Retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole, the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders who rallied the nation’s spirit during the darkest days of World War II, has passed away.
Tom Casey, president of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Association, confirmed to Air Force Times that Cole died Tuesday morning in San Antonio. His daughter, Cindy Cole Chal, and son, Richard Cole, were by his side, Casey said.
Cole will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Casey said. Memorial services are also being scheduled at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas.
Cole, who was then-Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in the No. 1 bomber during the daring 1942 raid to strike Japan, was 103.
Retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole, who served as co-pilot to Jimmy Doolittle on the first US offensive action against Japan in WWII, and who was the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raid, died in Comfort, Texas, on April 9, at the age of 103. Read more at https://t.co/ZYWUcLaIo9. pic.twitter.com/2drKABZKzZ
— Air Force Magazine (@AirForceMag) April 9, 2019
Cole’s influence is still very apparent in today’s Air Force, and he remains a beloved figure among airmen. In 2016, he appeared on stage at the Air Force Association’s Air Space Cyber conference to announce that the service’s next stealth bomber, the B-21, would be named the Raider. Hurlburt Field in Florida in 2017 renamed the building housing the 319th Special Operations Squadron the Richard E. Cole Building.
And when he turned 103 last Sept. 7, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein and his wife, Dawn, called him to wish him a happy birthday.
#RIP Lieutenant Colonel Richard E. Cole. The last Doolittle Raider passed away at age 103. He was Jimmy Doolittle's co-pilot in the lead B-25 that launched from USS Hornet on April 18, 1942 to bomb Tokyo. The daring raid was a significant achievement in joint Army-Navy operations pic.twitter.com/jSJYpLnXrv
— U.S. Naval Institute (@NavalInstitute) April 9, 2019
THE DOOLITTLE RAID
Also called the “Tokyo Raid,” this mission was direct retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor a few months before and showed the Japanese the United States is capable of bombing their homeland, something they haven’t’ seen before.
Eighty U.S. Army Air Forces airmen in 16 modified B-25B Mitchell bombers launched from the aircraft carrier Hornet, about 650 nautical miles east of Japan, to strike Tokyo. Eighty gallant men volunteered for that successful mission — which turned out to be a one-way attack — vengeance for Japan’s strike on Hawaii that crippled the US Navy fleet and left 2,403 dead.
Led by Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle, 16 B-25 Mitchells departed from USS Hornet (something that’s never been done before) on April 1942 and headed toward Tokyo and other strategic targets.
Since there was no way to land a medium bomber on a carrier, the crews were instructed to hit their targets and fly into China for safety. At the end 77 of the 80 crewmembers survived the initial raid, but eight were later caught by the Japanese Army of which three were executed.
The Doolittle Raid was the United States’ first counterattack on the Japanese mainland after Pearl Harbor.
While it only caused minor damage, the mission boosted morale on the U.S. homefront a little more than four months after Pearl Harbor and sent a signal to the Japanese people not only that the U.S. was ready to fight back but also that it could strike the Japanese mainland.
During WWII, Doolittle’s Raiders embarked on one of the most daring military operations ever, striking back at Japan when America was still reeling.
Dick Cole, the last survivor of those 80 heroic men, was laid to rest Thursday.
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) April 18, 2019