Maj. Thomas C. Griffin, Doolittle Raider, Dies at 96
By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK
Published: March 4, 2013
U.S. Army Air Force
He died in a veterans hospital, said Tom Casey, a friend and the manager of the Doolittle Raiders, as the airmen who flew on the raid came to be known.
The raid, the first American attack on Japanese soil, followed a string of Japanese victories in the Pacific that had demoralized the American public.
“The Japanese had attacked us, and we were mad,” Major Griffin said in an interview in 2012. “We wanted to hit ’em back.”
The 80 men who volunteered for the raid were told only that they would be involved in a terribly dangerous mission.
They were to fly 16 B-25s from the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet — the first time the land-based bombers had been launched at sea — to strike military and industrial targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe, Nagoya and Osaka. But a last-minute change in plans, resulting from an encounter with a Japanese vessel, meant the planes might not have enough fuel to reach designated landing areas in China.
The bombers flew in low to avoid detection, and were not spotted until they ascended to drop their bombs. Despite heavy antiaircraft fire and pursuing planes, all 16 bombers made it out of Japanese airspace unscathed.
After escaping Japan, the planes ran into a storm, further draining their fuel supplies as darkness fell over unfamiliar terrain. Most of the men, including Major Griffin (who was a lieutenant at the time), bailed out over China.
Capt. Ted W. Lawson chronicled the attack in his memoir “30 Seconds Over Tokyo,” which was adapted into a popular film in 1944.
Major Griffin escaped Japanese capture and later participated in more bombing runs before he was shot down in 1943. He was held in a German prisoner of war camp until 1945.
Thomas Carson Griffin was born on July 10, 1916, in Green Bay, Wis. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters. He is survived by two sons, John and Gary; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Major Griffin’s death leaves four surviving Doolittle Raiders.