Tom Griffin (aviator)

Last updated
Thomas Carson Griffin
Tom Griffin (cropped).jpg
Born(1916-07-10)July 10, 1916
Green Bay, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedFebruary 26, 2013(2013-02-26) (aged 96)
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
AllegianceFlag of the United States.svg  United States of America
Branch United States Army Air Forces
United States Air Force Reserves
Years of service1939–1959
Rank US Air Force O4 shoulderboard rotated.svg Major
Unit 34th Bomb Squadron
438th Bombardment Squadron
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal (4)

Thomas Carson Griffin (July 10, 1916 – February 26, 2013) was a United States Army Air Forces navigator who served during World War II. He was one of the eighty Doolittle Raiders who bombed Japan in April 1942. After the Doolittle Raid, he was relocated to North Africa and was shot down during an air raid in 1943, spending time in a prisoner-of-war camp until he was rescued in early 1945. [1] [2] [3]


Early life

Griffin was born on 1916 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In 1939, he graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. [4]

Military career

On May 15, 1939, through the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps program at the University of Alabama, Griffin was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Coast Artillery. From July 1939 to July 1940, he served with the 61st Coast Artillery before requesting relief from active duty in 1940 to enlist as a flying cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was re-commissioned on July 1, 1940, and awarded his Navigator Wings on June 24, 1941. He was then assigned to the 17th Bombardment Group in Pendleton, Oregon, which was equipped with the North American B-25 Mitchell bombers. [4] [5]

World War II

Doolittle Raid

Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 9, 34th Bomb Squadron. From left to right: Lt. Thomas C. Griffin, navigator; Lt. Harold F. Watson, pilot; TSgt. Eldred V. Scott, gunner; Lt. James F. Parker, copilot; SSgt. Wayne M. Bissell, bombardier. On the deck of USS Hornet, April 18, 1942 Crew 9 Doolittle raid.jpg
Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 9, 34th Bomb Squadron. From left to right: Lt. Thomas C. Griffin, navigator; Lt. Harold F. Watson, pilot; TSgt. Eldred V. Scott, gunner; Lt. James F. Parker, copilot; SSgt. Wayne M. Bissell, bombardier. On the deck of USS Hornet, April 18, 1942

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the 17th BG immediately began anti-submarine patrols off the coast of Oregon and Washington. [4]

In February 1942, Griffin volunteered for a "secret mission", even though he did not know what duties were involved or any other details. This mission ended up being the critical Doolittle Raid, which was led by Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle. The raid was daring not only because of the intended targets, the Japanese homeland, but because the pilots trained to take-off in a B-25 bomber from the deck of an aircraft carrier, something neither the designers of the B-25, nor the aircraft carrier, ever envisioned. [6]

Griffin was the navigator for ninth bomber, plane# 40-2303 nicknamed "Whirling Dervish", to depart the deck of the USS Hornet during the mission. On April 18, 1942, Griffin and his B-25's four crewmembers, took off from the Hornet and reached Tokyo, Japan. They bombed their target; Tokyo Gas and Electric Company building in the southern part of the city. They then headed for their recovery airfield in China. Running low on fuel due to the early launch of the raid, the B-25s failed to reach any of the designated safety zones in China. Griffin and his crew bailed out behind Japanese lines over the city of Nanchang in Jiangxi Province, China. The pilot of Griffin's bomber, First Lieutenant Harold F. Watson, was badly injured during the bail out and was carried to Hengyang in a porter by friendly Chinese civilians along with the bomber's crew. On April 30, after the crew made their way to Chungking, Griffin, Doolittle and other bomber crew members were decorated by Madame Chiang Kai-shek. [4] [7]

Post raid

After the raid, from April to August 1942, Griffin remained in China, where flew one additional combat mission with the 34th Bomb Squadron. He was later reassigned as a B-26 Marauder navigator with the 438th Bombardment Squadron of the 319th Bombardment Group. On September 1942, the unit was sent to England and later to North Africa. Griffin flew 19 missions in support of Operation Torch and in preparation for the Allied invasion of Sicily. On July 4, 1943, his aircraft was shot down over Sicily and after bailing out, he was captured and taken prisoner by the Germans. He remained as a prisoner of war until April 1945, when his prison camp was liberated by Allied troops. [4] [8]

