Maj. Thomas C. 'Tom' Griffin: Doolittle Raider WWII veteran helped lift American morale
CINCINNATI — Maj. Thomas C. “Tom” Griffin, a B-25 bomber navigator in the audacious Doolittle's Raid attack on mainland Japan during World War II, has died.
His death at 96 leaves four surviving Raiders.
Griffin passed away Tuesday in a veterans nursing home in northern Kentucky. He was among the 80 original volunteers for the daring April 18, 1942, mission. When they began training, they were told only it would be “extremely hazardous,” coming in the aftermath of Japan's devastating attack on Pearl Harbor and a string of other Japanese military successes.
“We needed to hit back,” Griffin said in an interview a year ago in his suburban Cincinnati home. The attack on Tokyo, with a risky launch of 16 land-based bombers at sea from an aircraft carrier, shocked the Japanese and was credited with providing a major lift to American morale.
The planes lacked fuel to reach safe bases after dropping their bombs. Griffin parachuted over China after the attack, eluded Japanese capture, and returned to action in bombing runs from North Africa before being shot down in 1943 and spending nearly two years in a German prison camp.
Griffin died less than two months from what will be the Raiders' final annual reunion, April 17-21 in Fort Walton Beach, in the Florida Panhandle where the Raiders trained for the attack.
“We kind of expected it, because he had gone downhill pretty quickly the last few weeks, but you can never really prepare yourself for when one of these guys goes,” said Tom Casey, manager of the Doolittle Raiders Association.
Griffin took part in last year's 70th reunion at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton, which included survivors and relatives of the USS Hornet carrier and Chinese villagers who helped the Raiders elude capture. Eight Raiders were captured, and three were executed. A fourth died in captivity. Villagers suspected of hiding the Americans were executed.
“We had a lot of near-misses, when they (Japanese soldiers) raided places we had been the night before,” recalled Griffin, who had parachuted into a tree without major injury. Three Raiders died off China after the raid.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Rutherford hits jackpot with Kessel
- Penguins get their man in making trade with Toronto for Kessel
- Rossi: Wild Wednesday proves Steelers rule
- H-D Advanced Manufacturing in Franklin Park buys Virginia-based aerospace components maker Firstmark
- Higher school taxes prevail in Western Pennsylvania, Trib finds
- New Kensington residents rally in support of 82-year-old robbery victim
- Penguins notebook: Rutherford proves savvy in deal
- Instances of hacking may be up, but indictments against Chinese military impactful, experts say
- McKeesport duo a big part of PSGA basketball recruiting class
- Group takes veterans, seniors in WWII-era planes at Unity airport
- Saxonburg residents surprised by zoning proposal