75th Anniversary of the Doolittle Raid

Last Doolittle Raider, 101, recalls attack on Japan 75 years later

PUBLISHED: April 16, 2017 at 10:35 pm | UPDATED: April 16, 2017 at 10:36 pm

CINCINNATI — At age 101, retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole says his memories are vivid of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders mission that helped change the course of World War II.

Now the sole survivor of the original 80-member group, Cole recalls the excitement of learning the bombing target they had been secretly training for was Japan itself.

He remembers the eerie quiet as they neared their target, not knowing whether anti-aircraft firepower was ready for them; the precise series of orders, from open bomb bay doors to prepare to bail out, from mission leader Jimmy Doolittle as Cole flew alongside him as his co-pilot; parachuting into darkness, then being helped by Chinese villagers to stay one ahead of vengeful Japanese troops.

Three of his comrades were executed.

Cole plans to take part in events Monday and Tuesday at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton, Ohio, marking the 75th anniversary of the attack that rallied America and jarred Japan.

It will be “a somber affair,” Cole said in a recent telephone interview with The Associated Press, when he fulfills the long Raider tradition of toasting those who have died in the past year, using goblets engraved with their names. In a private ceremony, he will offer tribute to retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, who died last year at age 94 in Missoula, Montana.

Sometimes chuckling, sometimes reflective, Cole sounded clear and military officer-courteous during an AP telephone interview, with his daughter Cindy sometimes repeating the questions if he didn’t fully hear them in his home in Comfort, Texas.

Cole is sorry he won’t have any of his mission comrades with him to share stories and joke with as they did in annual reunions that began after World War II. He didn’t expect to be the last one standing, since he was older than many others on the mission.

“I never thought in that vein,” Cole said. “We all know that somewhere along the line, you have to drop out.”

The Raiders launched their assault April 18, 1942, in B-25 bombers not built to fly off an aircraft carrier at sea. Suspecting they had been detected by Japanese patrols, they left sooner than planned from the USS Hornet, utilizing their mission training in Florida on short-runway takeoffs.

“Everybody thought that the takeoff would be the most challenging thing, but as a matter of fact, it turned out to be easiest thing,” Cole said.

The crews of the 16 planes were “very quiet” as they neared Japan, he recalled, saying his role next to Doolittle was to “be seen, not heard. … You didn’t speak until spoken to.” But the country song “Wabash Cannonball” started running through his head and he unconsciously began tapping his toe, which caught Doolittle’s attention.

“He gave me a look which didn’t need any conversation,” Cole said with a laugh.

Doolittle soon ordered bomb bay doors opened, and the attack was on against what turned out to be limited anti-aircraft fire.

“The enemy was doing something else and surprised that we were there, and then I just thought, ‘So far, so good,’” Cole said.

They then headed to China, running out of fuel. Cole said Doolittle gave the command to prepare to bail out as they neared the coast, adding: “I wish you all good luck.”

Cole said it was scary to parachute into a dark “unknown” in rough weather. His parachute caught in a tree, leaving him dangling but safe.

Three Raiders died trying to reach China, and eight were captured by Japanese soldiers. Three were executed, and a fourth died in captivity.

Their attack inflicted scattered damage, but more important, stunned Japan’s people. Its military diverted resources to guard their homeland, while news of the raid lifted U.S. morale after the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and a string of Japanese victories in the Pacific.

“Seven decades later, we are still awed by the sheer audacity of the Doolittle raid and the incredible men whose grit and bravery made it possible,” Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi of California said when the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the Raiders in a 2015 ceremony. “Though time has thinned their ranks, it will never dim the daring of their deeds.”

Cole, a Dayton-area native, has been to the Ohio museum for reunions and other special events. He and Thatcher were there in 2015 for events highlighting the Gold Medal.

Cole also led a special public “final toast” ceremony at the museum in 2013, when four Raiders were still alive, saying of the departed: “May they rest in peace.”

Cole attended Thatcher’s funeral last June in Missoula.

Being an optimist and living his life in “moderation” probably has contributed to his longevity, Cole said, adding that he can’t really say for sure.