Later life

Neil Armstrong (left) and Tom Griffin in 2009 Charles Metcalf DESA ceremony-Neil Armstrong and Tom Griffin.jpg
Neil Armstrong (left) and Tom Griffin in 2009

Griffin was married to Esther Brooks (Jones) Griffin, who died in 2005, for 60 years. Thomas and Esther had two sons, and several grand and great-grandchildren. [9] [10]

After the end of World War II, Griffin left active duty on February 22, 1946. He remained in the U.S. Air Force Reserves until April 1959. He moved to Cincinnati where he engaged in accounting business. Griffin joined the Doolittle Raiders Association, and attended every reunion except the final reunion, which was scheduled for April 2013, due to him dying on February 2013. [5] [11]

Griffin died on February 26, 2013, in a Veteran Affairs nursing home in Cincinnati, at the age of 96. He was buried with full military honors at Hillside Chapel Crematory and Columbarium in Cincinnati. His death leaves just four surviving Doolittle Raiders. [12] [13] [5]

Awards and decorations

United States Air Force Navigator Observer Badge.svg
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Air Medal ribbon.svg
Prisoner of War Medal ribbon.svg American Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal ribbon.svg
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon.svg
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg Air Force Longevity Service ribbon.svg
AFRM with Hourglass Device.jpg Medal of the Armed Forces, A-First Class ribbon.png China War Memorial Medal ribbon.png
U.S. Air Force Senior Navigator/Observer Badge
Distinguished Flying Cross
Air Medal
with three bronze oak leaf clusters
Prisoner of War Medal American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal Asiatic–Pacific Campaign Medal
with bronze campaign star
European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
with two bronze campaign stars
World War II Victory Medal National Defense Service Medal Air Force Longevity Service Award
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
with bronze hourglass device
Republic of China Medal of the Armed Forces
Republic of China War Memorial Medal

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  1. Slotnik, Daniel E. (4 March 2013). "Maj. Thomas C. Griffin, Doolittle Raider, Dies at 96". New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  2. Sewell, Dan (28 February 2013). "Thomas Griffin Dead: Doolittle Raider Dies At 96". Huffington Post. AP. Archived from the original on 28 February 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  3. "Doolittle Raider WWII vet Tom Griffin dies at 96". KYPOST. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "Thomas C. Griffin". Gathering of Eagles. Retrieved 2022-09-29.
  5. 1 2 3 "Thomas C. Griffin". Veteran Tributes. Retrieved 2022-09-29.
  6. Kendall, Mary Claire (2012-11-11). "Doolittle's Raiders And The Miracle That Saved Them". Forbes. Retrieved 2022-09-29.
  7. "Crew of 9th Aircraft Plane # 40-2303 - "Whirling Dervish" - Crew from 34th Squadron, 17th Group". Children of the Doolittle Raiders. Retrieved 2022-09-29.
  8. Radel, Cliff (2013-02-27). "Doolittle Raider who shunned title of 'hero' dies". USA Today. Retrieved 2022-09-29.
  9. "Thomas Griffin". Legacy. 2013. Retrieved 2022-09-29.
  10. Teague, Hawkins (2022-05-27). "80 years later, Doolittle Raider's son talks impact on WW II". Murray Ledger. Retrieved 2022-09-29.
  11. "Obituaries - Thomas C. Griffin, Doolittle Raider". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2022-09-29.
  12. "Cincinnati remembers 'Doolittle Raider' Maj. Tom Griffin". FOX 19. 2013-02-28. Retrieved 2022-09-29.
  13. Sewell, Dan (2013-02-28). "'Doolittle Raider' Tom Griffin dies at 96". Herald-Tribune. Retrieved 2022-09-29.

Further reading

External video
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