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FB: Medal for Doolittle Raiders, Famed bomber crews honored with Congressional Gold Medal

The Doolittle Raiders on April 15 were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor Congress can give, four years after the award was proposed and 70 years after the famed mission.

The two surviving Raiders, retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole and retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, were unable to attend but were honored at the Capitol Hill presentation. The medal will be displayed at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, and the museum director, retired Lt. Gen. Jack Hudson, received the medal for the Raiders.

"If the Raiders were here, they would tell you they just wanted to help out their nation's war effort," Hudson said. "They volunteered for what was described as a difficult and dangerous mission."

The surviving Doolittle Raiders are shown in 2013. Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, left, died Jan. 29 at age 94. Lt. Col. Richard Cole, center, and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher survive.

Photo Credit: Desiree Palacios/Air Force

The legendary, all-volunteer group of 80 airmen took off in April 1942 in 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers from an aircraft carrier 600 miles at sea to strike Japan's homeland as a response for Pearl Harbor. While the damage was limited and all of the bombers were lost, the mission showed the world that Japan could be targeted at home. The attack boosted Americans' morale, which was dealt a blow by the Japanese attack less than five months earlier.

"The Raiders showed the world that yes, Japan could be invaded, and they showed that yes, the U.S. and Allied forces could win the war," Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said at the Capitol Hill ceremony.

"This Gold Medal ensures we will never forget these heroes who saved our world from tyranny," Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, said.

Cole accepted the medal in a video presentation during the ceremony. He and Thatcher requested that their medal be displayed at the Doolittle exhibit at the museum, along with the 80 ceremonial silver goblets that surviving Raiders had used to toast their raid. The goblets, in a large case, are placed upside down for each deceased member, with two remaining upright.

"On behalf of our 78 fallen raiders we proudly served with on this famous raid, we are honored to accept this prestigious and most appreciated award," Cole said.