Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, I rise today to recognize David J. Thatcher, a remarkable Montanan and American. On April 18, 1942, Thatcher was one of 80 Doolittle Raiders who carried out the first air raid on Japan during World War II. The unit was named for their commander, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, who planned and led the mission that dealt a devastating psychological blow to the Japanese Empire in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attacks.
I ask my colleagues in the Senate to join me in honoring Mr. Thatcher and his comrades for their heroic deeds, carried out 71 years ago today.
Staff Sergeant Thatcher was born on July 31, 1921 in Bridger, MT and entered the Army in December 1940. He volunteered for the secret mission that later became known as the Doolittle Raid and was assigned as an engineer/gunner to Crew 7 of the "Ruptured Duck.''
On April 18, 1942, the Doolittle Raiders launched their B-25 bombers off the USS Hornet aircraft carrier, 250 miles further out than planned because they had been discovered by a Japanese fishing boat. During their approach to Tokyo, the crew of the "Ruptured Duck'' spotted a formation of enemy planes, but because of their special training and unique flying tactics, the Japanese formation never detected the "Ruptured Duck.'' Crew 7 successfully bombed the Nippon Steel Factory in Tokyo.
Following their airstrikes, all 16 aircraft either ditched at sea or crash landed because they did not have enough fuel to make it to their intended landing sites on the Chinese mainland. The commander of Crew 7, LT T.W. Lawson, attempted to land the ``Ruptured Duck'' on a beach, but instead struck the water a quarter mile off the Chinese coastline. The crew was forced to swim to shore.
Staff Sergeant Thatcher, the only member of Crew 7 who was unharmed, cared for the injured until the Chinese arrived to help. Sadly, 11 Doolittle Raiders were killed or captured by the Japanese during the raid but, remarkably, 69 of them were eventually rescued.
Staff Sergeant Thatcher went on to serve in England and became an engineer/gunner on a B-26 for the invasion of North Africa. He was discharged from the service on July 11, 1945.
For his gallantry in action during the raid on Japan, he received the Silver Star. He was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, along with the Chinese Army, Navy, and Air Corps Medal, Class A, 1st Grade.
Today, I would like to honor the four courageous Doolittle Raiders who remain with us: Richard E. Cole, Robert L. Hite, Edward J. Saylor and David J. Thatcher.
Let us also take a moment to honor the 76 others who have passed.
The success of the Doolittle Raid marked a turning point in the war. It provided a morale boost for the United States and it proved to the Japanese people that they were no longer invulnerable.
The Doolittle Raiders have earned a hallowed place in our American history, and today I commend Mr. Thatcher and his comrades for their courage and sacrifice.