Last surviving Doolittle Raider to be remembered at memorial ceremony

Julia LeDoux
April 17, 2019 - 12:01 pm
Richard Cole

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Richard Cole was then-Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot during the April 18, 1942 airstrikes on targets in and around Tokyo that gave America something to cheer about following Pearl Harbor.

It may only be fitting that Cole – the last surviving Doolittle Raider – will be remembered 77 years to the day of those strikes at a memorial service Thursday at Hangar 41 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. The remembrance begins at 3 p.m.. and is not open to the public.

Cole passed away April 9 in San Antonio at the age of 103

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The Doolittle Raid consisted of sixteen B-25 Mitchell bombers that took off from the deck of the USS Hornet, in the Pacific, on a mission to bomb various sites including Tokyo in retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor. The plan called for the planes to land in China after the mission, but they were spotted by a Japanese patrol boat before reaching the spot in the Pacific selected for launch. That caused the planes to take off early and destroyed any chance of surprise. Fifteen of the planes reached the Chinese coast, but the crews either bailed out or crash landed. Most of the 80 airmen made it to safety, but the Japanese captured eight of them, executing three. Another died in enemy captivity and three were killed bailing out or in crashes. 

Japan would retaliate for the raid during the Battle of Midway.

In addition to Cole’s family and friends, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Secretary Heather Wilson are expected to attend the ceremony.

"There's another hole in our formation," Goldfein said when he announced Cole’s death.  "Our last remaining Doolittle Raider has slipped the surly bonds of Earth. He is now reunited with his fellow Raiders. And what a reunion they must be having."

Richard Cole, last WWII Doolittle Raider, dies at 103

Hundreds of Airmen will line the entrance to JBSA-Randolph to salute the family as they enter the base. The service will also include a flyby and missing man formation. Several static aircraft will also be displayed.

Cole’s military decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters; Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster; Bronze Star; and Air Force Commendation Medal.

He will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

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