Edward Saylor and his B-25 bomber crewmates were photographed during their time with “Doolittle’s Raiders” in World War II.
Doolittleraiders.com courtesy photo
Copy note: background on Saylor from doolittleraider.com
Edward Saylor survived a famous World War II offensive, a crash-landing in the Japan Sea and a harrowing game of cat and mouse with enemy soldiers. His is a tale that’s well-suited for a gathering of military retirees.
The 94-year-old Enumclaw resident will be the featured speaker at the 35th annual Military Retiree Heritage Dinner on June 22 at the McChord Co-located Club. It’s open to retired and active-duty members of all branches of the military, as well as their families and friends.
Organized by the McChord Retirees Activities Office, the semi-formal event will mix dining with camaraderie and nostalgia as memories dating to the WWII era are rekindled.
Saylor’s will be among those. He’s one of four remaining members of the Doolittle Raiders, the name given to 80 men who flew into history on April 18, 1942.
They volunteered for the Air Force mission that involved 16 B-25 bombers led by then-colonel Jimmy Doolittle. They were to take off from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, fly over Japan, drop their bombs and fly on to a safe part of China. The raid was intended to help slow down Japan’s rapidly extending reach across the Pacific in the months following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The mission’s ultimate goal was to convince the Japanese high command that its homeland was vulnerable to American attacks and to shift vital resources to its defense. Two months later, that decision had a role in America’s victory in the Battle of Midway, which began turning the tide in the Pacific conflict.
Saylor was an engineer gunner on one of the Doolittle bombers. He and his crewmates dropped their bombs on an aircraft factory and dockyards southwest of Tokyo. Then their part of the mission took a turn for the worse. As recounted in the website doolittleraider.com, the pilot, Lt. Donald Smith, decided to ditch off the coast of China. After a smooth crash-landing on the water, all five crew members made it safely to an island in life rafts and evaded Japanese soldiers who hunted them for several days. They eventually reached the safety of American forces after island residents helped disguise them as Chinese fishermen and smuggled them through a Japanese blockade.
Saylor, a native of Montana, enlisted in 1939 and attended Air Corps Training School at Chanute Field in Illinois before serving throughout World War II. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Force Commendation Medal and the Chinese Army, Navy, and Air Corps Medal. After the war, he was an aircraft maintenance officer at bases in Iowa, Washington, Labrador and England. He retired from the Air Force in 1967, ending a 28-year career as a lieutenant colonel.
Organizers of the Military Retiree Heritage Dinner said it’s an honor to have Saylor as the guest speaker. Other special features of the event will include a traditional commemoration of past Retiree Activities Office (RAO) volunteers .
Military members are encouraged to wear their uniform if possible. In past years, uniforms dating to the WWII era and on have appeared, an RAO spokeswoman said.
A social hour will begin at 6:30 p.m., with seating for dinner starting at 7. Reservations are required by June 20 by calling the McChord Club at 253-584-1371. More information is available from the Retiree Activities Office at 253-982-3214.