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95th Reconnaissance Squadron honors Doolittle Raider David Thatcher

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin Webster, left, 95th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, makes a toast to honor David Thatcher, former Doolittle Raider, June 24, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Thatcher, one of the last two surviving Doolittle Raiders to survive, who passed away June 22, 2016. The Doolittle Raid was carried out in response to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Halan/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin Webster, left, 95th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, makes a toast to honor David Thatcher, former Doolittle Raider, June 24, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Thatcher, one of the last two surviving Doolittle Raiders to survive, who passed away June 22, 2016. The Doolittle Raid was carried out in response to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Halan/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin Webster, 95th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, points out David Thatcher, former Doolittle Raider, June 24, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Thatcher, one of the last two Doolittle Raiders to survive, who passed away June 22, 2016. The 95th RS held a toast in honor of their fallen brother-in-arms. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Halan/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin Webster, 95th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, points out David Thatcher, former Doolittle Raider, June 24, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. Thatcher, one of the last two Doolittle Raiders to survive, who passed away June 22, 2016. The 95th RS held a toast in honor of their fallen brother-in-arms. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Halan/Released)

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Doolittle Raider David Thatcher passed away Wednesday June 22, in Missoula, Montana. 4,566 miles away the following Friday members of the 95th Reconnaissance Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, England honored him and his legacy.

The Doolittle Raid was in response to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor caused minor damage to the Japanese home island, it was a huge morale boost to the American public after the surprise attack, Dec. 7, 1941.

Thatcher was one of 80 volunteers to conduct the raid April 18, 1942. Assigned to the 95th Bombardment Squadron, he served as the engineer and gunner aboard the 7th aircraft to take flight, The Ruptured Duck.

The 95th BS would be redesignated the 95th Reconnaissance Squadron in 1982.

Almost every year from the late 1940s to 2013, the Doolittle Raiders would come together and toast the raiders who had died within the previous year. Three of the four remaining members gathered April 13, 2013, to offer a final toast near Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

Upon learning of Thatcher’s passing, members of the 95th RS held a ceremonious toast in honor of their fallen brother-in-arms. The toast was conducted in a “dome teacher,” a building that was built during World War II and designed for anti-aircraft gunnery training. A fitting location as Thatcher was the gunner aboard The Ruptured Duck during World War II.

“Squadron, I propose a toast to those lost on the mission and those who have passed away since,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Webster, 95th RS commander. “Thank you very much, and may they rest in peace.”

The toast was conducted in front of pictures of all six crews from the 95th BS and a sketch of the The Ruptured Duck signed by David Thatcher during the 69th Doolittle Raider Anniversary Reunion.

The 95th RS is part of the 55th Wing stationed at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. Thatcher signed the picture during a celebration held on the base as part of the 2011 reunion festivities.

The Doolittle attack consisted of 16 U.S. Army Air Force B-25B Mitchells medium range bombers that were launched from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet (CV-8). The 16 aircraft had to take off earlier than anticipated when a Japanese patrol boat spotted the carrier group. This resulted in the aircraft having inadequate fuel to reach their recovery bases.

Thatcher’s aircraft, bombed industrial targets in Tokyo before having to ditch it in the water off the coast of China. He was the only member of the five person crew who didn’t sustain significant injuries during the landing. He rendered first aid to his crewmembers, persuaded local Chinese villagers to assist and helped evade Japanese patrols before being able to get the injured to a medical facility. Thatcher would be awarded the Silver Star with valor for his heroic efforts.

The pilot Maj. Ted Lawson, would go on to write the book “30 Seconds Over Tokyo,” which became a 1944 film about the raid and featured the aircraft and crew.

Thatcher continued to fly 26 bomb missions over North Africa and Europe on the B-26 Marauder before being honorably discharged as a Staff Sgt. in 1945.

“David Thatcher’s heroism provides an inspiring example to today’s Airmen,” Webster said. “He leaves a legacy of excellence that we continue to build on in everything the 95th does today.”

Thatcher is survived by Richard Cole, the co-pilot in the first aircraft to take off, and who is the last surviving Doolittle Raider.