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Gone West: Doolittle Raider Maj. Nolan Herndon

Last Surviving SC Raider Was 88

Another of the Doolittle Raiders has passed away. Major Nolan Herndon of Edgefield, SC was 88 years-old, and the last remaining Raider from his state.

Columbia, SC newspaper The State reported Tuesday Herndon died of pneumonia at the Dorn VA hospital.

The Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, four months after Pearl Harbor, included 80 volunteers who flew 16 heavy Army B-25 bombers from the a Navy aircraft carrier to and bombed Japanese military targets. It marked the first time in military history bombers had operated from a carrier and, while not a crippling blow to Japan's war machine, proved an important turning point for US public morale in the war.

Major Herndon’s plane and crew have been a controversial mystery in the years since the raid on April 18, 1942. Unlike the others which crashed in China, Herndon -- who was a navigator, bombardier and gunner -- and his pilot and co-pilot headed instead for the Soviet Union, supposedly an ally of the US.

The Soviets, who had maintained diplomatic relations with Japan to that point, had refused a US request for all the planes to land there.

Herndon maintained the other two men on his plane were last-minute substitutions, intelligence agents being intentionally diverted in a test of the Soviets' resolve as allies of the US. The three men were imprisoned after they landed, but escaped after a year. For his valor, Herndon received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

There are now only 12 surviving members of the Doolittle Raiders. Those who are able gather each year for a toast, as they have most years since 1946. At this year's gathering, Major Nolan Herndon's ceremonial silver goblet will join 67 others which have been inverted, marking the passing of their namesakes.

FMI: www.doolittletokyoraiders.com/

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