Victory Started Here! The Midlands is commemorating the three-pronged 75th anniversary of related historic WWII events: Pearl Harbor, the opening of Columbia Army Air Base, and the Doolittle Raid in a series of patriotic and cultural observances.

This calendar year the world recalls that 75 years ago Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. That Dec. 7, 1941, called a Day of Infamy by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, pushed laborers, engineers and inspectors to speed up completion of what, during its hurried development, had been called Lexington County Airfield.

The civilian airfield was part of a federal defense initiative to establish a network of strategically-placed airfields around the nation. It opened several days earlier than scheduled and was quickly militarized.

An observation group that had been flying out of (then) Owens Field, patrolling the South Carolina coast for German submarines, became the base’s first personnel. In April 1942 the named changed to Columbia Army Air Base (CAAB,) and was designated as a B- 25 bomber training center.

Early in 1942, airmen from Pendleton AFB were ordered to fly their B-25s from Oregon to Columbia. Soon they were greeted by Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle who had arrived in the midlands to recruit volunteers for a top-secret mission. å

Training for those selected crews only continued here for a few weeks, then they transferred to Eglin AFB, FLA. From Florida they moved on to California where, in early April, crews and B-25s were loaded onto the aircraft carrier, USS Hornet.

From the deck of that carrier, 16 planes launched on April 18, 1942, and carried fiery retribution to the industrial areas of Tokyo. Loss of men and airplanes were deeply-felt casualties; however, the audacious Tokyo Raid positively altered American morale. History recounts that initiative as the Doolittle Raid.

The commemorative series has begun. Among the first events was a presentation held at Hamilton-Owens Airport in mid-February when the South Carolina Historic Aviation Foundation. (SCHAF) hosted Martin Crouch, son of Horace “Sally” Crouch, the only Columbian to fly on the fabled mission. Martin Crouch spoke to a rapt audience about his father and the Doolittle Raiders.

The first of a series of historic Lake Murray cruises took place Saturday, Feb. 25. According to Ken Colton, “the Lake Murray Chamber of Commerce is partnering with Lake Murray Cruises to provide 15 history cruises to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the aviation training over Lake Murray and the Doolittle Raid.”

Colton said the 2 1/2 hour cruises departing from Hollow Creek Marina, Leesville, SC, also are focusing on Shull Island, the air base in Lexington County (CAAB,) and the B-25 removed from Lake Murray in 2005. That Mitchell bomber, whose crew was attached to CAAB, ditched into the lake on a routine training mission April 4, 1943.

To date, cruises announced are: Sunday, March 12, 5:30 pm; Sunday, March 26, 12:30 pm; Saturday, April 8, 11:30 am.; and Saturday, April 29, 5:30 pm. Colton said other cruises will be scheduled through the summer.

To reserve passage, call 803- 730-3044 or go to Scroll down; Pull down the Public button. Golden Kiwanis will host Richard Peterson at 9:45 am Wednesday, March 29, at Lourie Senior Center for a presentation on the development of Columbia Army Air Base and its effects on the Midlands, Lake Murray, and the Doolittle Raid. Guests are welcome to this meeting.

Friday, March 31, Columbia Metropolitan Airport is hosting bus tours of the former Columbia Army Air Base before (at 10 am) and again at noon, immediately following an 11 am media-supported presentation by Richard Peterson. Peterson will discuss CAAB, the Doolittle Raiders and Lake Murray in the Carolina Room, lower level (baggage claim area.) W. Harold Jones will lead the bus tours. Free; registration required: call W. Harold Jones, 803 – 622- 4120. Parking tickets will be validated. For tour, meet at entrance to CMA ticket area (inside, gather at entrance to USO Club/Doolittle exhibit.)

Thursday, April 6, additional emphasis of Lake Murray’s significance to CAAB/Doolittle Raid will take place at Crooked Creek Park, Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission, 1098 Old Lexington Highway, Chapin, SC 29036.

At 7:30 am, the Chapin Sunrise Rotary Club will hear Richard Peterson whose family was involved in multiple aspects of this history. At 10:30 am the Senior Lunch Bunch will have a presentation by Rachel Haynie, author of: “Stalled,” a novel that opens with the ditching of the B-25, as well as “Cornfield to Airfield: A History of Columbia Army Air Base.” Randall Shealy, revered local historian, will have Show and Tell tables of artifacts set up in the lobby and will discuss Lake Murray history to all interested. Public invited to any/all components. Free.

Saturday, April 8 SCHAF will dedicate its Second Saturday Open House at Hamilton Owens Airport, 10 am and noon, to commemorate the Doolittle Raid and the B-25’s involvement in that mission to Tokyo.

Saturday, April 8 also is History Day at the South Carolina State Museum (SCSM.) Ron Shelton, SCHAF education vice president and SCSM science curator emeritus will greet visitors at 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm on the museum’s third level at the model of the USS Hornet for a talk about the 16 B-25s and crews recruited for a top secret mission at CAAB before all launched from the deck of the USS Hornet that fateful April day to make their audacious run to Japan. Museum admission.

Tuesday, April 18, the raid anniversary date, 1942, will feature a Lourie Center dance and concert, music by the Capital City Big Band, directed by Dick Goodwin. Tickets are $10; to purchase/for more information go to events/upcoming-concert/.

Monday, April 24, during a 6 pm meeting of the Dutch Fork Historical Society, Chapin Library, 212 S. Lake Drive, Lexington (803-785-2600,) Kay Gordon will recount her recollections and engagement with the rescue of the Lake Murray Bomber and her story published in Air & Space Magazine Free, open to public.

Friday, June 2, noon, author James Scott will speak about and sign copies of his critically-acclaimed book “Target Tokyo,” during the SC Confederate Relic Room and History Museum’s Lunch and Learn. Free, open to public.

Other cultural organizations are encouraged to include any related events to this open commemoration by listing their events in local calendars.

75th Anniversary