David Thatcher has passed away at the age of 94.
Mr. Thatcher was the tail gunner in the “Ruptured Duck”, one of the 16 B-25s in the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Japan.
After the raid, the Duck crash-landed and several of the crew were injured. Mr. Thatcher tended their injuries.
Corporal Thatcher, the only crew member able to walk, joined with Chinese peasants and armed guerrillas to take the four injured airmen on a grueling five-day trek, by land and boat, to a hospital on the mainland, carrying them on stretchers and sedan chairs and managing to evade Japanese troops.
All of the crew evaded capture and eventually made it home, though the pilot (Ted Lawson, who also wrote Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, a book I remember reading when I was very young) lost a leg.
As cited in James M. Scott’s book “Target Tokyo” (2015), Colonel Doolittle told Corporal Thatcher’s parents that “all the plane’s crew were saved from either capture or death as a result of his initiative and courage in assuming responsibility and in tending the wounded himself day and night.”
Corporal Thatcher was awarded the Silver Star for valor.
Mr. Thatcher’s death leaves one surviving crew member from the raid, Richard Cole, who was Doolittle’s co-pilot.