Last of the Raiders

Standing proudly in front of a B-25 Mitchell on display for a recent airshow in the central Texas town of Burnet, retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole slowly walked up to the antique bomber and clutched one of its propeller blades. The last surviving Doolittle Raider, who had just marked his 101st birthday a few days before, smiled as he reminisced in the shadow of the bomber -- a link to his storied past. Seventy-plus years ago, he co-piloted a similar bomber alongside then-Lt. Col. James Doolittle during a pivotal mission April 18, 1942, that helped turn the tide for the allies in the Pacific theater of World War II. U.S. Air Force video by: Andrew Arthur Breese

Original illustration to commemorate the 78th anniversary of a legendary mission.

Original illustration to commemorate the 78th anniversary of a legendary mission.

Ret. Lt. Col. Dick Cole, Doolittle Raider co-pilot crew 1, signals the start of engine 2 on a B-25 named "Special Delivery", April 20, 2013. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Carlin Leslie)

Ret. Lt. Col. Dick Cole, Doolittle Raider co-pilot crew 1, signals the start of engine 2 on a B-25 named "Special Delivery", April 20, 2013. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Carlin Leslie)

Retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole, Doolittle Raider co-pilot Crew 1, sits in the cockpit of a B-25, "Special Delivery," reliving the day of the Doolittle Raid, April 20, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Carlin Leslie)

Retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole, Doolittle Raider co-pilot Crew 1, sits in the cockpit of a B-25, "Special Delivery," reliving the day of the Doolittle Raid, April 20, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Carlin Leslie)

Form right, retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole, retired Lt. Col. Ed Saylor and retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher salute their fallen brother, retired Master Sgt. Edwin Horton, April 18, 2013 in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. The men were all part of the Doolittle Raiders, who bombed Tokyo 71 years ago today. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Carlin Leslie)

Form right, retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole, retired Lt. Col. Ed Saylor and retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher salute their fallen brother, retired Master Sgt. Edwin Horton, April 18, 2013 in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. The men were all part of the Doolittle Raiders, who bombed Tokyo 71 years ago today. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Carlin Leslie)

Retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole opens the 1896 bottle of cognac before The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders shared their last and final toast at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Nov. 09, 2013 in Dayton, Ohio. Cole was the copilot of Aircraft No. 1. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole opens the 1896 bottle of cognac before The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders shared their last and final toast at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Nov. 09, 2013 in Dayton, Ohio. Cole was the copilot of Aircraft No. 1. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, holds a coin that has a coveted picture with his mother from 1942. The personally coveted coin was created to celebrate his 100th birthday last year. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community of Burnet, Texas as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, holds a coin that has a coveted picture with his mother from 1942. The personally coveted coin was created to celebrate his 100th birthday last year. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community of Burnet, Texas as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, smiles as he honors the U.S. flag during the singing of the national anthem at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, smiles as he honors the U.S. flag during the singing of the national anthem at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, displays copies of his signed book "Hump Pilot Air Commando" at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, displays copies of his signed book "Hump Pilot Air Commando" at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, tours a U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. The aircraft was similar to the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
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U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, tours a U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. The aircraft was similar to the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, stands in front of a refurbished U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
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U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, stands in front of a refurbished U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, stands in front of a refurbished U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
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U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, stands in front of a refurbished U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

Vintage B-25 Mitchell bombers fly over the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, during a memorial flight honoring the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders on April 18, 2010.  The 68th Doolittle Raiders’ reunion commemorates the anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raid.  On April 18, 1942, U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s squad of 16 B-25 Mitchell aircraft bombed Japanese targets in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)
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Vintage B-25 Mitchell bombers fly over the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, during a memorial flight honoring the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders on April 18, 2010. The 68th Doolittle Raiders’ reunion commemorates the anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raid. On April 18, 1942, U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s squad of 16 B-25 Mitchell aircraft bombed Japanese targets in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)

A vintage B-25 Mitchell "Axis Nightmare" flies by the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, April 18, 2010. The flight was in honor of the Doolittle Raiders attack on Tokyo April 18, 1942. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)
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A vintage B-25 Mitchell "Axis Nightmare" flies by the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, April 18, 2010. The flight was in honor of the Doolittle Raiders attack on Tokyo April 18, 1942. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)

The "Pacific Prowler," a B-25 Mitchell Bomber, taxis the runway at Grimes Field, Ohio, April 15, 2010.  The B-25 crew flew from Fort Worth, Texas, to participate in commemoration flights for the Doolittle Raiders’ 68th reunion at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.  The event honors the anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raid.  On April 18, 1942, U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s squad of 16 B-25s bombed targets over Japan in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey / Released)
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The "Pacific Prowler," a B-25 Mitchell Bomber, taxis the runway at Grimes Field, Ohio, April 15, 2010. The B-25 crew flew from Fort Worth, Texas, to participate in commemoration flights for the Doolittle Raiders’ 68th reunion at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The event honors the anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raid. On April 18, 1942, U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s squad of 16 B-25s bombed targets over Japan in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey / Released)

