May 22, 2014—Congress bestowed its highest honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, on the Doolittle Raiders, the collective group of American Fighter Aces, and the Civil Air Patrol’s World War II veterans this week.
The Senate approved a resolution on Tuesday to award the Doolittle Raiders the Congressional Gold for their “outstanding heroism, valor, skill, and service in the United States” on April 18, 1942. The vote comes one day after the House approved its version of the legislation.
On that day, more than seven decades ago, 80 men, including retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole, one of four surviving Doolittle Raiders who is on Capitol Hill this week for the passage of the resolution, flew 16 B-25 bombers off the deck of the USS Hornet on the first offensive mission following the deadly attacks on Pearl Harbor.
The Raiders, led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, successfully struck their military and industrial targets in Tokyo and five other cities, but were later forced to “crash-land in China or Russia” due to low fuel and deteriorating weather conditions. Of the eight men who were captured, only four returned home.
“The bravery of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders exemplifies our nation’s highest ideals and values,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who first introduced the legislation in the Senate on Feb. 26, 2013. That same night, the fifth surviving crew member, Maj. Tom Griffin, a navigator on plane No. 9, died.
“Since 1776, Americans of all walks of life have been honored with the Congressional Gold Medal. Today, the Raiders are one step closer to receiving this fitting honor. I urge President Obama to take immediate action to sign this legislation and honor the remaining Raiders for their heroism,” added Brown.
The Raiders’ Gold Medal will be awarded to the group and will be housed at the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, alongside the Doolittle Tokyo Raider’s goblets, according to a May 21 release from Brown’s office.
A bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the collective group of American Fighter Aces “in recognition of their heroic military service and defense of the nation’s freedom” also is headed to the White House for Obama’s signature.
“I am honored that ahead of Memorial Day, Congress acted quickly and in a bipartisan manner to honor the heroism, service, and sacrifice of all American Fighter Aces with the Congressional Gold Medal. I can think of no group more deserving of Congress’ highest recognition than this elite group of fighter pilots,” said Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas.) in a May 21 release.
“These patriots are the best of the best, the cream of the crop in air-to-air combat. … They have contributed to the aerial supremacy of the United States; their efforts have shortened wars and saved lives,” said Johnson in a separate release.
Congress also awarded Civil Air Patrol’s World War II veterans—the volunteers who defended US shores from German U-boats—the Congressional Gold Medal on Monday.
“The men and women of Civil Air Patrol stepped up and served their country when it needed them during the darkest days of World War II, and it’s time we recognized them and thanked them for their service,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who sponsored the bill, in a May 19 CAP release.
“The Civil Air Patrol’s valiant efforts in defending our coastline, providing combat services, and flying dangerous humanitarian missions in America during World War II embodies the American spirit,” added Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who introduced the bill in the House.
Some 120,000 CAP volunteers are credited with flying 86,685 coastal patrol sorties, sinking several German submarines. A total of 26 volunteers were killed in the line of duty and 74 aircraft were lost during the war. CAP members also trained military pilots, towed targets, and conducted search and rescue, and other missions in support of the war effort.