‘Mission Complete’ – Missoula’s Doolittle Raider David Thatcher Laid To Rest With Full Military Honors
Mission complete. Those were the words spoken at the graveside service for Staff Sergeant David Thatcher of Missoula, one of the last two remaining Doolittle Raiders. Thatcher passed away on Sunday at age 94.
He was buried with full military honors on Monday at Sunset Memorial Cemetery, according to Officer in Charge, Lt. Col Michael Epper, USAF.
“Today here at the graveside, we will be providing full military funeral honors,” Epper said. “We’ll have a military pall bearer team. They will remove the casket from the hearse, bring it to the graveside. We will then fold the flag and we’ll have a rifle volley with a 21-gun salute, and then taps, and then I will present the flag to the next of kin.”
Epper spoke of the high regard for Thatcher and the other Doolittle raiders and what they accomplished.
“Getting a B-25 off the deck of a carrier in rolling seas is quite a challenge, and it was a tribute to General Doolittle’s knowledge and his skill, and the training he provided to the men on that mission.”
Doolittle’s Raiders trained in top secret after the bombing of Pearl Harbor to strike back at the Japanese homeland with carrier-based B-25 bombers. Their aircraft, named ‘The Ruptured Duck’, successfully completed its mission, but then crash landed in China, where Thatcher and his fellow airmen were eventually rescued and returned to duty.
Retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole of Comfort, Texas, was also on hand for the service in Missoula. He is the last remaining Doolittle Raider.
Lt. General Matthew Quinn, U.S. Army National Guard was also on hand for the funeral service. Quinn said that Staff Sgt. Thatcher was actually his neighborhood postal carrier in Missoula.
“I grew up in the neighborhood where Mr. Thatcher delivered mail, so he was a family friend,” Quinn said. “It wasn’t till about three years ago that I discovered his true heroics during World War II with the Doolittle Raiders, so it was very special for me to know not only the man David Thatcher, but also the true American hero, Staff Sgt. David Thatcher.”
Following the ceremony, there were flyovers by a modern B-1 bomber and the vintage B-25, similar to the aircraft used in the Doolittle raid.