Missoula’s David Thatcher, one of two remaining crew members of the famed Doolittle Raiders of World War II, will be feted again Friday night.
Thatcher and his wife, Dawn, are in Beverly Hills, California, where he’ll be inducted into the Living Legends of Aviation at a $5,000-a-plate dinner ceremony hosted by John Travolta.
Thatcher, 94, will be joined by the other Doolittle survivor, Dick Cole of Texas, who turned 100 in September.
Thatcher was a 20-year-old engineer-gunner on one of 16 U.S. Army Air Corps B-25 bombers to take off from the USS Hornet and bomb Toyko on April 18, 1942. Nicknamed “The Ruptured Duck,” the plane’s crash landing and evasion of Japanese troops in China was depicted in the “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” a 1944 feature film based on a book written the year before by Ted Lawson, the captain of the Ruptured Duck.
Thatcher was played in the movie by Robert Walker.
The daring raid came just months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It is credited in many corners as turning the psychological tide of war on the Pacific front.
It was led by famed aviator Jimmy Doolittle, who passed away in 1993. Cole was his co-pilot. The last official reunion of the Raiders took place in 2013.
Last year, Thatcher and Cole were on hand in Dayton, Ohio, to present the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of the Doolittle Raiders.
Travolta, dubbed the “official ambassador of aviation,” will be joined on stage for the 13th annual awards dinner by fellow screen star Harrison Ford, who will present the Aviation Legacy Award to Scott Terry, founder of Global Flight Relief.
Other new inductees include Michimasa Fujino, president/CEO and founder of Honda Jet; Daniel Wolff, chief pilot and manager of Nationwide's flight department and an active volunteer to children's flying programs; and Greg Feith, a former air safety investigator and aviation commentator for NBC News.
Also receiving awards are the president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and the founder and chairman of VistaJet. The Legends will recognize the “Candy Bomber,” Col. Gail Halvorsen. Halvorsen dropped candy bars on final approach to Tempelhof Airport while flying the Berlin Airlift, prompting an expanded effort supported by the Hershey Co. that showered a million chocolate bars to German children.
Thatcher will return to Missoula for another induction Feb. 5 into the National Society, Sons of the American Revolution.