The 70th Doolittle Raider Reunion, Inbound

We bid “good-bye” to friends at Grimes Field on the Friday morning of the Reunion, April 20th. Weather changes were forecast, but reporting stations indicated ceilings of at least 2,500 feet. Once again, a front bisected the midwest. We chose our path to maximize chances of continuous flight under visual rules, but it was not to be. During our flight we sought and obtained an instrument clearance to 10,000 feet, prompting use of all available clothing. Grumpy’s undersized heater gave up sometime during Lend/Lease. Happily, the skies cleared as we began our descent to a fuel stop. After a short break, we continued to Ellsworth AFB near Rapid City, South Dakota.
It occurred to the crew that a stop at Ellsworth would be historically significant because Jimmy Doolittle “recruited” his volunteers from four squadrons, three of which are based at Ellsworth; the 34th, 37th and 432nd. These units today fly B-1 bombers, generally supporting troops in Afghanistan on rotating 6-month deployments. Visiting required special Pentagon approval as we were not part of an air show. The chain of command came through and a “call out” was arranged for our 4:30 arrival on that Friday afternoon. We flew an extended arrival sequence ending in the downwind opposing a landing B-1. “You first, by all means.” The ground crews juxtaposed our “Grumpy” at a right angle to a display B-1… what a picture! We gave and received tours, answered questions (by now the entire crew of guests had become ambassadors) and thanked the Air Force personnel for their service. Patches were exchanged. Then the commanding officer invited all of us to his house for a “roof stomp.” Apparently it’s a custom to assemble your subordinate officers at your home in anticipation of a change in command. Since several of the B-1 pilots soon would ship out to fly over Afghanistan, this was the CO’s last opportunity to properly host a “roof stomp” before he moved on to his next command. So before the party got underway, all of the flyers climbed onto the roof of their CO for a group photo. We were honored to be included in the entire evening. We left behind all of our remaining B-25 t-shirts and several bottles of “Grumpy Red.” On departure the next morning, we contributed to the memorabilia of the briefing room by leaving an exhaust stack on the runway. It is now used as a souvenir collar for an autographed and dated bottle of “Grumpy Red.”