Lt. Col. Richard Cole – Last Of The Doolittle Raiders – Passes.

image courtesy of the HistoryNet

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.

The Doolittle Raid was the United States’ first counterattack on the Japanese mainland after Pearl Harbor. 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. 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.

Information on the Doolittle Raid can be found here at the National Museum of the US Air Force website.

It is difficult to overestimate the effect on the moral of the US and Japan at the time of this raid. The US was reeling from not only Pearl Harbor, but losses across the Pacific. For the US, the raid symbolized the American spirit of never giving up and fighting on even when things look bleak. For the Japanese, the effect was “we thought the war was going well and they are bombing Tokyo?”

It takes a large amount of testicular fortitude to climb into a heavily laden bomber, aboard an aircraft carrier not designed for two engine bombers, slam the throttles to the max, release the brakes and take off in violent pitching seas knowing that you will most likely never see your home again.

That’s what the eighty men of the Doolittle Raid did.

Their mission accomplished, the men of the Doolittle Raid can all rest in peace now – well deserved peace – with the somehow inadequate “thanks” of a grateful nation.

News report on the “Final Toast” of the Doolittle Raiders:

Full coverage of the “Final Toast” event:

Awfully dusty in here right now……

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