The Greatest Generation: The Last Doolittle Raider Has Died

The last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders, Lt. Col. (USAF-Ret) Richard “Dick” Cole, died Tuesday at the San Antonio Medical Center in Texas. He was 103. Then-Lt. Cole was Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot during the famous Doolittle Raid that bombed Tokyo on April 18, 1942.

The Doolittle Raid consisted of 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers manned with 80 pilots and crew, five
on each aircraft. They were transported to the western Pacific on the USS Hornet (CV-8) and intended
to launch about 350 miles from Tokyo and then proceed to the Chinese coast for landing since the
bombers could not return to the Hornet and land on its deck.

However, Doolittle privately feared that all of his aircraft would be lost in the raid and that, if he survived, he would be court-martialed in disgrace. Instead, he was promoted twice, reaching the rank of Brigadier General and received the Medal of Honor. Lt. Cole was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role in the raid.

Early on the morning of April 18, 1942, while still 200 miles from their intended launch point, the Hornet and her escorts were spotted by a Japanese patrol boat who radioed the sighting back to Japan.
Doolittle and the captain of the Hornet decided to launch the B-25s immediately in an attempt to
maintain the element of surprise, but the early launch severely limited the fuel reserves of the bombers. Four of the bombers crashed into the sea before reaching China and most of the rest crashed on the Chinese coastline without reaching their intended airfields. One landed in Russia.

The Doolittle Raid had two missions. First, coming only four months after the devastating Japanese
attack on Hawaii and Pearl Harbor, it was designed to boost American morale and strengthen public
opinion on pursuing the war.

Second, it was intended to demoralize the Japanese population whose leaders had assured them that the Japanese homeland would never be attacked. The raid demonstrated that the United States could and would attack Japan with strategic bombing. Both missions were successfully accomplished.

May Dick Cole rest in peace now that all of the Doolittle Raiders are reunited in Valhalla.