Richard E. Cole

Last updated
Richard Eugene Cole
Luncheon in honor of Doolittle Raiders 141107-N-CS953-014 (cropped).jpg
Cole in 2014
Born(1915-09-07)September 7, 1915
Dayton, Ohio, U.S.
DiedApril 9, 2019(2019-04-09) (aged 103)
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
AllegianceFlag of the United States.svg  United States of America
Service/branchFlag of the United States Air Force.svg  United States Air Force
Years of service1940–1966
Rank US Air Force O5 shoulderboard rotated.svg Lieutenant colonel
Unit 17th Bomb Group
1st Air Commando Group
Commands held 831st Combat Support Group
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Awards Distinguished Flying Cross (3)
Bronze Star Medal
Air Medal (2)

Richard Eugene Cole (September 7, 1915 – April 9, 2019) was an American career officer in the United States Air Force. He was one of the airmen who took part in the Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1942, serving as the co-pilot to Jimmy Doolittle in the lead airplane of the raid. He eventually reached the rank of lieutenant colonel.

United States Air Force Air and space warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial and space warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the five branches of the United States Armed Forces, and one of the seven American uniformed services. Initially formed as a part of the United States Army on 1 August 1907, the USAF was established as a separate branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on 18 September 1947 with the passing of the National Security Act of 1947. It is the youngest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the fourth in order of precedence. The USAF is the largest and most technologically advanced air force in the world. The Air Force articulates its core missions as air and space superiority, global integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control.

Doolittle Raid American aerial bombing mission against Japan in WWII

The Doolittle Raid, also known as the Tokyo Raid, on Saturday, April 18, 1942, was an air raid by the United States on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II, the first air operation to strike the Japanese Home Islands. It demonstrated that the Japanese mainland was vulnerable to American air attack, served as retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor, and provided an important boost to American morale. The raid was planned and led by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle of the United States Army Air Forces.

Jimmy Doolittle United States Air Force Medal of Honor recipient

James Harold Doolittle was an American General and aviation pioneer. He made early coast-to-coast flights, earned a doctorate from M.I.T. in aeronautics, won many flying races and most significantly, helped develop instrument flying.


Cole remained in China after the raid until June 1943, and served again in the China Burma India Theater from October 1943 until June 1944. He later served as Operations Advisor to the Venezuelan Air Force from 1959 to 1962. He retired from the Air Force in 1966 and became the last living Doolittle Raider in 2016. [1]

China Burma India Theater

China Burma India Theater (CBI) was the United States military designation during World War II for the China and Southeast Asian or India-Burma (IBT) theaters. Operational command of Allied forces in the CBI was officially the responsibility of the Supreme Commanders for South East Asia or China. However, US forces in practice were usually overseen by General Joseph Stilwell, the Deputy Allied Commander in China; the term "CBI" was significant in logistical, material and personnel matters; it was and is commonly used within the US for these theaters.

Venezuelan Air Force Aerial warfare branch of Venezuelas armed forces

The Venezuelan Air Force, officially the Venezuelan National Bolivarian Military Aviation is a professional armed body designed to defend Venezuela's sovereignty and airspace. It is a service component of the National Armed Forces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Early life

Richard Eugene Cole was born on September 7, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio. [2] He graduated from Marion L. Steele High School and went on to attend Ohio University for two years. [3]

Dayton, Ohio City in Ohio, United States

Dayton is the sixth-largest city in the state of Ohio and the county seat of Montgomery County. A small part of the city extends into Greene County. The 2017 U.S. census estimate put the city population at 140,371, while Greater Dayton was estimated to be at 803,416 residents. This makes Dayton the fourth-largest metropolitan area in Ohio and 63rd in the United States. Dayton is within Ohio's Miami Valley region, just north of Greater Cincinnati.

Marion L. Steele High School, often referred to as Amherst Steele, is a public high school located in Amherst, Ohio, United States, approximately 30 miles (48 km) west of Cleveland. The school is named after a long serving principal of Amherst High, Marion L. Steele.

