The luck of the Irish helped Tom Griffin cheat death eight times during World War II.
He first gave the grim reaper the slip as one of Doolittle’s Raiders, 80 airmen who bombed Tokyo on April 18, 1942. The history-making, surprise attack found him sitting in the navigator’s seat on one of the 16 land-based, B-25 bombers that took off from the heaving deck of an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Those bombers had never attempted such a takeoff in combat. Once airborne, there was no turning back. No margin of error. None needed. The Raiders completed their daytime mission. Griffin’s plane, which he named the Whirling Dervish, defied deadly anti-aircraft fire to turn out the city’s lights by flattening Tokyo Gas & Electric.
After the raid, Griffin escaped death time and time again: following a nighttime parachute jump, eluding enemy patrols, surviving a case of malaria, being shot down twice over the Mediterranean, spending 22 months in a German prisoner-of-war camp and being liberated the day the prisoners were to be executed.
“I was quite the cheater when it came to death during the war,” Griffin said, happily clapping his 95-year-old hands together in the living room of his Bridgetown condo.
“I’ve asked myself: ‘Why were you so damned lucky?’ I had guys sitting right next to me get hit by some scrap metal and die. And here I am still kicking.”
He smiled and added: “Must be my Irish luck.”