Goblets for Doolittle Raiders (left-right) Master Sgt. David J. Thatcher, Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Major Thomas Griffin, and Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite stand charged and ready for the Goblet Ceremony on April 16, 2010 in Fairborn, Ohio.  The ceremony honors all who participated in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo during W.W. II. The upright goblets represent aircrew who have survived to this day.  During the ceremony the name of every person was read and a Doolittle Raider responds to indicate the spirit of those who passed are present.  The collection of goblets, each with an aircrew name engraved both right side up and upside down.  The set of goblets is now maintained by the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)
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Goblets for Doolittle Raiders (left-right) Master Sgt. David J. Thatcher, Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Major Thomas Griffin, and Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite stand charged and ready for the Goblet Ceremony on April 16, 2010 in Fairborn, Ohio. The ceremony honors all who participated in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo during W.W. II. The upright goblets represent aircrew who have survived to this day. During the ceremony the name of every person was read and a Doolittle Raider responds to indicate the spirit of those who passed are present. The collection of goblets, each with an aircrew name engraved both right side up and upside down. The set of goblets is now maintained by the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)

Goblets for Doolittle Raiders (left-right) Master Sgt. David J. Thatcher, Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Major Thomas Griffin, and Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite stand charged and ready for the Goblet Ceremony on April 16, 2010 in Fairborn, Ohio.  the ceremony honors all who participated in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo during W.W. II. The upright goblets represent aircrew who have survived to this day.  During the ceremony the name of every person was read and a Doolittle Raider responds to indicate the spirit of those who passed are present.  The collection of goblets, each with an aircrew name engraved both right side up and upside down.  The set of goblets is now maintained by the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)
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Goblets for Doolittle Raiders (left-right) Master Sgt. David J. Thatcher, Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Major Thomas Griffin, and Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite stand charged and ready for the Goblet Ceremony on April 16, 2010 in Fairborn, Ohio. the ceremony honors all who participated in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo during W.W. II. The upright goblets represent aircrew who have survived to this day. During the ceremony the name of every person was read and a Doolittle Raider responds to indicate the spirit of those who passed are present. The collection of goblets, each with an aircrew name engraved both right side up and upside down. The set of goblets is now maintained by the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)

(Highest rank achieved/rank during raid) Lt. Col. / Lt. Robert E. Cole, co-pilot and survivor of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, happily piloted a holding pattern over Eglin Air Force Base prior to the Doolittle Raiders Training Reenactment at Duke Field on on May 31, 2008.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Lance Cheung)
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(Highest rank achieved/rank during raid) Lt. Col. / Lt. Robert E. Cole, co-pilot and survivor of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, happily piloted a holding pattern over Eglin Air Force Base prior to the Doolittle Raiders Training Reenactment at Duke Field on on May 31, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lance Cheung)

Lt. Col. Robert E. Cole autographs a photograph of his B-25 Mitchell during the Doolittle Raiders homecoming event May 30 in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Then Lt. Cole was the co-pilot for the first bomber crew to take-off during Doolittle's mission over Tokyo.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)
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Lt. Col. Robert E. Cole autographs a photograph of his B-25 Mitchell during the Doolittle Raiders homecoming event May 30 in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Then Lt. Cole was the co-pilot for the first bomber crew to take-off during Doolittle's mission over Tokyo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)

L1/Japan, Tokyo Raid/1942/pho 81
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L1/Japan, Tokyo Raid/1942/pho 81

Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle (center), commander of the Army Air Forces  Eighth Air Force, is surrounded by a group of U.S. flyers. (This picture was taken before his promotion to lieutenant general.)  The general took part in the first raid on Tokyo on April 18,1942, when a squadron of B-25 bombers, not designed for carrier operations, took off from the USS Hornet in the North Pacific Ocean to bomb military installations in Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle (center), commander of the Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force, is surrounded by a group of U.S. flyers. (This picture was taken before his promotion to lieutenant general.) The general took part in the first raid on Tokyo on April 18,1942, when a squadron of B-25 bombers, not designed for carrier operations, took off from the USS Hornet in the North Pacific Ocean to bomb military installations in Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle wires a Japanese "Friendship Medal" to a bomb, for "return" to its originators during the "Doolittle Raid" on Japan five months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor..
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Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle wires a Japanese "Friendship Medal" to a bomb, for "return" to its originators during the "Doolittle Raid" on Japan five months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor..

