army Air Corps aircrew members who conducted a risky bombing raid on Japan in the early days of World War II. Under the leadership of then, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, on April 18, 1942, the Raiders flew 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in the western Pacific Ocean to targets in the Tokyo area of Japan.
The last of the Doolittle Raiders, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dick Cole, died last year at the age of 103. Cole, who served as Doolittle’s copilot in the raid’s lead bomber, was a frequent visitor to Northwest Florida.
The raid did not cause appreciable damage, but it proved, just a few months after the devastating Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, that American forces could strike back at Japan.
Prior to the mission, the Raiders spent time training for short take-offs, which would be needed aboard the Hornet, at what was then Eglin Field.
One of the reasons for naming the Niceville Post Office in honor of the Doolittle Raiders is the likelihood that it was the post office from which the Raiders got their mail while they were training at Eglin’s Wagner Field for two weeks in March of 1942.
The city would, however, like to have some additional research done to determine definitively whether the Niceville Post Office delivered mail to Eglin Field in the 1940s, according to Nodjomian.
But, he said, regardless of whether the post office at 90 Palm Boulevard North has an actual connection with the Raiders, the area’s connection to the daring airmen is clear.
At its Tuesday meeting, the council had “a nice, healthy debate, and talked about the fact that there’s probably a little bit more homework that needs to be done to know whether that was truly a post office that ultimately delivered mail to where the Doolittle Raiders were,” Nodjomian said.
“But,” he added, “the reality is, they’re (Gaetz’s office) recognizing the Doolittle Raiders,” not necessarily saying the post office was directly connected with the airmen.
“If it turns out to be that it was actually sent there and then distributed to Eglin ... that would be fantastic,” Nodjomian said. But, he added, whatever further research may reveal, “the reality is that we think it’s a great honor.”