SEATTLE —Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, one of four surviving Doolittle Raiders who attacked Japan during a daring 1942 mission credited with rallying American morale during World War II, has died. He was 94.
Rod Saylor says his father died of natural causes on Wednesday in Sumner.
Saylor was a flight engineer-gunner who volunteered for the risky mission that sent 80 airmen in 16 B-25s from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in April 1942 to attack Tokyo.
The mission, led by Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Dolittle, did little damage to military targets, but it delivered a psychological blow to the enemy while inspiring Americans after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.
“They thought they couldn’t be hit. We got their attention pretty good,” Saylor once said.
He told The News Tribune in 2011 that his assignment was kept secret from him until the Hornet was out to sea. He played a critical role in repairing the engine of one of the bombers just before the raid, ensuring that all 16 planes could take off.
“If Ed had not fixed the problem, they would have pushed his B-25 overboard," longtime friend Brian Anderson of New Hampshire told Air Force Times. Anderson helped lobby lawmakers to award the raiders a Congressional Medal of Honor last year.
Saylor often spoke at military events in the South Sound and across the country, proudly but humbly sharing his role in a historic moment.
The attack famously launched earlier than planned, meaning crews had just enough fuel to drop their bombs. Saylor was in one of the 15 bombers that crash-landed into the China Sea. Villagers helped him to shore.
Saylor grew up on a ranch in Brusett, Montana, and enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1939. After his 28-year military career, Saylor settled in Tacoma.
News Tribune staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.