United States Army Air Forces B-25 bombers are tied down to the deck of the USS Hornet before the "Doolittle Raid" on Tokyo, Saturday, April 18, 1942.
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United States Army Air Forces B-25 bombers are tied down to the deck of the USS Hornet before the "Doolittle Raid" on Tokyo, Saturday, April 18, 1942.

In a photograph found after Japan's surrender in 1945, Lt. Robert L. Hite, copilot of crew 16, is led blindfolded from a Japanese transport aircraft after his B-25 crash landed in a China after bombing Nagoya on the the "Doolittle Raid" on Japan and he was captured. He was imprisoned for 40 months, but survived the war.
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In a photograph found after Japan's surrender in 1945, Lt. Robert L. Hite, copilot of crew 16, is led blindfolded from a Japanese transport aircraft after his B-25 crash landed in a China after bombing Nagoya on the the "Doolittle Raid" on Japan and he was captured. He was imprisoned for 40 months, but survived the war.

A B-25 begins its take off roll from the deck of the USS Hornet for the "Doolittle Raid" on Tokyo, Saturday, April 18, 1942. The bombing attack by the United States of America on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II, was the first air raid to strike the Japanese Home Islands. Sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China�landing a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible.
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A B-25 begins its take off roll from the deck of the USS Hornet for the "Doolittle Raid" on Tokyo, Saturday, April 18, 1942. The bombing attack by the United States of America on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II, was the first air raid to strike the Japanese Home Islands. Sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China�landing a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible.

A USAAF B-25 bomber takes off from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet en route to Tokyo for bombing mission which became known as the "Doolittle Raid" after leader of the mission Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle. on Tokyo, Saturday, April 18, 1942. The bombing attack by the United States of America on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II, was the first air raid to strike the Japanese Home Islands. Sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China�landing a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible. Fifteen aircraft reached China, but all crashed, while the 16th landed at Vladivostok in the Soviet Union. All but three of the 80 crew members initially survived the mission. Eight airmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three of those were later executed.
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A USAAF B-25 bomber takes off from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet en route to Tokyo for bombing mission which became known as the "Doolittle Raid" after leader of the mission Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle. on Tokyo, Saturday, April 18, 1942. The bombing attack by the United States of America on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II, was the first air raid to strike the Japanese Home Islands. Sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China�landing a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible. Fifteen aircraft reached China, but all crashed, while the 16th landed at Vladivostok in the Soviet Union. All but three of the 80 crew members initially survived the mission. Eight airmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three of those were later executed.

Orders in hand, Capt. Marc A. Mitscher, foreground right, U.S.N., a naval aviator and skipper of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet (CU-8), chats with Maj. Gen. James Doolittle, U.S. Army, foreground left. Some of the 80 Army fliers who manned B-25 bombers that launched from the Hornet for the historic raid on Tokyo, Japan are pictured behind the two fliers.
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Orders in hand, Capt. Marc A. Mitscher, foreground right, U.S.N., a naval aviator and skipper of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet (CU-8), chats with Maj. Gen. James Doolittle, U.S. Army, foreground left. Some of the 80 Army fliers who manned B-25 bombers that launched from the Hornet for the historic raid on Tokyo, Japan are pictured behind the two fliers.

Lt. Col. Dick Cole, a Doolittle Raider, smiles while looking out of a B-25 aircraft April 20, 2013, on the Destin Airport, Fla. The B-25 is the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)
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Lt. Col. Dick Cole, a Doolittle Raider, smiles while looking out of a B-25 aircraft April 20, 2013, on the Destin Airport, Fla. The B-25 is the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)

From left, retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, Retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole and retired Lt. Col. Ed Saylor, answer questions from Airmen at Hurlburt Field, Fla., April 18, 2013. The three men are part of the Doolittle Raiders, who bombed Tokyo 71 years ago today. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)
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From left, retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, Retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole and retired Lt. Col. Ed Saylor, answer questions from Airmen at Hurlburt Field, Fla., April 18, 2013. The three men are part of the Doolittle Raiders, who bombed Tokyo 71 years ago today. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)

Retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole salutes the grave site of his fellow Doolittle Raider brother, retired Master Sgt. Edwin Horton, April 18, 2013, in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)
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Retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole salutes the grave site of his fellow Doolittle Raider brother, retired Master Sgt. Edwin Horton, April 18, 2013, in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)

Retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole is escorted into a ceremony where a air plane hangar was dedicated to a fellow Doolittle Raider, retired Lt. Col. Ed Saylor, April 17, 2013, on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)
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Retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole is escorted into a ceremony where a air plane hangar was dedicated to a fellow Doolittle Raider, retired Lt. Col. Ed Saylor, April 17, 2013, on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)

Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Doolittle Raiders – a group of 80 U.S. airmen who flew a mission into Japan on April 18, 1942 – for their extraordinary service during World War II.
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Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Doolittle Raiders – a group of 80 U.S. airmen who flew a mission into Japan on April 18, 1942 – for their extraordinary service during World War II.

Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Doolittle Raiders – a group of 80 U.S. airmen who flew a mission into Japan on April 18, 1942 – for their extraordinary service during World War II.
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Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Doolittle Raiders – a group of 80 U.S. airmen who flew a mission into Japan on April 18, 1942 – for their extraordinary service during World War II.

Crew No. 16 (Plane #40-2268, target Nagoya): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. William G. Farrow, pilot; Lt. Robert L. Hite, copilot; Lt. George Barr, navigator; Cpl. Jacob D. DeShazer, bombardier; Sgt. Harold A. Spatz, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 16 (Plane #40-2268, target Nagoya): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. William G. Farrow, pilot; Lt. Robert L. Hite, copilot; Lt. George Barr, navigator; Cpl. Jacob D. DeShazer, bombardier; Sgt. Harold A. Spatz, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 15 (Plane #40-2267, target Nagoya): 89th Reconnaissance Squadron, Lt. Donald G. Smith, pilot; Lt. Griffith P. Williams, copilot; Lt. Howard A. Sessler, navigator/bombardier; Lt. Thomas R. White, flight engineer; Sgt. Edward J. Saylor, gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 15 (Plane #40-2267, target Nagoya): 89th Reconnaissance Squadron, Lt. Donald G. Smith, pilot; Lt. Griffith P. Williams, copilot; Lt. Howard A. Sessler, navigator/bombardier; Lt. Thomas R. White, flight engineer; Sgt. Edward J. Saylor, gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 14 (Plane #40-2297, target Nagoya): 89th Reconnaissance Squadron, Maj. John A. Hilger, pilot; Lt. Jack A. Sims, copilot; Lt. James H. Macia Jr., navigator/bombardier; SSgt. Job Eierman, flight engineer; SSgt. Edwin V. Bain, gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 14 (Plane #40-2297, target Nagoya): 89th Reconnaissance Squadron, Maj. John A. Hilger, pilot; Lt. Jack A. Sims, copilot; Lt. James H. Macia Jr., navigator/bombardier; SSgt. Job Eierman, flight engineer; SSgt. Edwin V. Bain, gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 13 (Plane #40-2247, target Yokosuka): 37th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Edgar E. McElroy, pilot; Lt. Richard A. Knobloch, copilot; Lt. Clayton J. Campbell, navigator; MSgt. Robert C. Bourgeois, bombardier; Sgt. Adam R. Williams, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 13 (Plane #40-2247, target Yokosuka): 37th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Edgar E. McElroy, pilot; Lt. Richard A. Knobloch, copilot; Lt. Clayton J. Campbell, navigator; MSgt. Robert C. Bourgeois, bombardier; Sgt. Adam R. Williams, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 12 (Plane #40-2278, target Yokohama): 37th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. William M. Bower, pilot; Lt. Thadd H. Blanton, copilot; Lt. William R. Pound Jr., navigator; TSgt. Waldo J. Bither, bombardier; SSgt. Omer A. Duquette, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 12 (Plane #40-2278, target Yokohama): 37th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. William M. Bower, pilot; Lt. Thadd H. Blanton, copilot; Lt. William R. Pound Jr., navigator; TSgt. Waldo J. Bither, bombardier; SSgt. Omer A. Duquette, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 11 (Plane #40-2249, target Yokohama): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Capt. C. Ross Greening (89th RS), pilot; Lt. Kenneth E. Reddy, copilot; Lt. Frank A. Kappeler, navigator; SSgt. William L. Birch, bombardier; Sgt. Melvin J. Gardner, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 11 (Plane #40-2249, target Yokohama): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Capt. C. Ross Greening (89th RS), pilot; Lt. Kenneth E. Reddy, copilot; Lt. Frank A. Kappeler, navigator; SSgt. William L. Birch, bombardier; Sgt. Melvin J. Gardner, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 10 (Plane #40-2250, target Tokyo): 89th Reconnaissance Squadron, Lt. Richard O. Joyce, pilot; Lt. J. Royden Stork, copilot; Lt. Horace E. Crouch, navigator/bombardier; Sgt. George E. Larkin Jr., flight engineer; SSgt. Edwin W. Horton Jr., gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 10 (Plane #40-2250, target Tokyo): 89th Reconnaissance Squadron, Lt. Richard O. Joyce, pilot; Lt. J. Royden Stork, copilot; Lt. Horace E. Crouch, navigator/bombardier; Sgt. George E. Larkin Jr., flight engineer; SSgt. Edwin W. Horton Jr., gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 9 (Plane #40-2203, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Harold F. Watson, pilot; Lt. James N. Parker Jr., copilot; Lt. Thomas C. Griffin, navigator; Sgt. Wayne M. Bissell, bombardier; TSgt. Eldred V. Scott, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 9 (Plane #40-2203, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Harold F. Watson, pilot; Lt. James N. Parker Jr., copilot; Lt. Thomas C. Griffin, navigator; Sgt. Wayne M. Bissell, bombardier; TSgt. Eldred