Last Doolittle Raider dies: Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole passes at 103

Discussion in 'Community Forum' started by EC, Apr 10, 2019.

  1. EC

    EC 12 pointer

    Jul 13, 2003
    Louisville, KY.
    They're all leaving us...

    Fly to glory, hero.



    Last Doolittle Raider dies: Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole passes at 103

    By Jim Thompson
    Posted Apr 9, 2019 at 10:44 AM Updated Apr 9, 2019 at 4:46 PM

    SAN ANTONIO — Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Richard E. “Dick” Cole, the last living connection to a daring World War II bombing mission and a frequent visitor to Northwest Florida, died Tuesday in Texas at the age of 103. A memorial service is planned for Randolph Air Force Base in Texas with interment later at Arlington National Cemetery.

    Cole was among the 80 Army Air Corps airmen who volunteered for the Doolittle Raiders, a team led by then-Lt. Col. James Doolittle to strike Japan after the Japanese laid waste to American naval power in an attack on Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

    The story of the Doolittle Raiders is woven tightly into the fabric of this area. For a little more than two weeks in March 1942, they trained at what was then Eglin Field. Later, flying 16 B-25 bombers from the deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet on April 18, 1942, the Doolittle Raiders had targets in five Japanese cities. Each plane carried four 500-pound bombs, and had been stripped of extraneous equipment to accommodate additional fuel.

    While the damage inflicted by the raid was slight, it was considered a success, showing Japan was not beyond the reach of American air power.

    Cole was consistently humble about his role in the raid, which included serving as Doolittle’s co-pilot.

    “I don’t think that the Raiders should be remembered any more than the millions of other people who took part in World War II,” Cole said during a 2018 interview at the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin Air Force Base. Seven of the Doolittle Raiders lost their lives during the mission, either as the result of crashes, or while parachuting from their aircraft, or at the hands of the Japanese.

    Cole was among the airmen who had to bail out of the B-25s after the raid, while the aircraft were en route for planned landings in China. Asked in the 2018 interview about his sharpest memory of the raid, Cole had a quick response.

    “The thing I remember most is my parachute opening,” he joked.

    PHOTOS: Last Doolittle Raider Lt. Col Dick Cole passes away

    Cole’s last visit to this area came last month, when he visited Hurlburt Field, headquarters of Air Force Special Operations Command, for a 75th anniversary commemoration of Operation Thursday. Another piece of World War II history in which Cole was involved, the 1944 operation saw American air pioneers working alongside British special operations soldiers to extract British soldiers from the forests of Burma. The operation marked the birth of Air Commandos as part of the U.S. military.

    Cole became the last surviving Doolittle Raider in 2016, after Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, an engineer and gunner on the mission, died in Montana at the age of 94.

    In 2013, the four remaining Doolittle Raiders held their 71st — and final — public reunion in Fort Walton Beach. Cole joined Thatcher and Lt. Col. Edward Saylor for the reunion. The other then-remaining survivor, Lt. Col. Bob Hite, was ill and could not attend.
    bondhu likes this.
  2. JR in KY

    JR in KY 12 pointer

    Jan 25, 2006
    The Occupied South
    Theres not many WW2 vets left. I have a first cousin who is Navy WW2. I will take a photo next time I'm there.
  3. Drahts

    Drahts 10 pointer

    Apr 7, 2015
    Greatest generation! So brave, so dedicated so patriotic! Grandpap was a Naval Capt sunk by a German Uboat, Step Granddad was shot 3 times on Omaha Beach and survived. They were tough! God Bless em all!
  4. reivertom

    reivertom 12 pointer

    Dec 17, 2007
    Greenup Co.
    These guys fought bravely, knew who the enemy was, and what they had to do. Today our enemies are among us and in some cases in Congress and Senate.
    riverboss, drakeshooter and EC like this.
  5. muddhunter

    muddhunter 12 pointer

    Oct 18, 2005
    I watched a program a while back about the Doolittle Goblets. Very cool tradition these men had. They are all upside down now.
  6. Wildcat

    Wildcat 12 pointer

    Jan 7, 2002
    Ledbetter, Ky.
    Those guys knew what it took. They also knew what their mission really was. They knew so few planes would not do much damage but what they did boosted American sprit after a string of major American defeats. It was something America baddy needed at the time and those guys delivered.
  7. Iceman35

    Iceman35 12 pointer

    Oct 27, 2008
    Boone County
    Hard to believe they could fit his giant brass balls in the casket.

    Aerodynamically speaking, taking those B-25’s off a carrier, is almost impossible, regardless of how light they were. Then to not have a guaranteed place to land, AFTER you bombed Tokyo......giant and brass indeed.
    EC and Feedman like this.
  8. EC

    EC 12 pointer

    Jul 13, 2003
    Louisville, KY.
    Yeah...the best they could do is find a handful of landing sites in China--assuming they could make it. Several didn't and crashed landed off the coast (mainly running out of fuel). Their carrier being detected by a Japanese fishing boat necessitated the aircraft to be launched further out than planned. This explains why they didn't have the fuel to make it to landing strips in China. For some of the crew, it was a one-way ticket.

    Some of the crew were captured and some were executed after being charged by a Japanese military tribune. They were never told what their "crimes" were.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice