Lt. Col. Richard Cole
The World War II Foundation
He's the Last of World War II's Famed Doolittle Raiders
He is the last of them. Of the 80 who took part in one of history’s most courageous missions that helped heal a nation following the attack on Pearl Harbor, only Lt. Col. Richard Cole is left.
He has drunk a final toast to all who have passed. He thinks about them often, especially their famed commander and the man he sat alongside as co-pilot on plane number one off the deck of the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, Jimmy Doolittle.
He knows that at 101 years old, he too will fade into history soon. Will people remember the Doolittle Raiders 20 years from now? Will their courage and sacrifice be forgotten?
In stormy seas, 16 B-25 bombers flew off the deck of the USS Hornet to deliver a nation’s first blow against the Japanese following December 7, 1941 and Pearl Harbor.
It was considered a suicidal mission. Bomb the Japanese homeland, then ditch their planes in China and try and make their way home.
The raid did little damage to Japan, but psychologically Dick Cole and his fellow crewmen delivered a blow that proved to a reeling American war machine that the impossible could be accomplished and maybe the enemy could be defeated after-all. This one mission. This one suicidal raid. It changed everything for the USA in World War II.
16 planes taking off from an aircraft carrier had never been accomplished before. 80 brave men volunteered for this mission.
Now, it’s just him. Dick Cole is the only one who can extend out a hand and say with pride “I was one of Jimmy Doolittle’s famed Tokyo Raiders. Would you like to hear my story?”
Each day 750 World War II veterans pass on. Of the 16.1 million Americans who served in WWII, less than a million are still with us. Is it important we remember their courage, sacrifice, patriotism and dedication? Is it important that men like Dick Cole still walk among us and are willing to share their stories for all who will listen?
These men, this man, who helped to save the world and then came home and went on with his life quietly and humbly.
He never sought out the attention he so richly deserved. He did not want to walk in parades or accept accolades, but just to get on with life and to never forget those who flew with him on that history making day in April of 1942 when America avenged Pearl Harbor, if only in the minds of a nation badly in need of good news.
Dick Cole was there on April 18, 1942. He was a part of history and is now the only one of 80 who is still with us. A 101-year-old hero who doesn’t call himself anything but one of Doolittle’s famed Raiders.
One mission that gave America hope and brought doubt to an enemy that felt it could never be defeated.
Now there is just one. One who still represents the other 79 heroes who made history and also what our nation truly represents.