Doolittle Raiders take to the sky 60 years after historic battle
The last of the Doolittle Raiders — the 80 men who led a daring mission to bomb Japan four months after the Pearl Harbor attack — died Tuesday.
Richard “Dick” Cole was 103 years old.
He was one of the airmen who volunteered for the secret and “very hazardous” mission without knowing the target. The crew members began training for the mission at the old Columbia Army Air Base, now Columbia Metropolitan Airport.
The Doolittle Raiders were named after their charismatic leader, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle.
Cole, a Dayton, Ohio native, was Doolittle’s co-pilot aboard the first B-25 bomber that set off from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier bound for Tokyo and other Japanese cities on April 18, 1942.
Because the Hornet was spotted early by a Japanese fishing boat, the raid had to start sooner than planned, ensuring the planes couldn’t reach their landing strips in China, then an American ally. But the crews launched anyway.
As a result, Cole and Doolittle’s plane ran out of fuel and they had to bail from the plane.
For decades, the Doolittle Raiders met each year to offer a toast to their fellow Raiders who had passed away and to turn over silver goblets in their memory. Each of the 80 goblets carried the name of a Raider.
In 2017, Cole attended the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. As the last surviving Raider, he turned over the penultimate goblet in memory of David Thatcher, who died in 2016.
Cole died 11 days before the 77th anniversary of the raid.