Lt. Col. Dick Cole, Last of Doolittle's Raiders, Passes at 103
And then there were none. The last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders died today at the age of 103. Retired Lt. Col. Richard E "Dick" Cole was Jimmy Doolittle’s copilot in the lead bomber during the 1942 raid on Tokyo. He was there by chance, as Doolittle’s original copilot became ill before the mission launched.
Cole was interviewed by HistoryNet.com in 2016 about the raid, and was asked how he felt to help lead the bombing mission on Tokyo. “I guess I felt the same way as the rest of the people aboard,” he told HistoryNet. “There was a lot of jubilation and so forth, and then it got kind of quiet as people realized what they were getting mixed up in. But nobody jumped ship and nobody bailed.” Cole described what it was like just before the bomb run. “As we were flying over the Japanese countryside, I was impressed by the beauty of the place, and as we came over Tokyo I was amazed that nobody was jumping us and that there was no ack-ack. This was the first time that any of us who were on the raid had seen combat, and I thought, ‘So far, so good.’"
Launched on April 18, 1942, the so-called Doolittle raid was a success mainly in the sense that it boosted morale in the dark days after Pearl Harbor, and was a dramatic show of force demonstrating that U.S. air forces could attack mainland Japan. Sixteen B-25 Mitchell bombers were launched from the USS Hornet that Saturday morning, having been modified to carry significantly more fuel than normal, at the expense of defensive weapons. The raid was conceived with no way to return, so the bombers were expected to continue into China. All crash landed but 77 of the 80 crewmen survived the raid.
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