V. Scott, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 8 (Plane #40-2242, target Tokyo): 95th Bombardment Squadron, Capt. Edward J. York, pilot; Lt. Robert G. Emmens, copilot; Lt. Nolan A. Herndon, navigator/bombardier; SSgt. Theodore H. Laban, flight engineer; Sgt. David W. Pohl, gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 8 (Plane #40-2242, target Tokyo): 95th Bombardment Squadron, Capt. Edward J. York, pilot; Lt. Robert G. Emmens, copilot; Lt. Nolan A. Herndon, navigator/bombardier; SSgt. Theodore H. Laban, flight engineer; Sgt. David W. Pohl, gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 7 (Plane #40-2261, target Tokyo): 95th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Ted W. Lawson, pilot; Lt. Dean Davenport, copilot; Lt. Charles L. McClure, navigator; Lt. Robert S. Clever, bombardier; Sgt. David J. Thatcher, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 7 (Plane #40-2261, target Tokyo): 95th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Ted W. Lawson, pilot; Lt. Dean Davenport, copilot; Lt. Charles L. McClure, navigator; Lt. Robert S. Clever, bombardier; Sgt. David J. Thatcher, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 6 (Plane #40-2298, target Tokyo): 95th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Dean E. Hallmark, pilot; Lt. Robert J. Meder, copilot; Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, navigator; Sgt. William J. Dieter, bombardier; Sgt. Donald E. Fitzmaurice, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 6 (Plane #40-2298, target Tokyo): 95th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Dean E. Hallmark, pilot; Lt. Robert J. Meder, copilot; Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, navigator; Sgt. William J. Dieter, bombardier; Sgt. Donald E. Fitzmaurice, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 5 (Plane #40-2283, target Tokyo): 95th Bombardment Squadron, Capt. David M. Jones, pilot; Lt. Ross R. Wilder, copilot; Lt. Eugene F. McGurl, navigator; Lt. Denver V. Truelove, bombardier; Sgt. Joseph W. Manske, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 5 (Plane #40-2283, target Tokyo): 95th Bombardment Squadron, Capt. David M. Jones, pilot; Lt. Ross R. Wilder, copilot; Lt. Eugene F. McGurl, navigator; Lt. Denver V. Truelove, bombardier; Sgt. Joseph W. Manske, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 4 (Plane #40-2282, target Tokyo): 95th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Everett W. Holstrom, pilot; Lt. Lucian N. Youngblood, copilot; Lt. Harry C. McCool, navigator; Sgt. Robert J. Stephens, bombardier; Cpl. Bert M. Jordan, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 4 (Plane #40-2282, target Tokyo): 95th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Everett W. Holstrom, pilot; Lt. Lucian N. Youngblood, copilot; Lt. Harry C. McCool, navigator; Sgt. Robert J. Stephens, bombardier; Cpl. Bert M. Jordan, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 3 (Plane #40-2270, target Tokyo): 95th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Robert M. Gray, pilot; Lt. Jacob E. Manch, copilot; Lt. Charles J. Ozuk Jr., navigator; Sgt. Aden E. Jones, bombardier; Cpl. Leland D. Faktor, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 3 (Plane #40-2270, target Tokyo): 95th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Robert M. Gray, pilot; Lt. Jacob E. Manch, copilot; Lt. Charles J. Ozuk Jr., navigator; Sgt. Aden E. Jones, bombardier; Cpl. Leland D. Faktor, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 2 (Plane #40-2292, target Tokyo): 37th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Travis Hoover, pilot; Lt. William N. Fitzhugh, copilot; Lt. Carl R. Wildner, navigator; Lt. Richard E. Miller, bombardier; Sgt. Douglas V. Radney, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 2 (Plane #40-2292, target Tokyo): 37th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Travis Hoover, pilot; Lt. William N. Fitzhugh, copilot; Lt. Carl R. Wildner, navigator; Lt. Richard E. Miller, bombardier; Sgt. Douglas V. Radney, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Crew No. 1 (Plane #40-2344, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. Cole is the last surviving member of the "Doolittle Raid" crews, having celebrated his 101st birthday. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Crew No. 1 (Plane #40-2344, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. Cole is the last surviving member of the "Doolittle Raid" crews, having celebrated his 101st birthday. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Fort Meade, MD --

 

LT. COL. RICHARD COLE WAS THE LAST SURVIVING MEMBER OF THE 80-MAN U.S. ARMY AIR FORCES UNIT, FOREVER KNOWN AS, THE DOOLITTLE RAIDERS


(Editor’s Note – To commemorate the 78th anniversary of a legendary mission, the following is an updated repost of a story with retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders originally published October 3, 2016 and before his death April 9, 2019, he was 103.)
 

