CINCINNATI (AP) — A Doolittle Raider who spent most of World War II in Japanese captivity can't make it to Saturday's final toast ceremony in Ohio, but his son says his father has already offered his own salute to fallen comrades.
Robert Hite, 93, of Nashville, Tenn., suffers from dementia and hasn't attended recent reunions. His son Wallace Hite said he wouldn't be able to take part in the ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, near Dayton.
But he said family and nurses dressed his father this week in a Doolittle Raider blazer and other garb traditional for the reunions. He said his father sipped wine from a silver goblet similar to those used by the Raiders, then, eyes filling with tears, lifted his left hand in salute.
"It was a special moment," Wallace Hite said. "It was his moment."
The other three surviving Raiders will gather Saturday for what they have said will be their last ceremonial toast together. They honor those who died in the war or have passed away since then. Hite's son and other family members plan to attend the ceremony to represent him.
Hite is the last survivor of the eight Raiders who were captured by the Japanese. Three were executed and another died in captivity. The Japanese called them war criminals for their daring bombing attack on mainland Japan in 1942. Hite said his father lost nearly 100 pounds during 40 months of captivity.
Wallace Hite said his father usually appears to be in good spirits and was delighted by a recent visit by Richard Cole, Doolittle's co-pilot and the oldest surviving Raider at 98.
"Richard!" he called out affectionately when he saw Cole, usually called Dick by other Raiders.