Asked about historical legacy, Cole replied that he believes he speaks for his late comrades in saying they considered themselves no more special than anyone else who served.

“We don’t want to be remembered any more than the rest of the people who took part in beating the Japanese,” Cole said. “They started it, and we finished it.”

More details can be found in the full article: http://www.denverpost.com/2017/04/16/last-doolittle-raider-recalls-japan-attack/

FILE – In this April 18, 2015, file photo, two members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, seated front, and retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, seated left, pose for photos after the presentation of a Congressional Gold Medal honoring the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Cole, co-pilot of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders’ lead plane and a fly-over by vintage B-25 bombers will be part of Ohio events April 17-18, 2017 for the 75th anniversary of the daring attack that helped turn the tide of World War II. Cole said it will be a somber moment when he toasts fellow Raider, Thatcher, who died in 2016. (AP Photo/Gary Landers, File)

HF DCA Flyer 2017

We received a request from a long-time volunteer this week — she wanted an Honor Flight DCA flyer to post at her office, to encourage her coworkers to join her at an Honor Flight. We were happy to create one for her, and wanted to share it with you all. Please feel free to reproduce this flyer and hang it up in your apartment building, office, church, or other community center!


>>>HF DCA Flyer 2017<<<

An Evening with Heroes and Voices

An Evening with Heroes and Voices is a FREE concert that communicates the Army’s proud heritage, sacrifice, and traditions to the American public. The concert captures the Army’s origins and impact on American history to include defending freedom and winning the nation’s wars. This special concert honors and recognizes the sacrifices and celebrates the contributions of our Soldiers, and our community’s first responders, doctors, nurses, and teachers who have met the needs of our nation during some of the most challenging times in our history. America’s Army has a proud and distinguished heritage of valor, selfless service, and patriotism. Join us as we celebrate our history and honor the connection to our communities.


LOCATION: Women in Military Service for America Memorial
2 Memorial Ave
Arlington, VA 22202
View Map


Visit the links below to reserve your FREE tickets:

Thursday, April 20 @ 7:30pm — event tickets and information here

Friday, April 21 @ 7:30pm — event tickets and information here

Saturday, April 22 @ 7:30pm — event tickets and information here

NCIS TV Show to Cast Primetime Spotlight on Honor Flight

Anyone who’s ever flown, or knows anyone who’s flown, with an Honor Flight hub has undoubtedly experienced the life-altering sense of pride and gratitude we all share for the service of our senior war heroes. On Tuesday, March 28, at 8 p.m. EST, viewers of CBS-TV’s top-rated primetime drama, NCIS, will get a glimpse into our world, and the remarkable men and women we are honored to serve.


NCIS writer Gina Lucita Monreal found her inspiration for the episode in her grandfather-in-law’s Honor Flight experience, and the renewed sense of pride and purpose with which he returned home after his day of honor in Washington, D.C. While the episode’s storyline is fictional, the deep and meaningful connections established among travelling veterans, and the passion of Honor Flight’s volunteers, shine through true and clear.


This unprecedented nationwide exposure provides each of us with an invaluable opportunity to move closer to our shared goal of personally thanking every WWII, Korean and Vietnam war veteran with his or her long-overdue day of honor. We can use it as a catalyst for reaching local veterans who’ve yet to fly with Honor Flight, encouraging the crucial financial and volunteer support needed to further our mission, and forging new relationships that will enable us to honor veterans now and long into the future.


We urge you to tune in to this special episode of NCIS on March 28, and encourage your friends, family, business associates and community connections to do the same.



*Photo credit for Honor Flight photo: VIP Photography


The Honor Flight Network flew 20,558 Veterans in 2016 alone. Honor Flight at Reagan welcomed 11,521 of those wonderful Heroes through our airport — that’s 56%!!
What does 56% look like? Check out the red seats on the airplane below! Each seat represents 143 Veterans who came to DC last year!
Take a moment to celebrate our achievement, but then let’s get back to work! There are more than 27,000 Veterans waiting to fly on their Honor Flights in 2017 and beyond — sign up to greet them today at HonorFlightDCA.com/schedule!

