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Way Back Wednesday: Robert Hite

Way Back Wednesday features Arkansas history.
LITTLE ROCK, AR -- For today’s Way Back Wednesday we take you back to April 1942 when this famous picture was taken.

Who is he and what did he do? Answer: This is US Army Air Force Lt. Robert Hite who was one of eight flyers taken captive by the Japanese after the famous bombing raid on Tokyo commanded by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle.  

The bombing raid took place just four months after the Japanese bombed Tokyo and was a huge morale boost for the US.  However, it was a suicide mission. On April 18, 1942 80 men volunteered to fly 16 B-25 bombers off the deck of the USS Hornet on a bombing raid of Tokyo.

They knew they didn’t have the fuel to make it back and would have to try to land in China. Some made it. Some died in the process and eight, including Lt. Hite, were captured by the Japanese and taken prisoners of war. 

Three of his comrades were executed. One died in prison. The other four remained in a 5 by 5 by 9 foot cell for more than three years before they were liberated. 

Hite entered prison weighing 175 pounds. He left weighing 76. 

Every year the survivors get together and have a toast to the mission. There are but four survivors of this mission today and this past weekend they gathered for their final toast. However, due to his failing health- Hite was unable to make it- but he did offer his final salute. 

So, what is Hite’s Arkansas connection? Hite moved to Camden, AR in 1952 to run a hotel and after a few more moves around the country came back and settled in Camden in 1984. He was a fixture about town where many of his family still lives. His wife passed some time ago and is buried in Camden and according to his granddaughter, Camden will be the final resting place as well for a true American Hero - one of Doolittle’s Raiders - Lt. Col. Robert Hite.
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