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Doolittle Raid exhibit of World War II artifacts opens at Palm-Aire

The Doolittle Display at Palm-Aire Country Club. 
 JAMES A. JONES JR./Bradenton Herald
The Doolittle Display at Palm-Aire Country Club. JAMES A. JONES JR./Bradenton Herald

UNIVERSITY PARK -- A display of artifacts from the B-25 bombers that took part in the April 18, 1942, Doolittle Raid on Tokyo is now on display to the public at Palm-Aire Golf and Country Club.

It is the first time that the artifacts, including carefully framed and captioned fragments of the bombers and letters from Jimmy Doolittle, have been shown in public. The Art Association of Palm-Aire is presenting the exhibit, which is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Nov. 29, to honor veterans. Artifacts were collected by search teams in China led by Palm-Aire resident Bryan Moon between 1990 and 1994.

The search team recovered items from four of the 16 Mitchell bombers that took part in the raid. Doolittle, a lieutenant colonel at the time, led America's first retaliatory air raid on the Japanese homeland following the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Joan and Phil Paulus of Palm-Aire had an opportunity to preview the exhibit before it opened to the public.

"It's a marvelous display. What Bryan has done is amazing," Joan Paulus said.

Moon, a former Royal Air Force pilot and Northwest Airline executive, is known for his whimsical paintings of animals, his swashbuckling life as an adventurer and his exploits as founder of MIA Hunters, a volunteer organization dedicated to finding and recovering the remains of American air crew members missing in action.

His quest has taken him to more than 34 search missions from China, to Vietnam and the Philippines.

"From World War II alone, there are 68,000 MIAs out there," he said in a 2006 Bradenton Herald interview, explaining his missions. "Does anyone need any other reason?"

A centerpiece of the Palm-Aire exhibit is Moon's painting of a B-25 Mitchell bomber from the Doolittle Raid that was found intact in about 40 feet of water,

"Twelve months of research and work had preceded the 1990 Doolittle Raiders China Expedition's arrival in Hangzhou. It had come as a surprise to me that no one in the past 48 years had looked for the lost bombers," Moon wrote in a memoir. "The surviving pilots and navigators of the Doolittle Raiders to whom I wrote were not optimistic that any parts of the aircraft could be found, given the Chinese aptitude for making use of any available materials."

Moon's search for one of the bombers lead to the coast of China, where villagers took his team to the site where a B-25 had crashed.

An elderly villager sold a parachute harness release she had removed from the body of one the Doolittle Raiders to Moon's team. The villager had kept the release, which is among the items displayed, nearly 50 years.

"It gives me shivers just to talk about it," said Palm-Aire resident Charleen Gorbet of the dangers and challenges Moon and his team faced in searching for B-25 crash sites.

Palm-Aire Golf and Country Club is located at 5601 Country Club Way, about two miles east of U.S. 301 and two miles west of Interstate 75 on the north side of University Parkway.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter@jajones1.

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