Crowds line up to meet Doolittle's Raiders for last time

6:33 AM, Apr 30, 2013   |    comments
  • Edward Saylor / CBS News
  • David Thatcher / CBS News
  • Richard Cole / CBS News
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(CBS News) FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. -- It's easy to spot Doolittle's Raiders. They're the guys in the white hats. Take a good look at Edward Saylor, David Thatcher and Richard Cole. This is the last time you'll see them together.

"If you didn't decide to wind it down, you might end up having to plan a reunion and so forth and end up with no people," Cole says, when asked why they decided to stop participating in public reunions. 

They're all in their 90s now, but in the darkest days of World War II, they were daring young men who launched the first American attack on Tokyo, flying B-25 bombers that were never meant to take off from an aircraft carrier.

It's been 71 years.

"We thought they'd forget about it by now," Cole says.

Not a chance. The line for autographs at a museum in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was over an hour long. Paul and Danna Fleming, of Maryland, took their children out of school to see them.

"Drove straight through, 16 hours straight to get here for today," Danna says. "We drove all night," adds Paul.

Phyllis Green got there early to be at the front of the line.

"I wanted to take the opportunity to see them and thank them for their service," she says.

Eighty men took off in 16 bombers. Eleven were killed or captured. Thirteen more lost their lives later in the war. These three survived the enemy and the actuarial tables but found out being on a pedestal can be tough work.

"People want to hear all about it," Saylor says. "OK, we'll tell them."

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