February 28, 2013
By Alyssa J. Miller
Thomas C. Griffin, a navigator on Crew No. 9 during the famed Tokyo Raid on Japan on April 18, 1942, died Feb. 26 at the age of 96.
Griffin was one of the four remaining Doolittle Tokyo Raiders who attended the seventieth reunion of the group in 2012 at Dayton, Ohio. (The fifth Raider, Robert L. Hite, was unable to attend last year’s event.) The event featured a gathering of North American B–25 Mitchells and a flyover of 20 of the aircraft in loose formation.
Born on July 10, 1917, in Green Bay, Wis., Griffin was commissioned on July 15, 1939.
As a navigator on the Tokyo Raid, led by James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, Griffin planned the course for his B-25’s crew from 650 miles out to sea on the USS Hornet. “On this particular mission, it was more or less dead reckoning,” Griffin told AOPA in 2012 as he recalled using wind information and a magnetic compass to figure his course. (See “Secret Mission” in the October 2012 issue of AOPA Pilot.) His calculations showed they would have to ditch 200 to 300 miles off the coast of China, but a change in the winds allowed the crew to bomb the Tokyo Gas and Electric Co. and make it to China’s mainland before bailing out.
Griffin returned to the United States after the Tokyo Raid but later joined the crew of a B–26 in North Africa in World War II. He survived a crash on one assignment and a bailout on another. Griffin spent most of the final two years of World War II as a prisoner of war in Germany.
The four remaining Doolittle Tokyo Raiders are Richard E. Cole, David J. Thatcher, Edward J. Saylor, and Robert L. Hite.
AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Miller has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.
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