A U.S. Army Air Forces North American B-25B Mitchell bomber takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) during the “Doolittle Raid” on April 18, 1942.

A U.S. Army Air Forces North American B-25B Mitchell bomber takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) during the “Doolittle Raid” on April 18, 1942. (U.S. Navy)

(Tribune News Service) — A historical marker was recently unveiled in honor of Second-lieutenant Thadd H. Blanton, an airman from Gainesville who participated in the legendary “Doolittle” air raid over Japan in April 1942.

The marker was placed in Fairview Cemetery near the place where Blanton is buried. The ceremony corresponded with his birthday. The Sea Cadets Red River Battalion acted as the honor guard and family members of Blanton were in attendance.

Blanton was born on Feb. 25, 1919, and graduated from Newsome Doughtery Memorial High School, which would later become Gainesville High School, in 1936. He attended Gainesville Junior College (now North Central Texas College) from 1936 to 1939 before transferring to North Texas State Teachers College (now University of North Texas) in Denton.

On Nov. 25, 1940, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet and trained as a pilot at the West Coast Army Air Corps Training Center at Sunnyvale, California. He received his wings and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Force at Moffett Field, California on July 11, 1941.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan attacked the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii, the first attack of World War II on American soil. President Roosevelt asked the military to come up with a plan for a retaliatory air raid on Japan. Blanton and 139 other men volunteered for the dangerous mission which has since become known as the “ Jimmy Doolittle Raid,” named for Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle who led the raid.Of the 140 men, 20 were mechanics, radio operators, maintenance personnel and other jobs on the ground. The remaining 120 were divided among the 24 planes. The plan was for each plane to drop four 5000-pound bombs on a 120-mile stretch of cities, including Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe. The men were told to bomb various plants and factories but to not attack civilians, schools, hospitals or the Imperial Palace.

Blanton was the co-pilot of “The Fickle Finger of Fate,” the 12th bomber to leave the aircraft carrier, the Hornet. Along with him were pilot Lt. William M. Bower, navigator Lt. William R. Pound, bombardier Sergeant Waldo J. Bither and engineer/gunner Staff Sergeant Omer Adelard Duquette.

The crew bombed an area inland east of Yokohama destroying two buildings and damaging a third. No one was killed. They then had to abandon the aircraft in flight due to insufficient fuel to make it to an area of China not occupied by Japanese forces.

Blanton flew 35 missions in his career, serving in combat as a pilot until he was removed in July 1943 to perform other duties in the United States. He married Sarah Helen Weed on Sept. 15, 1945, and retired from the Air Force in 190. He passed away on Sept. 27, 1961, and was buried in Fairview Cemetary with military honors.

(c)2023 the Gainesville Daily Register (Gainesville, Texas)

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