A man who spent his final months in Richland will be honored with one of the country’s two highest civilian honors.
The Congressional Gold Medal will be presented April 15 to the Doolittle Raiders. Lt. Col. Clayton J. Campbell, a navigator on a five-man, B-25 bomber, is one of the 80 fliers being recognized.
Campbell’s plane was one of 16 that took off from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet on an April 18, 1942, raid led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle.
It was intended to shake the Japanese out of their feelings of invulnerability after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack caused little actual damage, but it is believed to have had a significant psychological impact on the Japanese military, forcing Japan to pull back forces from the front lines.
Campbell moved to Richland from Boise to be closer to his daughter, Beth Carothers, a few months before he died at 85 in 2002. Now Carothers is a member of the recently organized Children of the Doolittle Raiders, which seeks to keep the group’s legacy alive.
“I feel certain that none of the Doolittle Raiders ever thought to seek recognition in the way that the Congressional Gold Medal awards their joint act of selfless bravery and heroism in a situation where survival seemed impossible,” Crothers said. “However, Congress bestowing this honor helps to ensure that their legacy continues to receive the attention and the conversation it deserves.”
Doolittle, already received the military’s highest award, the Medal of Honor, and accepted it on behalf of the entire group, Carothers said.
The gold medal will be taken to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, where it will be transferred to the museum in an April 18 ceremony. According to a museum news release, the two surviving members of the group, Lt. Col. Dick Cole of Texas and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher of Montana, will attend the event.
The medal will be on permanent display as part of a diorama of the raid.
Also, there will be Carothers’ sister-in-law, Ann Campbell of Richland, and three of her children, including John T. Campbell of Kennewick.
“It’ll be nice to finally see some significant recognition for the contribution of the Doolittle Raiders to the war effort and the overall morale of the country,” John Campbell said.
Lt. Col. Campbell's plane was the 13th to leave the Hornet's flight deck, and bombed ships and docks in Tokyo Bay, according to Herald archives. Campbell took two photographs of Tokyo as his plane circled its target — the only two photos still existing that were shot from the raid's planes.
The crew members bailed out over China when their plane ran out of fuel. Chinese villagers hid them until they could be smuggled to friendly forces.
Campbell later led 25 more raids against Japan, flying out of China, Carothers said. One of his plane’s bombs hit and sunk a Japanese cargo ship that was carrying parts to build 500 Zero fighter planes.