60th Doolittle Raider Reunion
Columbia, South Carolina, 2002
The images below are from the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders 60th Reunion in Columbia SC, April 2002.
Dick Cole, Bill Bower
Ed Horton, Bill Bower, Tom Griffin
Dick Cole, Dave Thatcher, Ed Horton, Bill Bower, Tom Griffin
The images below are from the Robert Bourgeois collection at the 60th Reunion in Columbia SC in April of 2002.
The images below are of Mr. Bruce T. Cotner's Collection.
He may be reached at 1-803-254-5888 in Columbia SC.
A vicarious reunion
While trying to preserve the history of veterans, Master Sgt. Wes Fields gives Ed Horton an anniversary experience he wouldn't have otherwise had
By KIMBERLY BLAIR, Daily News Staff Writer
Ed Horton pored over an album filled with photos of aging comrades celebrating the 60th anniversary of a legendary air raid on Japan.
The photos filled Horton with nostalgia and bittersweet regrets.
"This is wonderful," the Fort Walton Beach man said. "It brings back memories."
Because of illness, Horton and his wife, Monta, could not attend the milestone April reunion of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders held in Columbia, S.C., this year.
The 86-year-old veteran is one of 23 surviving members of 80 who followed Lt. Col. James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle off the deck of a Navy carrier and into the history books.
Flying in 16 B-25 bombers, they became known as Doolittle Tokyo Raiders for attacking Japan's capital and five other major cities in retaliation for the bombing of Pearl Harbor four months earlier.
Nearly every April since the end of the war, Horton has reunited with his fellow Raiders. It was hard not to be with them this year.
Friday, though, the couple got to enjoy the reunion vicariously through photos, stories and other memorabilia that were presented to them by Master Sgt. Wes Fields.
The Hurlburt Field air commando and World War II history buff attended the reunion to meet the legendary aviators.
"I went to meet the greatest generation," said Fields, an aerial gunner on an AC-130H Spectre Gunship.
Fields is intent on letting the veterans - who are dying at a rate of 1,100 a day - know they are not forgotten.
He has been attending reunions and special events for WWII veterans around the country, and he sponsors a WWII veteran tail gunner at the Soldiers and Airmen's Home in Washington, D.C.
He wants to host a 1940s dance to honor local veterans later this year.
"I think that in the last days of their lives it would be nice for them to know they accomplished something and for them to know they are important," he said.
Attending the Raiders' reunion was a special treat.
As 14 of the Raiders gathered in a hospitality room in the Adams Mark Hotel in Columbia, Fields learned that Horton - whom he had chatted with over the years - did not attend.
He pulled out his cell phone and dialed Horton's Fort Walton Beach number.
"I said, 'Ed. You are not going to believe where I am. I'm at the reunion in Columbia and I have a few guys who want to talk to you,' " said Fields.
"I handed my cell phone to them and all the Raiders talked to him. The last one he talked to was his co-pilot, Roy Stork."
Stork slipped off into a quiet corner of the room and chatted with Horton privately.
Stork, Horace Crouch and Horton are the only remaining survivors of the No. 10 Crew.
"After a while, he handed the phone back to me. He had tears in his eyes. He said, 'Thank you, thank you very much,' " said Fields.
Friday, it was Horton who was thanking Fields as they sat and talked for an hour in McDonald's on Eglin Parkway.
Fields gave Horton a program from the reunion and a commemorative baseball that only the Raiders received from Columbia's minor league baseball team, The Capital City Bombers.
The team is named in honor of the Raiders, who trained for the mission there. They spent a few weeks training at Eglin Air Force Base, too.
Fields also presented Horton with a number of other items, including Columbia's daily newspaper, The State, filled with photos of the Raiders and stories about reunion events.
Before the veteran gunner and the young gunner departed, Fields offered to escort Horton to next year's reunion.
Said Monta Horton: "We'll go even if I have to walk."
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