Doolittle Raiders reunion set for Dallas area
Raid has strong ties to Barksdale Air Force Base and Louisiana

By John Andrew Prime

A reunion of the surviving members of the B-25 crews that raided the Japanese mainland in April 1942, offering the first payback for the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor five month earlier, will be held April 16-20 at Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas, Texas.

One of the more celebrated annual events in the U.S. Air Force, the reunion of the Doolittle Raiders has special meaning here.

At least a dozen of the 79 fliers who crewed the 16 B-25 bombers that raided Tokyo trained at Barksdale Army Air Field, which later became Barksdale Air Force Base.

Of the 11 Raiders still living, navigators Lt. Charles J. Ozuk and Lt. Frank A. Kappeler were trained at Barksdale.

The raid involved 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers that launched from the deck of the first aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet on April 18, 1942.

Due to concerns a Japanese picket boat had warned Tokyo of their approach, the raiders launched hundreds of miles farther out than planned, meaning the airplanes had to crash land in China over enemy-held territory.

Of the 80 men who took part, seven were killed in action, four survived Japanese captivity, three were murdered by their Japanese captors, one died of starvation in captivity, one lost a leg and five were interned after landing their bomber in neutral Russia. There were minor casualties suffered by fliers from injuries while landing. Most of the crew members found safety with allies in China and returned to the war.

The mission, which earned its leader, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, the Medal of Honor and a promotion to brigadier general, was a huge morale boost to Americans and a shock to the Japanese.

Americans badly needed a shot in the arm in those early, dark days of the war. And the Japanese had been assured by their emperor and military they were immune to attack due to their distance from North America and their isolation as an island.

"The thing that astounds you is that a lot of people don't even know about it or have forgotten about the raid," said Shreveporter Ken Bourgeois, a retired Marine Corps major whose oldest brother, Robert, was a bombardier on the mission. Bourgeois moved here with his wife, Edwana, two years ago after their home and all their possessions, including most of his memorabilia from his famous brother, were lost in Hurricane Katrina.

Ken Bourgeois remembers teaching new Marines about the flight and attended one Raiders reunion with his brother in San Diego in the 1980s.

There, with his brother, he met Jimmy Doolittle, comedians Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller and Vietnam War ace and later U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

Robert Bourgeois, who died in 2001, was stationed at Barksdale Field before and after his famous mission. He mustered out as a noncommissioned officer in January 1944 and re-entered here, becoming a flight officer and serving more than two years as the base's bombsight maintenance officer.

One of the Barksdale-trained fliers later died of wounds suffered in action on a mission over North Africa, and two died in a plane crash in the United States during the war years.

One of those men died right after leaving Barksdale while visiting Shreveport as part of a drive to sell war bonds. That was 1st Lt. Kenneth E. Reddy, co-pilot of Raider Crew 11, of Bowie, Texas. He was just 22 years old.

In addition to the crew members who trained here and Bourgeois, Barksdale has another tie to the raid.

Lt. Eugene Hoy Barksdale, after whom the base is named, died in August 1926 while serving as the chief test pilot for the nation's air service. He was substituting for Doolittle, who was on a leave of absence from the military helping promote U.S. military aviation sales in South America.

Had Barksdale not been flying the Douglas observation plane that crashed and caused his death, Doolittle likely would have been making that test flight, leading to one of the great "what ifs?" in military aviation history.

One of the enduring Air Force traditions is associated with the Raiders. At the Air Force Academy in Colorado, there are 80 silver goblets engraved with the names of the fliers, and a bottle of vintage brandy. As each flier dies, his goblet is turned over.

When there are only two fliers alive, they will open the bottle and toast their departed comrades.

Doolittle Raiders Web site:
Doolittle Raiders reunion Web site:
Barksdale Air Force Base:

The raiders
Doolittle Raiders/Barksdale ties
Living: Crew 3 navigator Lt. Charles J. Ozuk, Crew 11 navigator Lt. Frank A. Kappeler.
Died during World War II: Crew 2 bombardier Lt. Richard Ewing Miller, died in action in North Africa, Jan. 22, 1943; Crew 7 bombardier Lt. Robert Stevenson Clever, died Nov. 20, 1942, in a plane crash in Ohio; Crew 11 co-pilot Lt. Kenneth E. Reddy, died Sept. 2, 1942, in a plane crash near Little Rock, Ark.
Died in peacetime: Crew 1 navigator Lt. H.A. Potter in 2002; Crew 12 bombardier Tech. Sgt. W.J. Bither in 1988; Crew 8 navigator Lt. N.A. Herndon in 2007; Crew 12 navigator Lt. W.R. Pound Jr. in 1967; Crew 2 navigator Lt. Carl Richard Wildner in 1994; Crew 10 navigator-bombardier Lt. Horace Ellis Crouch in 2005; Crew 11, B-25 "Hari Kari-er" pilot Capt. C.R. Greening in 1957; Crew 2 pilot Lt. Travis Hoover in 2004; Crew 13, B-25 "The Avenger" bombardier Tech. Sgt. Robert C. Bourgeois in 2001.
In addition to Ozuk and Kappeler, other Doolittle Raiders who are alive and expected to attend the reunion in Dallas this month are William M. Bower, Richard E. Cole, Thomas C. Griffin, Robert L. Hite, Edwin W. Horton Jr., James H. Macia, Edward J. Saylor and David J. Thatcher.
Cole was Doolittle's co-pilot in Crew 1. Hite, co-pilot of Crew 16, was captured and spent the war as a prisoner of the Japanese; a photograph of blindfolded Hite being taken into captivity is one of the more famous photographs of World War II.