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Ellsworth honors Doolittle Raiders with toast

Col. John Martin, 28th Operations Group commander, speaks to Ellsworth Airmen about the importance of their heritage during the Doolittle Raider toast ceremony at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., April 18, 2016. On April 18, 1942, 80 pilots led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle launched 16 B-25 aircraft to retaliate against Japan for the attack on Pearl Harbor, marking it the first major planning collaboration for a joint service mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert/Released)

Col. John Martin, 28th Operations Group commander, speaks to Ellsworth Airmen about the importance of their heritage during the Doolittle Raider toast ceremony at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., April 18, 2016. On April 18, 1942, 80 pilots led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle launched 16 B-25 aircraft to retaliate against Japan for the attack on Pearl Harbor, marking it the first major planning collaboration for a joint service mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert/Released)

An Airman of the 432nd Attack Squadron speaks about Crew Eight of the Doolittle Raid during a toast ceremony at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., April 18, 2016. Several Airmen spoke about the 16 different crews that participated in the raid, providing an overview of what their mission was, what they accomplished and what trials they faced. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert/Released)

An Airman of the 432nd Attack Squadron speaks about Crew Eight of the Doolittle Raid during a toast ceremony at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., April 18, 2016. Several Airmen spoke about the 16 different crews that participated in the raid, providing an overview of what their mission was, what they accomplished and what trials they faced. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert/Released)

Maj. Brian, 34th Bomb Squadron assistant director of operation instructor pilot, speaks about the first crew of the Doolittle Raid during the Doolittle Raider toast ceremony at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., April 18, 2016. Lt. Col. James Doolittle launched 16 B-25 aircraft for the Doolittle Raid, leading 80 pilots who were the first to fly bomber aircraft from a carrier deck, USS Hornet, and led to the first victory of World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert/Released)

Maj. Brian, 34th Bomb Squadron assistant director of operation instructor pilot, speaks about the first crew of the Doolittle Raid during the Doolittle Raider toast ceremony at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., April 18, 2016. Lt. Col. James Doolittle launched 16 B-25 aircraft for the Doolittle Raid, leading 80 pilots who were the first to fly bomber aircraft from a carrier deck, USS Hornet, and led to the first victory of World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert/Released)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Midday on April 18, 2016, more than 100 Airmen stood together at Ellsworth as they gave a toast to honor the 74th anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raid and the legacy left behind.

"Raiders are fundamentally the cornerstone of our heritage here at Ellsworth. That was acknowledged by the congressional delegation of South Dakota," said Col. John Martin, 28th Operations Group commander, referring to a proclamation published by South Dakota delegates recognizing Ellsworth as home to three of the four squadrons that participated in the raid.

During the event, Airmen from these units, the 37th and 34th Bomb Squadrons and the 432nd Attack Squadron, provided an overview of the raid's 16 crews, highlighting their individual missions, accomplishments and trials.

On April 18, 1942, 80 pilots led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle launched 16 B-25 aircraft to retaliate against Japan for the attack on Pearl Harbor that had occurred Dec. 7, 1941.

"Their mission was critical to the country's morale and war effort," said Capt. David, 37th BS pilot. "Their willing sacrifice is true courage in my opinion."

The mission marked many "firsts" for the Army Air Corps.

It was the first major planning collaboration between the Army Air Corps and Navy, as well as the first global strike mission flown, thus paving a way for the current Air Force major command, Air Force Global Strike Command, which provides strategic deterrence, global strike and combat support around the globe.

The Raiders were the first to fly bomber aircraft from a carrier deck which led to the first victory of World War II. The Japanese deployed fishing boats to alert the military of incoming attacks, causing the Doolittle Raiders to attack early, launching from the USS Hornet 150 miles out, rather than the carrier bringing the bombers closer to the coast of Japan.

Today, Ellsworth continues to honor the Doolittle Raider legacy and recognizes the heritage each year.

To conclude the evening's ceremony, a toast was led with a video message from retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole, one of the two surviving Doolittle Raiders.

The Hennessy toast symbolizes of a tradition that has occurred since 1946 when the remaining Raiders would gather each year to toast the raid and their comrades. Three of the 80 Raiders met for the last time in 2013 and opened a 1896 bottle of cognac bottle, given to Doolittle on his 60th birthday and saved for that event.

David commented it is always important to look at where we came from in order to determine where we are going.

"We know the precedent that has been set and we know what is being asked of us day in and day out," David said. "It is because of our predecessors that we are here today to continue the legacy of excellence in the fight which has been laid before us."

Not only does the story of the Doolittle Raiders echo in the hearts of Ellsworth's aviators, it can also relate to the Airmen of Ellsworth.

"The Doolittle Raid is of great significance to all Airmen," David said. "These brave 80 men embarked on a mission with no knowledge of what it entailed, only knowing that it was a mission for their country to help end the war and avenge Pearl Harbor. The ingenuity and creative minds of those involved exemplify what it is to be an Airman today and serve as an inspiration to all of us."