2018-04-13 / Society

Nancy Doolittle tells experiences of the Doolittle Raiders to DAR members

Contributed by David Hopkins Chapter DAR

Nancy Doolittle gestures as she shares her stories of the Doolittle Raiders with the David Hopkins DAR Chapter. Nancy Doolittle gestures as she shares her stories of the Doolittle Raiders with the David Hopkins DAR Chapter. Not even one volunteer backed out of Jimmy Doolittle’s “Secret Dangerous Mission,” but they’re not heroes, they said.

The Mission: Fly over Japan, drop the bombs, fly to China for safety. Not even one of the 79 men in their early 20s backed out when Jimmy Doolittle told them their mission.

The Doolittle Raiders were all pilots, except one co- pilot, who answered Doolittle’s call: “Volunteers needed for dangerous secret mission.”

And Nancy Doolittle (who has a family connection to Jimmy) got to know many of the Raiders when she volunteered to help with their 50th and 60th reunions. She helped in a professional capacity as their concierge becoming their contact for any needs or concerns. She shared her stories with the David Hopkins Chapter of the DAR Sunday afternoon, April 8 at the home of chapter member Polly Laffitte.

“ They came here to Columbia, to what is now Columbia Metropolitan Airport. They trained here,” she said. The Raiders practiced dropping mock bombs on Bomb Island in Lake Murray, which also is known today as Doolittle Island and where the purple martins return each year.

“ They were regular guys, humble people who were serving their country, and they did NOT want to be called heroes,” Doolittle said.

There were 16 planes in the raid, with five men in each plane. Seven of the men were lost as a result of the raid, Doolittle said.

One of the most moving moments Doolittle has had with the Raiders was with Bob Hite of crew #16. She was studying a scale model of the USS Hornet with the Raiders’ planes lined up all ready for takeoff. Hite came up and said, “Do you want me to show you my plane?” She said yes. Hite told her his plane was the last to take off, and it began moving backwards toward the sea. The crew grabbed the line to keep him from going into the sea; one crewman lost his arm in the effort, but Hite was able to take off.

Jimmy Doolittle flew his plane first to lead the raid. When they were about 600 miles off the Japanese mainland, they were spotted by a Japanese fishing boat, and Jimmy feared the Japanese officials on the mainland had been warned. So Jimmy ordered his men to start the raid immediately.

Nancy Doolittle said the men told her they had a good tailwind pushing them through, or they would never had made it, never would have had enough fuel to complete their mission. All of the bombs were dropped on Japanese industrial sites.

Doolittle has flown on these bombers. She said they are extremely noisy, too much so for any conversation. They are cramped, and you can see light between the metal plates of the plane. One Raider was so tall he had to remove his seat to fit into the bomber.

The Raiders remained a close group even after the war. They always come to the reunions, even the surviving spouses. Hite lost his first wife, but later married another Doolittle pilot’s widow. She told Nancy Doolittle her husband, even at 80, had severe nightmares and could never be in a room alone.

Nancy Doolittle urged her audience to keep telling the stories of the Doolittle Raiders, especially to schoolchildren, as it is such an important piece of our history. And for more information on the Raiders, she highly recommends Jimmy Doolittle’s book, I Could Never Be So Lucky Again. The DAR always welcomes women who are interested in becoming a member. Membership is open to any woman who can trace her ancestry to a Patriot during the American Revolution.

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