Standing proudly in front of a B-25 Mitchell on display for a recent airshow in the central Texas town of Burnet, retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole slowly walked up to the antique bomber and clutched one of its propeller blades.

The last surviving Doolittle Raider, who had just marked his 101st birthday a few days before, smiled as he reminisced in the shadow of the bomber — a link to his storied past.

“When we got the B-25, it was a kick in the butt,” he later said, adding that he first flew the B-18 Bolo out of flight school. “It was fast and very maneuverable, with a good, steady bombing platform. You could fly it all over.”

Seventy-plus years ago, he co-piloted a similar bomber alongside then-Lt. Col. James Doolittle during a pivotal mission April 18, 1942, that helped turn the tide for the allies in the Pacific theater of World War II.


A USAAF B-25 bomber takes off from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet en route to Tokyo for bombing mission which became known as the "Doolittle Raid" after leader of the mission Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle. on Tokyo, Saturday, April 18, 1942. The bombing attack by the United States of America on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II, was the first air raid to strike the Japanese Home Islands. Sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China�landing a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible. Fifteen aircraft reached China, but all crashed, while the 16th landed at Vladivostok in the Soviet Union. All but three of the 80 crew members initially survived the mission. Eight airmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three of those were later executed.
A USAAF B-25 bomber takes off from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet en route to Tokyo for bombing mission which became known as the "Doolittle Raid" after leader of the mission Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle. on Tokyo, Saturday, April 18, 1942. The bombing attack by the United States of America on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II, was the first air raid to strike the Japanese Home Islands. Sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China�landing a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible. Fifteen aircraft reached China, but all crashed, while the 16th landed at Vladivostok in the Soviet Union. All but three of the 80 crew members initially survived the mission. Eight airmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three of those were later executed.
A USAAF B-25 bomber takes off from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet en route to Tokyo for bombing mission which became known as the "Doolittle Raid" after leader of the mission Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle. on Tokyo, Saturday, April 18, 1942. The bombing attack by the United States of America on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II, was the first air raid to strike the Japanese Home Islands. Sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China�landing a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible. Fifteen aircraft reached China, but all crashed, while the 16th landed at Vladivostok in the Soviet Union. All but three of the 80 crew members initially survived the mission. Eight airmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three of those were later executed.
Last of the Raiders
A USAAF B-25 bomber takes off from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet en route to Tokyo for bombing mission which became known as the "Doolittle Raid" after leader of the mission Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle. on Tokyo, Saturday, April 18, 1942. The bombing attack by the United States of America on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II, was the first air raid to strike the Japanese Home Islands. Sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China�landing a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible. Fifteen aircraft reached China, but all crashed, while the 16th landed at Vladivostok in the Soviet Union. All but three of the 80 crew members initially survived the mission. Eight airmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three of those were later executed.
Photo By: U.S. Air Force
VIRIN: 200417-F-XX999-9026

As the final member of the famed 80-man Army Air Forces unit, Cole was chosen to announce the name of the Air Force’s newest bomber, the B-21 Raider, at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference on Sept. 19 in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve never flown in any of the modern bombers so it’s pretty hard to realize how all of the improvements have meant to aviation,” he said at the Sept. 10 airshow. “All I can say is that the B-25 was like having a Ford Model T, (and now pilots are) getting into a Mustang.”


Crew No. 1 (Plane #40-2344, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. Cole is the last surviving member of the "Doolittle Raid" crews, having celebrated his 101st birthday. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Crew No. 1 (Plane #40-2344, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. Cole is the last surviving member of the "Doolittle Raid" crews, having celebrated his 101st birthday. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Crew No. 1 (Plane #40-2344, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. Cole is the last surviving member of the "Doolittle Raid" crews, having celebrated his 101st birthday. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Last of the Raiders
Crew No. 1 (Plane #40-2344, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. Cole is the last surviving member of the "Doolittle Raid" crews, having celebrated his 101st birthday. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Photo By: U.S. Air Force photo
VIRIN: 200417-F-XX999-9033

Last of the Raiders

Following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Doolittle developed a plan to retaliate with a daring air raid on Japan. Without escort fighters, he and the other crewmembers flew 16 modified Army B-25s off an aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet, for a one-way trip that had the makings of a suicide mission. The plan called for the aircraft, which were incapable of landing back on the aircraft carrier, to bomb industrial and military targets in five cities on the Japanese home islands and then continue on to friendly airfields in China.

