It is a sad day here at the Lone Star Flight Museum as we learned of the passing of Lt. Col. (ret.) Dick Cole, the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. A long-time friend of the museum, the legendary aviator was 103 years old when he passed away this morning at his home in San Antonio.
Cole was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1915 and enlisted in the Army Air Corps in November, 1940. Assigned to the 17th Bomb Group, flying the B-25 Mitchell from Pendleton, Oregon, he volunteered to fly on the first raid against Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Cole flew as co-pilot to mission leader Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle in the first B-25 to launch from the deck of the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942. After attacking Tokyo, Doolittle and Cole flew to China where the crew was forced to bail out of their bomber after being unable to locate a landing field in darkness and bad weather. Aided by the Chinese, Cole and the crew made it safely back to Allied lines and eventually the United States.
After the Doolittle Raid, Cole flew combat missions in the China-India-Burma theater of operations until 1944, and remained in the Army Air Force (and later the US Air Force) until his retirement in 1966. For his actions he received the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star, and Air Force Commendation Medal.
While Dick Cole’s passing marks the end of living Doolittle Raiders, the story of their courage and sacrifice will live on. Fair skies, Dick Cole.
Today and every day we commemorate the remarkable service of the Doolittle raiders as the home of the official B-25 Mitchell of the Doolittle Raiders Association on permanent display at the Lone Star Flight Museum.