The Wild Blue--Here's a Toast...

  • Published
  • By Col. David Kumashiro
  • 62nd Airlift Wing commander
"Here's a toast, to the host of those who love the vastness of the sky.  To a friend, we send a message of his brother men who fly."

     On January 28, 2015, our Nation lost a very special Airman--Lt. Col. (ret) Ed Saylor--a long-time resident of Puyallup, Wash., and one of our last four remaining Doolittle Raiders.  As one of the 80 original Raiders, Lt. Col. Saylor symbolized the innovative and courageous spirit that enabled the ground-breaking B-25 Mitchell bomber attack on Japan from the USS Hornet during World War II.  This attack in 1942 gave a much needed morale boost to Americans following Pearl Harbor and showed that the Japanese mainland was indeed vulnerable to attack by Allied forces.  In Lt. Col. Saylor's passing, we celebrate the toast, we celebrate our heritage, and we celebrate the visionary spirit of the 80 Doolittle Raiders.

"We drink to those who gave their all of old"

       In 1945, the remaining Doolittle Raiders met to celebrate then Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle's birthday.  From this event began an annual reunion that would forever become a part of Air Force heritage.  In 1959, the city of Tucson, Arizona presented the Doolittle Raiders with a set of 80 silver goblets inscribed with the names of the Raiders.  The names of the Raiders were inscribed twice on the goblets so that they could be read when the goblet was right side up or when turned upside down.  Thus was the start of the tradition where the remaining Raiders would toast those who had gone before and turn the silver goblets of those who had passed away the preceding year upside down.  The original plan was to have the last two remaining Raiders open an 1896 bottle of Hennessy cognac that was presented to Gen. Jimmy Doolittle to celebrate the year of his birth and make one final toast to the Raiders. 

"Then down we roar to score the rainbow's pot of gold."

     On November 9, 2013 at the National Museum of the USAF, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, three of our last four remaining Doolittle Raiders gathered for a solemn and poignant final toast.   Lt. Col. Richard Cole, Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, and Lt. Col. Ed Saylor (Lt. Col. Robert Hite was unable to attend) opened the bottle of Hennessy cognac and shared in one final toast to their departed comrades.   As we celebrate the life of Ed Saylor, let us never forget the visionary spirit of the Doolittle Raiders.  Their innovation, their courage, and their sacrifice are forever part of our Air Force heritage and part of our DNA as Airmen. 

"A toast to the host of men we boast, the U.S. Air Force."*

*Lyrics from the third verse of the Air Force Song