By 1st Lt. Amanda Farr
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Doolittle Raider Lt. Col. Robert Hite was buried with military honors April 2 in Camden after a funeral service in his home church.
Hite was among 80 men who took part in the famous World War II Doolittle Toyko Raid in April 1942. Hite, 95, died March 29 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Family and friends began the commemoration of Hite’s life at Saint John’s Episcopal Church with a traditional funeral service. They departed the church for a gravesite service at Memorial Park Cemetery in Camden.
Hite was given a hero’s escort from the church to the cemetery, as Maul Road was lined with community members waving American flags as the procession passed.
Before remarks from the reverend at the cemetery, the service opened with flyover by a B-1 from the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota.
The Little Rock Air Force Base Honor Guard led the gravesite service and performed a flag-folding ceremony, three-volley gun salute and presented three polished rounds to Hite’s son, Wallace Hite.
The service culminated with the playing of “Taps” followed by a heritage flyover including a B-25 and three P-40 aircraft.
During the Doolittle Raid mission, led by then Col. Jimmy Doolittle, Hite was the co-pilot on plane 16, a B-25 dubbed the “Bat Out of Hell.” After the bombing runs, Hite’s crew was forced to bailout because of low fuel. Hite landed in a rice paddy and was captured by the Japanese. He was one of eight men captured by the Japanese, and he was held as a prisoner of war for 40 months before he was liberated Aug. 20, 1945.
A small delegation from Little Rock AFB, about two hours from Camden, attended the event to offer condolences to his family and render respect to Hite and the Doolittle Raiders’ legacy.
“The loss of Lt. Col. Hite was felt across our nation, as we also lost a member of our military family,” said Col. Patrick Rhatigan, 19th Airlift Wing and installation commander. “The entire Team Little Rock community shares in the sorrow felt by his loved ones.”
One distinguished guest included Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, fellow Doolittle Raider, who joined family and friends to honor his comrade. With Hite’s passing, Cole and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher remain the only two surviving Raiders.
The Doolittle Raiders will be honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony April 15 in Washington D.C, then present it April 18 - the 73rd anniversary of the raid - to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.
The medal will be displayed as part of a larger Raiders exhibit in the museum.
“I was humbled to attend the service of Lt. Col. Hite,” said Rhatigan. “He helped lay the foundation for our great Air Force. It was simply a privilege to join his family and friends to remember, celebrate and honor an incredible American hero.”
After Hite’s passing, his son Wallace told the Associated Press his father would want to be remembered for his patriotism, and for others to share the same 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.”