Forced to launch 10 hours earlier than planned, due to the task force being spotted by a Japanese patrol boat, many aircrews later had to bail out of their fuel-parched aircraft after dropping their bomb loads. Doolittle’s crew, including Cole, parachuted into China and linked up with Chinese guerillas operating behind Japanese lines who helped them escape.


U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, tours a U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. The aircraft was similar to the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, tours a U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. The aircraft was similar to the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, tours a U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. The aircraft was similar to the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Last of the Raiders
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, tours a U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. The aircraft was similar to the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Photo By: U.S. Air Force
VIRIN: 200417-F-IO684-9015

“The main memory I have was when my parachute opened,” Cole said of the mission. “But that was part of the job. I’d rather be sitting here than worried about a parachute jump.”

Being alone to tell the Raiders’ story these days has been something of a paradox for Cole.

“You can’t help but be happy that you’re here but on the other side of the coin you also wish that the people who were with you were here too,” he said. “But you know that that’s not possible so you have to live with it.”

The average age of the Raiders during the mission was 22, while Cole was a 26-year-old lieutenant, according to his daughter, Cindy Cole Chal.

“Dad was older on the raid,” she said. “Nobody thought that Dad would be the last one, even though he’s been in excellent health.”

Former Staff Sgt. David Thatcher was the second to last living Raider before he died at the age of 94. He was buried with full military honors June 27 in Montana.

As a 20-year-old gunner in Flight Crew No. 7, then-Cpl. Thatcher saved his four other crewmembers when their B-25 crash-landed into the sea near the Chinese coast after it bombed Japanese factories in Tokyo. He pulled them to safety on the surrounding beach and applied life-saving medical treatment, despite having injuries himself. He later earned the Silver Star for his actions.

Meanwhile, Cole parachuted into rainy weather at night and landed in a tree located on precarious terrain.

“I was fortunate in that I never touched the ground. My parachute drifted over a tall pine tree and caught on top leaving me about 10 feet off the ground,” he recounted in a 1973 letter posted on the official Doolittle Raider website. “At daybreak I was able to see that the terrain was very rough and had I tried to look around at night; probably would have fallen down a very steep hill.”


In a photograph found after Japan's surrender in 1945, Lt. Robert L. Hite, copilot of crew 16, is led blindfolded from a Japanese transport aircraft after his B-25 crash landed in a China after bombing Nagoya on the the "Doolittle Raid" on Japan and he was captured. He was imprisoned for 40 months, but survived the war.
In a photograph found after Japan's surrender in 1945, Lt. Robert L. Hite, copilot of crew 16, is led blindfolded from a Japanese transport aircraft after his B-25 crash landed in a China after bombing Nagoya on the the "Doolittle Raid" on Japan and he was captured. He was imprisoned for 40 months, but survived the war.
In a photograph found after Japan's surrender in 1945, Lt. Robert L. Hite, copilot of crew 16, is led blindfolded from a Japanese transport aircraft after his B-25 crash landed in a China after bombing Nagoya on the the "Doolittle Raid" on Japan and he was captured. He was imprisoned for 40 months, but survived the war.
Last of the Raiders
In a photograph found after Japan's surrender in 1945, Lt. Robert L. Hite, copilot of crew 16, is led blindfolded from a Japanese transport aircraft after his B-25 crash landed in a China after bombing Nagoya on the the "Doolittle Raid" on Japan and he was captured. He was imprisoned for 40 months, but survived the war.
Photo By: U.S. Air Force
VIRIN: 200417-F-XX999-9028

Once the sun rose, Cole walked westward and the next day he found an outpost belonging to the Chinese guerillas, the letter states.

On April 18, 2015, Cole and Thatcher were presented the Congressional Gold Medal for the Raiders’ efforts, the highest civilian honor given by Congress.

In his speech, a playful Cole couldn’t resist a touch of humor.

“Tonight’s affair couldn’t have been planned more accurately,” Cole said. “As I remember, the mission was over, it was Saturday night on the 18th of April and about this time David Thatcher was on the beach in China saving the rest of his crew and I was hanging in my parachute in a tree.”

Also at the ceremony, Thatcher spoke candidly as he gave advice to today’s Airmen.

“Be prepared for anything you run into — we weren’t,” he said. “Learn everything you possibly can, and be good at it.”


