Happy Anniversary, Grant County Airport

Tomorrow afternoon B-25 “Grumpy” will cross the Cascades for a visit to Grant County Airport on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary. Prior to its current status as a general aviation airport, the facilities were known as Larson Air Force Base. Larson served as the primary defender of Manhattan Project activities at a rather curious facility called Hanford. Congratulations to Grant County Airport and all the other airports east of the mountains with vintage aviation enthusiasts, including Yakima, Pasco, Wenatchee and Spokane.

This will be Grumpy’s first flight following the David Thatcher memorial flight on Monday in Missoula. Our crew flew from Paine Field to Missoula last Sunday afternoon, which was brilliant across three states. That evening we were invited to visit with Dawn Thatcher (David’s wife of 70 years) and Dick Cole, Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot and now the only surviving Doolittle Raider. Dick smiled as he considered the odds against his singular status. At the time of the raid, he was one of the older participants. He is now 100 years young.

David Thatcher personified a generation. Several of the Grumpy crew had gotten to know him over the years at Raider reunions. He was a quiet hero. The only enlisted man on the crew of Raider 7, the “Ruptured Duck,” David saved the lives of all four crewmates after their crash landing in China. The only one who could walk, he and friendly Chinese avoided Japanese soldiers for days as they carried their comrades to safety. His pilot, Ted Lawson, later wrote Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, in many ways a tribute to David Thatcher. For his courage and valor, David was awarded the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross. He continued his service in the European Theater. Following the war he worked for the Postal Service in his beloved Missoula.

On Monday we followed (not too closely) a B-1 from Ellsworth Air Base to the grave-side ceremony. The B-1 made a low pass as an airman completed taps. We then flew the four points of a cross followed by an ascending spiral of three turns, departing to the west. It was a proper farewell.

Three of the crew from our Missoula mission will join all of you in Moses Lake tomorrow. Have a great time. The balance of the HFF road crew will participate in “Wings and Wheels” and “Freedom Fair” at Tacoma.