Ohio University public university in Athens, Ohio, United States

Ohio University is a public research university in Athens, Ohio. The first university chartered by an Act of Congress and the first to be chartered in Ohio, it was chartered in 1787 by the Congress of the Confederation and subsequently approved for the territory in 1802 and state in 1804, opening for students in 1809. Ohio University is the oldest university in Ohio, the eighth oldest public university in the United States and the 30th oldest university among public's and privates. As of fall 2018, the university's total enrollment at Athens was 20,000, while the all- campus enrollment was just under 35,000.

Military career and Raid

Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 1, 34th Bombardment Squadron. From left to right: Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. On the deck of USS Hornet, April 18, 1942 Dolittle Raider, Plane 1.jpg
Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 1, 34th Bombardment Squadron. From left to right: Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. On the deck of USS Hornet, April 18, 1942

He enlisted as an aviation cadet in the Air Force on November 22, 1940, at Lubbock, Texas. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in July 1941 and rated as a pilot. [4]

Lubbock, Texas City in Texas, United States

Lubbock is the 11th-most populous city in the U.S. state of Texas and the county seat of Lubbock County. With a population of 256,042 in 2015, the city is also the 83rd-most populous in the United States. The city is located in northwestern part of the state, a region known historically and geographically as the Llano Estacado, and ecologically is part of the southern end of the High Plains, lying at the economic center of the Lubbock metropolitan area, which has a projected 2020 population of 327,424.

Cole was assigned as the co-pilot of the first aircraft, plane # 40-2344, for the famous "Doolittle Raid" following the attack on Pearl Harbor. This was the first B-25 medium bomber to depart the deck of the USS Hornet during the mission, and it was piloted by the leader of the raid, then-Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle. [5]

Attack on Pearl Harbor Surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service upon the United States against the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941. The attack led to the United States' formal entry into World War II the next day. The Japanese military leadership referred to the attack as the Hawaii Operation and Operation AI, and as Operation Z during its planning.

North American B-25 Mitchell family of medium bomber aircraft

The North American B-25 Mitchell is an American twin-engine, medium bomber manufactured by North American Aviation (NAA).

USS <i>Hornet</i> (CV-8) 1941 Yorktown-class aircraft carrier of the United States Navy

USS Hornet (CV-8), the seventh ship to carry the name Hornet, was a Yorktown-class aircraft carrier of the United States Navy. During World War II in the Pacific Theater, she launched the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo and participated in the Battle of Midway and the Buin-Faisi-Tonolai Raid. In the Solomon Islands campaign, she was involved in the capture and defense of Guadalcanal and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands where she was irreparably damaged by enemy torpedo and dive bombers. Faced with an approaching Japanese surface force, Hornet was abandoned and later torpedoed and sunk by approaching Japanese destroyers. Hornet was in service for a year and six days and was the last US fleet carrier ever sunk by enemy fire. For these actions, she was awarded four service stars, a citation for the Doolittle Raid in 1942, and her Torpedo Squadron 8 received a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism for the Battle of Midway. Her wreck was located in late January 2019 near the Solomon Islands.

On April 18, 1942, Doolittle and his B-25 crew took off from the Hornet, reached Tokyo, Japan, bombed their target, [6] then headed for their recovery airfield in China. Doolittle and his crew bailed out safely over China when their B-25 ran out of fuel [1] after flying 2,500 miles (4,000 km). By then, they had been flying for about 13 hours, [7] it was nighttime, the weather was stormy, [1] and Doolittle was unable to locate their landing field in Chuchow. [8] He and his crew linked up after the bailout and were helped through Japanese lines by Chinese guerrillas [1] and American missionary John Birch. [9]

Tokyo Metropolis in Kantō

Tokyo, officially Tokyo Metropolis, one of the 47 prefectures of Japan, has served as the Japanese capital since 1869. As of 2018, the Greater Tokyo Area ranked as the most populous metropolitan area in the world. The urban area houses the seat of the Emperor of Japan, of the Japanese government and of the National Diet. Tokyo forms part of the Kantō region on the southeastern side of Japan's main island, Honshu, and includes the Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands. Tokyo was formerly named Edo when Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu made the city his headquarters in 1603. It became the capital after Emperor Meiji moved his seat to the city from Kyoto in 1868; at that time Edo was renamed Tokyo. Tokyo Metropolis formed in 1943 from the merger of the former Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo. Tokyo is often referred to as a city but is officially known and governed as a "metropolitan prefecture", which differs from and combines elements of a city and a prefecture, a characteristic unique to Tokyo.