Lt. Col. Dick Cole, a Doolittle Raider, smiles while looking out of a B-25 aircraft April 20, 2013, on the Destin Airport, Fla. The B-25 is the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)
Lt. Col. Dick Cole, a Doolittle Raider, smiles while looking out of a B-25 aircraft April 20, 2013, on the Destin Airport, Fla. The B-25 is the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)
Lt. Col. Dick Cole, a Doolittle Raider, smiles while looking out of a B-25 aircraft April 20, 2013, on the Destin Airport, Fla. The B-25 is the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)
Last of the Raiders
Lt. Col. Dick Cole, a Doolittle Raider, smiles while looking out of a B-25 aircraft April 20, 2013, on the Destin Airport, Fla. The B-25 is the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)
Photo By: Staff Sgt. David Salanitri
VIRIN: 200417-F-TM170-9004

Turning point

Seven Raiders died during the mission: three were killed in action while another three were captured and executed and one died of disease in captivity.

The bombing runs did little damage but the mission rekindled the morale of the American people and struck fear into the Japanese with aircraft reaching their homeland.

“Knowing that we did the mission and did it like it was supposed to be done, we felt pretty good about it,” Cole said.

In response, the Japanese maneuvered their forces from around Australia and India to the Central Pacific, and sent two aircraft carriers to Alaska.

“The Japanese thought we were going to make more visits. But we didn’t have any equipment to do it and we had no plans for it,” Cole said. “For some reason they moved two carriers to Alaska, thinking that’s where we came from. When they did that, it evened up the number of carriers we had available for Midway.”

The Battle of Midway proved to be a major turning point in the war. Believing their Central Pacific flank to be vulnerable because of the Doolittle Raid, the Japanese launched an invasion force to secure the isolated atoll of Midway to establish a base and airfield. Unaware that U.S. Naval Intelligence had broken their naval codes and knew the date and location of the impending attack, the Japanese sailed directly into an ambush set by three U.S. carriers.

When the smoke cleared, U.S. Navy dive-bombers had sunk four Japanese carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, all members of the six-carrier force that had launched the attack on Pearl Harbor, and more than 3,000 men, including many experienced combat pilots. The U.S. lost one carrier, the USS Yorktown, and about 300 men. The Japanese remained on the defensive for the rest of the war.

“When the time came for the Battle of Midway, the (U.S.) Navy was able to win and that started the Japanese on the downhill,” he said.


‘Single-engine time’

Nowadays, Cole has shifted his focus away from the twin-engine bomber to his tractor and lawnmower. He refuses to let his age stand in the way of his daily chores. So when not traveling for events, he tends to his acreage in Comfort, Texas, about an hour’s drive northwest from San Antonio.

“People ask me if I’m getting any flying time and I say, ‘Well, I’m getting a lot of single-engine time with the lawnmower,” he said, chuckling.
To keep the memory of Doolittle and the rest of the Raiders alive, he helps sell his book, “Dick Cole’s War,” which documents not only the Doolittle Raid, but his service after that mission with the First Air Commandos in Burma. Proceeds from the book go into a scholarship fund in Doolittle’s name for students in the aviation field.


U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, holds a coin that has a coveted picture with his mother from 1942. The personally coveted coin was created to celebrate his 100th birthday last year. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community of Burnet, Texas as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, holds a coin that has a coveted picture with his mother from 1942. The personally coveted coin was created to celebrate his 100th birthday last year. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community of Burnet, Texas as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, holds a coin that has a coveted picture with his mother from 1942. The personally coveted coin was created to celebrate his 100th birthday last year. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community of Burnet, Texas as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Last of the Raiders
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, holds a coin that has a coveted picture with his mother from 1942. The personally coveted coin was created to celebrate his 100th birthday last year. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community of Burnet, Texas as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Photo By: U.S. Air Force
VIRIN: 200417-F-IO684-9018

Cahl estimates her father has put in hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sales of books and signed lithograph prints into the fund to honor Doolittle, who died in 1993.

“All the time when I was flying with Colonel Doolittle, I was in awe over the fact that I was sitting next to him,” Cole said. “He put the word ‘team’ in the forefront of the English language.”

Now the sole survivor, Cole wants no part being the poster child for the historic mission.

“You did the mission. You did what you were supposed to do,” he said. “The people who were involved are all passing (away) and that’s the way it ends.


U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, smiles as he honors the U.S. flag during the singing of the national anthem at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, smiles as he honors the U.S. flag during the singing of the national anthem at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, smiles as he honors the U.S. flag during the singing of the national anthem at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Last of the Raiders
U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, smiles as he honors the U.S. flag during the singing of the national anthem at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Photo By: U.S. Air Force
VIRIN: 200417-F-IO684-9017

“I didn’t think any of the Raiders wanted to be singled out. We just wanted to be part of the big picture.”


Original illustration to commemorate the 78th anniversary of a legendary mission.
Original illustration to commemorate the 78th anniversary of a legendary mission.
Original illustration to commemorate the 78th anniversary of a legendary mission.
Doolittle Raid Salute
Original illustration to commemorate the 78th anniversary of a legendary mission.
Photo By: Travis Burcham
VIRIN: 200418-D-HR740-9002



 

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