Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, one of four surviving Doolittle Raiders who attacked Japan during a daring 1942 mission credited with rallying American morale during World War II, has died. He was 94.
Saylor was a flight engineer-gunner who volunteered to fly the risky mission that sent B-25s from a carrier at sea in April 1942 to attack Tokyo. The raid launched earlier than planned and risked running out of fuel before making it to safe airfields.
The three remaining surviving are Lt. Col. Richard Cole, Lt. Col. Robert Hite and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher. With Saylor's death, only three of one of the most storied group of airmen in American history remain.
The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders was a group eighty men from all walks of life who flew into history on April 18, 1942. They were all volunteers and this was a very dangerous mission. Sixteen B-25 bombers took off from the deck of the USS Hornet, led by (then Col.) Jimmy Doolittle. They were to fly over Japan, drop their bombs and fly on to land in a part of China that was still free. Of course, things do not always go as planned.
The months following the attack on Pearl Harbor were the darkest of the war, as Imperial Japanese forces rapidly extended their reach across the Pacific. Our military was caught off guard, forced to retreat, and losing many men in the fall of the Philippines, leading to the infamous Bataan Death March.
By spring, 1942, America needed a severe morale boost. The raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942, certainly provided that – cheering the American military and public. Yet, the Doolittle Raid meant so much more, proving to the Japanese high command that their home islands were not invulnerable to American attacks and causing them to shift vital resources to their defense. Two months later that decision would play a role in the outcome of the Battle of Midway, the American victory that would begin to turn the tide in the Pacific War.