A Gut Check of Sorts: The Doolittle Brandy Don Rightmyer
During my Second Class year (’71-’72), I was chairman of the Cadet Wing Heritage Committee. This experience I’m about to relate occurred around the fact that I represented the remainder of the Cadet Wing on several occasions regarding the Academy and Air Force heritage.
At that time (1972), the display case that held the eighty Doolittle Raider goblets and an accompanying 1942-vintage bottle of brandy was publicly displayed to the right of the door leading into the Cadet Store in Vandenberg Hall. The Doolittle Raiders – Lt. Gen. Jimmy Doolittle and the other survivors of the seventy-nine men that flew with him to bomb Tokyo – allowed this unique remembrance of their mission to reside at the Academy. The case and the engraved goblets were transported every year to where the members of the Doolittle group were meeting for what had become an annual reunion. During that weekend, the Raiders would have a private ceremony in which they would toast those of their group who had died during the previous year. In the spring of 1972, I was sent along with a member of the Class of 1972 to the annual Doolittle Raiders reunion at the Sheraton Universal Hotel in Hollywood.
Several weeks earlier that spring, it had been discovered that the bottle of brandy had been taken from the display case. To my knowledge, it was never determined who had ripped it off but a replacement bottle was obtained. Despite that happening, the goblets HAD to go to the reunion. I was the obvious cadet to accompany them, and the theft of the bottle had only occurred weeks earlier. So, the First Classman and I were the perceived “lightning rods.” Going in, I wasn’t too worried about Gen. Doolittle or one of the other men jumping us, but as the first evening (a huge flashy Hollywood-style banquet) went on and over the next two days, I was fearful someone would get a drink too many under his belt and let us have it. Thankfully, it never happened, and we mingled and talked with Doolittle and the other Raiders continuously through the weekend. I think (don’t know this for sure) that they all knew what had happened and they had been firmly reminded that we two USAFA cadets were not the ones who had done it. The weekend was such that you’d never know anything had happened. But, I was really glad when it came time to re-board the airplane on Sunday and head back to Colorado.
Don Rightmyer, Cadet Squadron 02