BY MA ZHENHUAN (CHINA DAILY) and SILVI WRITER
Susann Ozuk knelt down and peered at a historical photo reprinted on a display board. “See! That’s my father back then,” she called out, unable to restrain her excitement.
“Thank you for your efforts in helping me better understand the story of my father,” she said, hugging history researcher Zheng Weiyong at the Memorial Hall to the Doolittle Raid in Quzhou, eastern China’s coastal Zhejiang province.
The memorial hall was launched on Thursday in remembrance of the heroic raid and the selflessness of Quzhou villagers who helped rescue United States pilots.
Susann, from the US, is the daughter of Charles Ozuk, navigator of plane No. 3 in the raid 76 years ago.
The attack, also known as the Tokyo Raid, referred to the aerial operation by the US over Tokyo on April 18, 1942, the first such activity to strike the Japanese home islands.
It demonstrated that the Japanese mainland was vulnerable to US air attack, and served as retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It also provided an important boost to the morale of the allied nations during the conflict.
The raid was planned and led by US Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle, who led a team of 16 B-25B medium-range bombers without fighter escort.
Doolittle and his 16 B-25 crews took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet On April 18, reached Japan, and bombed their targets.
Fifteen of the planes then headed for their recovery airfield in China, while one crew chose to land in Russia due to their bomber’s unusually high fuel consumption.
As did most of the other crewmen who participated in the one-way mission, Doolittle and his crew bailed out safely over China when their B-25 ran out of fuel. By then, they had been flying for about 12 hours, it was nighttime, the weather was stormy, and Doolittle was unable to locate their landing field.
Doolittle came down in a rice paddy near Quzhou. Other aircrews were not so fortunate, as most of the planes either performed forced landings or crashed in China’s Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Fujian and Anhui provinces as they ran out of fuel before trying to reach the recovery airfield.
The US flyers who landed in China were helped by locals who led them past Japanese lines.
Sixty-four of the crew members reached safety, eight were captured by the Japanese army and three died in the forced landings.
Retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole, the last surviving Doolittle Tokyo Raider, recently celebrated his 103rd birthday.
“In Zhejiang, flight crew units No 3 and No 5 parachuted and safely landed in Jiangshan county, Quzhou. Local villagers rescued them from the mountains and sent them to safety,” Zheng said.
Zheng first heard about the story in 2010, the year in which Charles Ozuk passed away, and eventually got in touch with Susann, who came to Quzhou last week with another 23 members of Children of Doolittle Raiders in the US, a group of family members of the raiders dedicated to preserving the history of the operation and the raiders.
Aside from 200 original historical items related to the raid, the hall also displays historical documents and files donated by civilians in Quzhou.
Jeff Thatcher, president of CDR, said the memorial hall serves as a testimony of their fathers and a symbol of cooperation and friendship between the US and China.
“I sincerely hope that more will understand and remember this part of history,” he said.