On April 18, 1942, 80 men led by then-Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle flew 16 B-25 bombers on a secret mission to raid Japan in retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor. The group, later dubbed the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, succeeded in the first air raid strike on the Japanese Home Islands and revitalized American morale by showcasing Japanese vulnerabilities.
AFA’s current President, retired Gen. Craig McKinley, and former AFA Chairman of the Board retired Col. Joe Sutter attended the invite-only ceremony, along with Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh.
“AFA is honored to have had the opportunity to be a part of this monumental moment in airpower history,” said McKinley. “The men on stage were part of an extraordinary mission in the darkest days following Pearl Harbor when U.S. morale was at its lowest. They took the battle to the enemy and gave us hope. They are indeed a part of the greatest generation and we owe them our deepest gratitude.”
“This final roll call gave a poignant reminder that the decision to do the final toast now was certainly a wise one. We will not have these heroes with us much longer,” said Sutter. “The Tokyo raid was not only a turning point of the war in the Pacific, but also a critical milestone in airpower history, demonstrating the impact of strategic bombing. Jimmy Doolittle went on to found the Air Force Association, ensuring the lessons of airpower are not forgotten. We continue to honor his legacy and the memory of his Raiders.”
In 1947, Jimmy Doolittle became the first elected leader of the Air Force Association, an organization he helped create in order to advocate for a separate United States Air Force service. His statue graces the entrance of the AFA building in Rosslyn, Va. AFA honored the Doolittle Raiders with their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.