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Military

The Last Doolittle Raider Dies at Age 103

The only surviving legend of those attacks, Lt. Col. Richard Cole, died on Tuesday.

Culture Beat · Apr. 11, 2019

Our nation lost a legend on Tuesday. Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Richard Cole, the last of the famed World War II Doolittle Raiders died at age 103. Cole, who was originally from Dayton, Ohio, said of that famous and dangerous mission that hit back at the Japanese less than five months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, “I think the main thing was that you had to go in with a positive attitude. I really didn’t worry about it. It was our job, and we knew what to expect.”

Knowing what to expect? It was virtually a suicide mission given that the B-25s couldn’t land on aircraft carriers.

Immediately following the raid, Cole was able to parachute to safety where he was helped by Chinese partisans; his seven fellow crewmembers were not so fortunate. All seven died — three during the mission, three were captured by the Japanese and executed, and one died in captivity. However, the bold action and sacrifice made by these American heroes in punching back at Imperial Japan proved monumental in lifting the country’s spirits.

In 2015, all the Raiders were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for their “outstanding heroism, valor, skill and service to the United States.” That same year, Cole published a book entitled Dick Cole’s War: Doolittle Raider, Hump Pilot, Air Commando (American Military Experience). In it he detailed his military service.

As J. Christian Adams aptly put it, “Richard Cole deserves a salute from all Americans today. An American hero in the truest sense of the word has passed.”

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