Real Hollywood Heroes

This page lists but a few, but from this group of only 18 men came over 70 medals in honor of their valor, spanning from Bronze Stars, Silver Stars, Distinguish Service Cross’, Purple Hearts and one Congressional Medal of Honor. Most of these brave men have since passed on.

Real Hollywood Heroes


Alec Guinness (Star Wars~Bridge over the River Kwai) operated a British Royal Navy landing craft on D-day.


James Doohan (“Scotty” on Star Trek) landed in Normandy with the U. S. Army on D-day.


Donald Pleasance (The Great Escape) really was an R. A. F. pilot who was shot down, held prisoner and tortured by the Germans.


David Niven was a Sandhurst graduate and Lt. Colonel of the British Commandos in Normandy.


James Stewart Entered the Army Air Force as a private and worked his way to the rank of Colonel. During World War II, Stewart served as a bomber pilot, his service record crediting him with leading more than 20 missions over Germany, and taking part in hundreds of air strikes during his tour of duty.Stewart earned the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, France’s Croix de Guerre,and 7 Battle Stars during World War II. In peace time, Stewart continued to be an active member of the Air Force as a reservist, reaching the rank of Brigadier General before retiring in the late 1950’s.


Clark Gable (Mega-Movie Star when war broke out) Although he was beyond the draft age at the time the U.S. entered W.W.II
Clark Gable enlisted as a private in the AAF on Aug. 12, 1942 at Los Angeles. He attended the Officers’ Candidate School at Miami Beach, Fla. and graduated as a second lieutenant on Oct. 28, 1942. He then attended aerial gunnery school and in Feb. 1943 he was assigned to the 351st Bomb Group at Polebrook where flew operational missions over Europe in B-17s. Capt. Gable returned to the U.S. in Oct. 1943 and was relieved from active duty as a major on Jun. 12, 1944 at his own request, since he was over-age for combat.


Charlton Heston was an Army Air Corps Sergeant in Kodiak.


Earnest Borgnine was a U. S. Navy Gunners Mate 1935-1945.


Charles Durning was a U. S. Army Ranger at Normandy earning a Silver Star and awarded the Purple Heart.


Charles Bronson was a tail gunner in the Army Air Corps, more specifically on B-29s in the 20th Air Force out of Guam, Tinian, and Saipan.


George C. Scott was a decorated U. S. Marine.


Eddie Albert (Green Acres TV) was awarded a Bronze Star for his heroic action as a U.S. Naval officer aiding Marines at the horrific battle on the island of Tarawa in the Pacific Nov. 1943.


Brian Keith served as a U.S. Marine rear gunner in several actions against the Japanese on Rabaul in the Pacific.


Lee Marvin was a U.S. Marine on Saipan during the Marianas campaign when he was wounded earning the Purple Heart.


John Russell: In 1942, he enlisted in the Marine Corps where he received a battlefield commission and was wounded and highly decorated for valor at Guadalcanal.


Robert Ryan was a U.S. Marine who served with the OSS in Yugoslavia.


Tyrone Power (an established movie star when Pearl Harbor was bombed) joined the U.S. Marines, was a pilot flying supplies into, and wounded Marines out of, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.


Audie Murphy, little 5’5″ tall 110 pound guy from Bay City, Texas who played cowboy parts? Most decorated serviceman of W.W.II and earned: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, 2 Silver Star Medals, Legion of Merit, 2 Bronze Star Medals with “V”, 2 Purple Hearts, U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, 2 Distinguished Unit Emblems, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with One Silver Star, Four Bronze Service Stars (representing nine campaigns) and one Bronze Arrowhead (representing assault landing at Sicily and Southern France) World War II Victory Medal Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar, Expert Badge with Bayonet Bar, French Fourragere in Colors of the Croix de Guerre, French Legion of Honor, Grade of Chevalier, French Croix de Guerre With Silver Star, French Croix de Guerre with Palm, Medal of Liberated France, Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 Palm.