SEATTLE (AP) — Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, one of four surviving Doolittle Raiders who attacked Japan during a daring 1942 mission credited with lifting American morale during World War II, has died. He was 94.
Rod Saylor said his father died of natural causes on Wednesday in Sumner, Washington.
He was a young flight engineer-gunner and among the 80 airmen who volunteered to fly the risky mission that sent B-25 bombers from a carrier at sea to attack Tokyo on April 28, 1942. The raid launched earlier than planned and risked running out of fuel before making it to safe airfields.
“It was what you do ... over time, we’ve been told what effect our raid had on the war and the morale of the people,” Saylor told The Associated Press in a 2013 interview.
Tom Casey, a manager for the Doolittle Raiders, said in an interview that despite the risks, “they all volunteered to go anyway.”
“He did something very famous,” Casey said.
The 16 B-25 bombers, each carrying five men, dropped bombs on targets such as factory areas and military installations and headed to designated airfields in mainland China realizing that they would run out of fuel, according to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Three crew members died as Raiders bailed out or crash-landed their planes in China, but most were helped to safety by Chinese villagers and soldiers. Of eight Raiders captured by Japanese soldiers, three were executed and another died in captivity.
Saylor told the AP in 2013 that he was one of the lucky ones. “There were a whole bunch of guys in World War II; a lot of people didn’t come back,” he said.
He grew up on a ranch in Brusett, Montana, and enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1939, Casey said. Saylor served in the Air Force for 28 years before retiring as a lieutenant colonel.
Last year, the Raiders received the Congressional Gold Medal for heroism and valor.