Major Thomas Griffin, a navigator on the Doolittle Raid was called home Tuesday. He passed in a VA home in northern Kentucky at age 96. At the next reunion of the surviving Doolittle Raiders in Fort Walton Beach, where they trained for the mission, they will turn Maj. Griffin’s goblet upside down, and there will be only four left upright.
Maj. Griffin’s parachuted to safety over China and eluded capture, eventually making it back stateside. He later flew bombing missions over North Africa until he was shot down in 1943, spending the remainder of the war in a German POW camp.
Years ago the President of Hennessy Company presented a bottle of 1896 vintage “Very Special Hennessy” cognac to General Jimmy Doolittle, in honor of his birth year and it was decided that the last two survivors would toast the fallen with it. Due to their advanced age it was decided that they would make the toast this year, before there were none left.
The private ceremony will be attended only by the surviving Raiders, the Raiders’ historian, Tom Casey, manager of the Doolittle Raiders Association, and two Air Force cadets. They will conduct a roll call of the names of all the Raiders, and when Griffin’s name is called, Lt. Col. Richard Cole, at age 97 the oldest survivor, will give a report on Griffin, announcing that he has left us.
At the end of the reading of names, the white-gloved cadets will pour the cognac into the goblets of the survivors, and they will drink their special toast: “To those who have gone.”
The final four survivors are Lt. Col. Cole of Comfort, Texas; Lt. Col. Robert Hite of Nashville, Tennessee; Lt. Col. Edward Saylor of Puyallup, Washington, and Master Sgt. David Thatcher of Missoula, Montana.