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.
Arlington National Cemetery (not yet interred as of October 2019)
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 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, was an air raid by the United States on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on Honshu during World War II. It was the first air operation to strike the Japanese archipelago. 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, led by, and named after 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, 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 2018 U.S. census estimate put the city population at 140,640, 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 among public and private universities. 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

Doolittle 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.

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 260,972 in 2019, the city is also the 81st-most populous in the United States. The city is in the 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.

He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in July 1941 and rated as a pilot, when he was awarded his pilot wings at Randolph Field, Texas, on July 12, 1941. His first assignment was as a B-25 Mitchell pilot with the 34th Bomb Squadron of the 17th Bomb Group at Pendleton, Oregon, on July 1941. [4]

Randolph Air Force Base United States Air Force base near San Antonio, Texas, USA

Randolph Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located at Universal City, Texas. The base is under the jurisdiction of the 902d Mission Support Group, Air Education and Training Command (AETC) and is the headquarters of AETC's Nineteenth Air Force.

34th Bomb Squadron

The 34th Bomb Squadron is part of the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. It operates Rockwell B-1 Lancer aircraft providing strategic bombing capability.

17th Bombardment Group

The 17th Bombardment Group is an inactive United States Air Force unit. The group was last stationed at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

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 preemptive 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 a medium bomber that was introduced in 1941 and named in honor of Major General William "Billy" Mitchell, a pioneer of U.S. military aviation. Used by many Allied air forces, the B-25 served in every theater of World War II, and after the war ended, many remained in service, operating across four decades. Produced in numerous variants, nearly 10,000 B-25s were built. These included a few limited models such as the F-10 reconnaissance aircraft, the AT-24 crew trainers, and the United States Marine Corps' PBJ-1 patrol bomber.

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 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, [3] and Doolittle was unable to locate their landing field in Chuchow. He and his crew linked up after the bailout and were helped through Japanese lines by Chinese guerrillas and American missionary John Birch. [8]

Post raid

C-47 Skytrain Douglas C-47 Skytrain.jpg
C-47 Skytrain

After the raid, Cole remained in China and flew C-47 Skytrains to transport supplies from Burma to China over the dangerous Himalayan mountains known to as The Hump, from May 1942 to June 1943. He later served with the 5th Fighter Group in Tulsa, Oklahoma, from June to October 1943.

Cole then volunteered for Project 9, which was the birth of the Air Commandos. He served as an original Air Commando in the Transport Section of Project 9 in the CBI Theater. They took part in the Invasion of Burma, where they invaded with gliders, built a couple of airfields behind Japanese lines, which was the beginning of the march from northeastern India by the ground forces to retake Burma. Cole served with the Air Commandos from October 1943 until he returned to the United States in June 1944. [9]

His next assignment was as an Army Air Forces Plant Representative and Acceptance Test Pilot at Wichita, Kansas, from June 1944 to October 1945, and then as Officer in Charge of the Training Section at Victorville Army Air Field, California, from October 1945 to November 1946. Cole went on terminal leave beginning November 13, 1946, and left active duty on January 11, 1947. [4]

Post war

Cole returned to active duty on July 7, 1947, and served on the group staff at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, from July 1947 to January 1952, followed by attending the Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia, from January to September 1952.

During the Korean War, Cole next served on the staff of Far Eastern Air Forces in Japan from September 1952 to March 1955, and then on the staff of Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from March 1955 to July 1958. [4]

After attending Spanish Language Training, he served as an advisor to the Venezuelan Air Force in Caracas, Venezuela, from January 1959 to August 1962, followed by service with the 464th Troop Carrier Wing at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, from August to October 1962. His next assignment was on the staff of the Joint Development Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from October 1962 to February 1963, and then as Director of Operations, Executive Officer, and as Vice Commander of the 831st Combat Support Group at George Air Force Base, California, on February 1963. [4]

Cole 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. -Deborah Lee James announces the name of the Air Force's newest bomber, the B-21 Raider, with the help of retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole, one of the Doolittle Raiders.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] [ citation needed ]

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] [16] [3] [17] A memorial service for Cole was held at Joint Base San Antonio on April 18, the 77th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. [18] He was then buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. [19]

Awards and Decorations

During his lengthy career, Cole earned many decorations, including: [20]

COMMAND PILOT WINGS.png    USAF Command Pilot badge

Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg
Distinguished Flying Cross with two bronze oak leaf clusters
Bronze Star ribbon.svg Bronze Star Medal
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Air Medal ribbon.svg
Air Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Commendation ribbon.svg Air Force Commendation Medal
AF Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon.png Air Force Presidential Unit Citation
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
American Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze campaign stars
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star
Korean Service Medal - Ribbon.svg Korean Service Medal
Silver oakleaf-3d.svg
Air Force Longevity Service ribbon.svg
Air Force Longevity Service Award with silver oak leaf cluster
Medal of the Armed Forces, A-First Class ribbon.png Republic of China Medal of the Armed Forces
United Nations Service Medal Korea ribbon.svg United Nations Korea Medal
Noribbon.svg Republic of China War Memorial Medal

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  1. Goldstein, Richard (June 22, 2016). "David Thatcher, Part of '42 Doolittle Raid on Japan, Dies at 94". The New York Times . 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. 1 2 3 Goldstein, Richard (April 9, 2019). "Richard Cole, 103, Last Survivor of Doolittle Raid on Japan, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "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. Oliver, Charlotte C. (May 27, 2017). "Doolittle raid gave America a boost". Nevada Appeal . Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  9. King, Lauren (April 9, 2019). "The last surviving Doolittle Raider, Richard E. Cole, dies at 103". ABC News . Retrieved April 25, 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 & 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". Air Force Public Affairs Agency.
  14. Giangreco, Leigh (September 20, 2016). "Last surviving Doolittle Raider rises to name Northrop B-21". FlightGlobal .
  15. "Last surviving Doolittle Raider passes away". Troy Daily News . Troy, Ohio: AIM Media Midwest. April 9, 2019. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  16. 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.
  17. Stephens, Andrew (April 9, 2019). "Lt Col Dick Cole, last surviving Doolittle Raider, passes away at age 103". Air Force Public Affairs Agency. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  18. 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.
  19. Gast, Phil; Roth, Richard; Patterson, Thom (April 9, 2019). "Dick Cole, last of the Doolittle Raiders, dies at 103". CNN . Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  20. "Valor awards for Richard E. Cole". Military Times. Sightline Media Group. Retrieved April 23, 2019.