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Minnesota-born World War II veterans set to receive congressional honor

Posted by: Corey Mitchell under Minnesota congressional Updated: May 23, 2014 - 1:05 PM

More than 70 years after helping change the course of World War II, two Minnesota-born veterans are set to posthumously receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

Both chambers of Congress have passed legislation to grant the Congressional Gold Medal to the Doolittle Raiders, a group of 80 men who flew a raid on Tokyo, Japan, in April 1942 that helped change the course of World War II.

President Obama will sign the legislation Friday.

The raid, led by Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, was the first successful American retaliatory strike after Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor and included bombardier Minnesota natives Wayne Max Bissell and pilot J. Royden Stork. Bissell was born in Cass County’s Walker, and Stork was born in Frost in Faribault County.

Only four of the 80 Doolittle Raiders are living. Bissell died in 1997 and Stork in 2002.

The two have received a host of honors, including the Distinguished Flying Cross for “heroism or extraordinary achievement” and the Air Medal for meritorious achievement.

One of the nation's highest honors, the Congressional Gold Medal is awarded to those “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement,” according to the Congressional Research Service.

Past medal recipients include former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, civil rights activist Roy Wilkins, cartoonist Charles Schulz and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug. The list of recipients with Minnesota ties also includes members of the Tuskegee Airmen and Women Airforce Service Pilots.

In the Doolittle Raid, Bissell served as a bombardier on the ninth of the 16 B-25 Bombers, which bombed the Tokyo Gas and Electric Company. The distance the crews flew left them short of fuel needed to reach airfields in China.

After the attack, Bissell’s crew parachuted into Chinese mountains, eventually making their way to Allied territory through India.

After parachuting to safety, Stork, who co-piloted the 10th aircraft, endured a four-day trek to a rendezvous point.

“I just consider myself as a lucky guy,” Stork said in a National Geographic television program, “Pearl Harbor: Legacy of Attack.”

“There were plenty of fellows I graduated with from flying school that ended up in the major league in England where they’d send out 100 B-17’s and they’d get only 30 back. I’m not a hero.”
 

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