John Birch (missionary) American military intelligence officer

John Morrison Birch was a United States American Baptist minister and missionary, and United States Army Air Forces captain who was a U.S. military intelligence officer in China during World War II. Birch was killed in a confrontation with Chinese Communist soldiers a few days after the war ended. He was posthumously awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal.

He retired from the military in 1966.

Post-retirement and death

Dick Cole, the last living Doolittle Raider (left), announces the name of the B-21 with Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James (right), during the Air Force Association conference on September 19, 2016. 160919-F-EK235-430.jpg
Dick Cole, the last living Doolittle Raider (left), announces the name of the B-21 with Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James (right), during the Air Force Association conference on September 19, 2016.

Cole was the last surviving participant in the Doolittle Raid. Staff Sergeant David J. Thatcher, gunner of aircraft No. 7, died on June 23, 2016, at the age of 94. [4] [10] [11] Cole was the only one to live longer than Jimmy Doolittle, who died in 1993 at age 96. [12]

On September 19, 2016, the Northrop Grumman B-21 was formally named "Raider" in honor of the Doolittle Raiders. [13] As the last surviving Raider, Cole was present at the naming ceremony during the Air Force Association conference. [14]

Cole died in San Antonio, Texas, on April 9, 2019, at the age of 103. [15] [8] [1] [16] A memorial service for Cole was to be held at Joint Base San Antonio on April 18, the 77th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. [17] He will be buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. [18]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Goldstein, Richard (April 9, 2019). "Richard Cole, 103, Last Survivor of Doolittle Raid on Japan, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2019. He was 94 and the next-to-last survivor among the mission’s 80 airmen. His death... leaves Richard Cole, age 100, as the last surviving veteran of a legendary chapter in Air Force history. Mr. Cole was a co-pilot alongside Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, the raid’s commander and pilot of its lead plane.
  2. Piper, Gary (May 2012). "Surviving Doolittle Raiders Attending The Reunion" (PDF). EAA Chapter 863. Experimental Aircraft Association. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  3. Goldstein, Richard (April 9, 2019). "Richard Cole, 103, Last Survivor of Doolittle Raid on Japan, Dies". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  4. 1 2 "Richard E. Cole, 0-421602, Colonel, Co-Pilot Crew 1".
  5. "80 Brave Men: The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Roster".
  6. Okerstrom, Dennis R. (December 31, 2015). Dick Cole’s War: Doolittle Raider, Hump Pilot, Air Commando. University of Missouri Press. p. 153. ISBN   9780826273550.
  7. Barber, Barrie (April 14, 2017). "WWII 75 years later: 101-year-old Dayton man relives Doolittle Raid". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  8. 1 2 Losey, Stephen (April 9, 2019). "A legend passes: Dick Cole, last of the Doolittle Raiders, dies at 103". Air Force Times. Sightline Media Group. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  9. Oliver, Charlotte C. (May 27, 2017). "Doolittle raid gave America a boost". Nevada Appeal. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  10. Howell, Kellan (September 5, 2015). "Richard Cole, last of two surviving 'Doolittle Raiders,' turns 100 on Labor Day". The Washington Times.
  11. Horton, Alex (June 23, 2016). "1 member of the Doolittle Raid remains as fellow airman dies". Stars and Stripes.
  12. Frank Kappeler and Thomas Griffin also lived to age 96, but not as many months as Doolittle.
  13. Martin, Mike (September 19, 2016). "The B-21 has a name: Raider". US Air Force.
  14. Giangreco, Leigh (September 20, 2016). "Last surviving Doolittle Raider rises to name Northrop B-21".
  15. "Last surviving Doolittle Raider passes away". Troy Daily News. April 9, 2019. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  16. Stephens, Andrew (April 9, 2019). "Lt Col Dick Cole, last surviving Doolittle Raider, passes away at age 103". United Air Force. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  17. Losey, Stephen (April 12, 2019). "Memorial for Dick Cole, last of Doolittle Raiders, to be held on 77th anniversary of his legendary mission". Air Force Times. Sightline Media Group.
  18. Gast, Phil; Roth, Richard; Patterson, Thom (April 9, 2019). "Dick Cole, last of the Doolittle Raiders, dies at 103". CNN . Retrieved April 11, 2019.