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April 09. 2014 5:47PM

Salem couple's effort to honor Doolittle Tokyo Raiders is gaining momentum

SALEM — A Salem couple is racing against time in an effort to get legislation passed honoring the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, a group of World War II pilots who conducted a precarious raid on Japan in 1942.

On Monday, Brian and Cyndee Anderson said they're another step closer in their mission to ensure the group's four surviving members are formally recognized with Congressional Gold Medals.

The awards are one of the highest civilian honors given in the United States and are typically given to individuals whose actions affected American history and culture.

The first Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to George Washington in 1776. The most recent Congressional Gold Medals were awarded to members of the First Special Service Force (World War II) in July 2013, according to the U.S. House of Representatives website.

The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders were an 80-member team of volunteers that flew into history in April 1942.

This month marks the 72nd anniversary of their mission, in which 16 B-25 bombers, each one carrying five servicemen, took flight from the deck of the USS Hornet with the intention of dropping bombs over Japan before landing in an area of China that had remained free.

"Factoring in the age of these men, time is definitely of the essence," Brian Anderson said. "So we need to honor these brave gentlemen while they're still here."

The surviving Raiders are: Ohio native Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, the co-pilot of Crew No. 1; Montana native Lt. Col. Edward D. Saylor, an engineer with Crew No. 15; Montana native Sgt. David J. Thatcher, an engineer gunner with Crew No. 7; and Texas native Lt. Col. Robert J. Hite, co-pilot with Crew No. 16 and former prisoner of war.

Cole will celebrate his 99th birthday in September, while the three other remaining Raiders are in their early 90s.

Brian Anderson, who serves as the group's Sergeant At Arms, said efforts to honor Cole, Saylor, Thatcher and Hite began last summer.

Anderson credits New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte for helping him garner the support of fellow legislators. Senate Bill 381, to award the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the Raiders, passed in November.

"She went to a Republican Caucus luncheon in July and convinced 21 senators to co-sponsor the bill," Anderson said.

New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Granite State Congresswomen Carol Shea Porter and Annie Kuster are support of the legislation.

The legislation now needs approval from the House, though Anderson said he's already collected the necessary 290 signatures from Congress members necessary for the bill to pass.

As of this week, 309 congressmen and congresswomen are supporting the bill.

Anderson said that if all goes as hoped, the legislation would be fully passed sometime around Memorial Day.

"Hopefully the process will move forward quickly once that happens," he added. "And I've already been told that I'll be going to the White House for the awards ceremony."

For more information on the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, visit www.doolittleraider.com.

Those with questions regarding the pending legislation may contact Anderson at icebear1@comcast.net.

AGuilmet@newstote.com


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