Thomas Carson Griffin died February 26, 2013 at the age of 96. Griffin was one of eighty remarkable men who took part in one of the most impressive acts of airmanship in the 20th Century. He was a Doolittle Raider.
The Doolittle Raiders have long been a part of my personal history. My Dad had a series of books written in the 1950s that my brother and I inherited as children. One of these books was a history of the Doolittle Raid. I read the story over and over again, memorizing details, and dreaming about planes and heroes. It was one of several books that fueled my like long love of the military.
The 1942 Doolittle Raid (also known as the Tokyo Raid) was a direct response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The purpose of the Raid was to boost American morale by showing that Japan was vulnerable to air attack. The daring raid was planned and executed by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle. Sixteen B-25 bombers were specially modified to fly off the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and deliver their payload on Tokyo.
It was a crazy idea, and required the right balance of crazy, stubborn, and diligent training. You had to be able to get a B-25 aircraft to lift off in 500 feet. Many thought it was impossible. The Doolittle Raiders did it.
The physical impact of the raid was negligible. The psychological impact on Japan was significant. At the time of the raid, Japan was considering attempting an attack on Australia. After the attack, they decided to deploy a fleet to Midway in an attempt to punish the Americans. The Battle of Midway changed the course of the war in the Pacific.
Griffin continued to serve after the Raid, and was shot down over North Africa in July of 1943. He finished out the war in the legendary Stalg Luft III prisoner of war camp.
Each year the survivors of the Raid meet and drink a toast to those who’ve passed and those who remain. This year Thomas Griffin joined those who will be there in spirit.
Lord, guard and guide the men who fly,
Through the great spaces of the sky;
Be with them traversing the air,
In darkening storms or sunshine fair.
O God, protect the men who fly,
Through lonely ways beneath the sky.
–John H. Eastwood