Dick Cole, Last Doolittle Raider, Heads West

Dick Cole was Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in the first B-25 to reach Tokyo. Courtesy Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr. USAF

The final member of an impressive breed of airmen passed away this week in San Antonio, Texas, at the age of 103. Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Dick Cole was the last surviving member of the famous Doolittle Raiders, the first U.S. forces to bring World War II to Japan following the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu on December 7, 1941. Cole sat right seat on the B-25 piloted by Doolittle. Cole told the Air Force Times in 2015, "I wasn't worried particularly because I was flying with the best pilot." A Dayton, Ohio native, Cole also told the paper he, "first became interested in flying as a kid, when he would ride his bicycle to the Army Air Corps test base McCook Field and watch the pilots fly."

On April 18, 1942, 16 B-25s carrying 80 well-trained personnel took off from the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet. The crew trained for weeks before the raid to prove a heavily loaded B-25 could become airborne in just 500 feet rather than the 3,000 recommended by the manufacturer. The raid also was designed to show the Japanese people in Tokyo that their country was not impervious to attack from the skies and after the severe loss of life in Honolulu a few months earlier, the Doolittle raid also offered America a badly needed morale boost.

While local services will be held for Cole at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, the famed aviator will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Rob MarkAuthor
Rob Mark is an award-winning journalist, business jet pilot, flight instructor, and blogger.

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