Retired Lt. Col. Robert Hite, one of the famed World War II Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, has died. He was 95 and had Alzheimer’s disease.
Hite died Sunday at a nursing facility in Nashville, according to his son Wallace Hite.
Hite was among 80 men aboard 16 B-25 bombers whose mission was to strike Japan in April 1942. Although the attack inflicted only scattered damage, it was credited with boosting American morale while shaking Japan’s confidence and prompting strategy shifts less than five months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Eight Raiders were captured and three were executed; one more died in captivity and three others were killed by crash-landing or ditching at sea. Hite, the co-pilot of the 16th bomber, was among the Japanese captives and was imprisoned for 40 months, much of that time in solitary confinement.
He was liberated by American troops in 1945.
“When he was captured, he was a little over 6 feet tall and about 175 pounds,” Wallace Hite said of his father in a 2013 interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “When he came out, he weighed 76 pounds.”
In 1951, Hite returned to active duty during the Korean War and was stationed at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Okla., and in Morocco. He left active duty in 1955 and managed hotels in Camden, Ark., and elsewhere.
Hite was born March 3, 1920, in Odell, Texas, and joined the Army Air Corps in Lubbock, Texas, when he was 20.
Among his decorations were the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.
Wallace Hite said his father would want to be remembered for his patriotism, and for others to share that sentiment.
“I think he would want two things: That’s the attitude we ought to have about our country; and the second is, he was just doing his job,” he said.
Hite’s death leaves two other surviving Raiders: retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole of Texas, who was Doolitte’s co-pilot, and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher of Montana.
The Raiders will be honored with the Congressional Gold Medal on April 15 in Washington, then present it on April 18 — the 73rd anniversary of the raid — to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
The gold medal will go on display at the museum near Dayton, Ohio, joining an exhibit depicting the launch of the Raiders’ 1942 attack from an aircraft carrier.
Besides his son Wallace, of Nashville, Hite is survived by a daughter, Catherine Landers of Hot Springs Village, Ark.; five grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, two great-great-grandchildren; his brother, Kenneth Hite of Lubbock; and his sister, Hazel Ricketts of Scottsdale, Ariz.