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Sixty Years After Mission, Gray Still Getting Tributes

Robert Gray and fellow soldiers

Editor's note: The airfield is named after a famed World War II pilot. This article ran in the Killeen Daily Herald April 17, 2002

Robert Gray and fellow pilots

Thursday marks the 60th Anniversary of Dolittle's raid over Tokyo.

Killeen officials plan to memorialize its ties to the famous military mission when the new joint-use terminal opens in 2004.

A museum-quality replica of Robert Gray's B-25 Mitchell bomber will hang from the ceiling of the terminal, said John Sutton, airport projects manager.

Army Air Corps pilot Robert Gray flew the third played in Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle's mission to shore up morale after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Gray was born and raised in Killeen. He was a Killeen High School football star and graduate before he entered the Air Corps. in 1940.

Grey flew his bomber — named Whiskey Pete after a horse he kept in Killeen — off the deck of the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942.

B-52After bombing a Japanese munitions factory, gray and his crew bailed out of the Whiskey Pete over China.

Gray's gunner, Cpl. Leland D. Faktor, was killed during the bailout. Faktor was the first of three crewmembers to die after crash landings or bailouts. Eight crewmembers were captured by the Japanese. Three of the captured crewmembers were later executed.

Adding to the mission's danger was the long range the 16 planes were expected to fly to their targets. That meant they would have to crash land in China after the mission.

Doolittle's planes were modified to carry additional fuel. A website devoted to the B-25 Mitchell said certain modifications were necessary to make the planes suitable for the mission.

"The retractable ventral turret was removed, saving 600 lbs. of weight," the web site stated. More fuel was added to the planes wing tanks, bomb bay tank and to a collapsible tank carried in the crawl space above the bomb bay. Gas was stored in the ventral turret space.

Fellow pilot Capt. Ted D. Lawson wrote a book about the raid titles 30 Seconds over Tokyo.

When the book was made into a movie, Robert Mitchum portrayed Gray and Spencer Tracey played Doolittle.

Besides Killeen's plans for a replica of Whiskey Pete, a 7-foot statue of Gray is planned for the joint-use terminal.

Salado artist Troy Kelley will create the cast bronze statues of Gray and the late Ted. C. Connell, for whom the terminal will be named.

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