(AP Photo/Gary Landers,File)
Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, front left, (AP Photo/Gary Landers,File)

From Associated Press reports:

One of the last two surviving members of the Doolittle Raiders — who bombed Japan in an attack that stunned that nation and boosted U.S. morale — died in Montana on Wednesday.

Retired Staff Sgt. David Jonathan Thatcher died Wednesday in a Missoula hospital. He was 94. He suffered a stroke on Sunday, Thatcher’s son Jeff told the Missoulian newspaper.

Thatcher’s death leaves Retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole of Comfort, Texas, as the only living airman from among 80 who took off from an aircraft carrier on 16 B-25 bombers to target factory areas and military installations in Japan on April 18, 1942. Afterward, the planes headed for airfields in mainland China, realizing they would run out of fuel.

“We figured it was just another bombing mission,” he told The Associated Press in an interview in March 2015. In the years afterward, though, he said, they realized: “It was an important event in World War II.” Thatcher received a Silver Star for helping wounded crew members evade Japanese troops in China.

The Doolittle Raid was the first attack on the Japanese mainland by US forces. Coming only 5 months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, many historians credit it with a moral boost for the US in the early stages of WWII. Preparation for the raid included modifying the B-25’s to make them carry more fuel and weigh less. The distance covered during the bombing run was the longest ever by the B-25, covering some 2250 nautical miles.

B-25's on the USS Hornet, Source: Wikipedia
B-25’s on the USS Hornet, Source: Wikipedia

Led by LTCOL Jimmy Doolittle, 16 bombers took off from the USS Hornet, performed the mission and then turned towards China. Once off target, a tailwind helped pushed the bombers to the mainland of China where most either crash landed or the crews bailed out.

Fighter Sweep would like to graciously thank Staff Sgt. Thatcher, a true American hero, for his service to our nation.