Richard Cole, 103, Last Survivor of Doolittle Raid on Japan, Dies

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/09/obituaries/richard-cole-dead.html

By Richard Goldstein
April 9, 2019

Richard E. Cole, who was Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in the lead plane of a storied mission in the history of American air power, the bombing raid on Japan in retaliation for its attack on Pearl Harbor months earlier, died on Tuesday in San Antonio. He was 103 and the last survivor of the 80 Doolittle raiders, who carried out America’s first strikes against the Japanese homeland in World War II.

His death was announced by Gen. David L. Goldfein, the chief of staff of the Air Force.

The Doolittle raid was a low-level daylight attack in April 1942 that resulted in only light damage to military and industrial targets. But it buoyed an American home front reeling from unbroken reverses in the Pacific, beginning with the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941, and it shattered the Japanese government’s assurances to its people that they were invulnerable to an American air attack.

It also prompted Japan to launch a naval attack on the American base at Midway in the mid-Pacific in June 1942 out of the mistaken belief that the Doolittle bombers had departed from an aircraft carrier based there. The Americans, having broken the Japanese codes, knew the attack was coming and dealt the Japanese Navy a major defeat.

The commander of the American bombing raid, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, was awarded the Medal of Honor, becoming one of the nation’s first heroes of World War II.

The raiders’ story was reprised for succeeding generations at their annual reunions. Mr. Cole was among three survivors at the airmen’s final reunion, on Nov. 9, 2013, Veterans Day weekend, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton, Ohio.

On the morning of April 18, 1942, 16 Army Air Corps B-25 bombers flew to Japan off the aircraft carrier Hornet from a point more than 650 miles offshore.

Doolittle and Lieutenant Cole alternated in flying their bomber, armed with high-explosive and incendiary bombs.

“Everyone prayed but did so in an inward way,” Mr. Cole recalled in an account for the Air Force information office in 1957. “If anyone was scared, it didn’t show.”

Then came a moment that perplexed Doolittle. As Mr. Cole remembered it: “The tune ‘Wabash Cannonball’ kept running through my mind. One time I was singing and stomping my foot with such gusto that the boss looked at me in a very questioning manner, like he thought I was going batty.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/09/obituaries/richard-cole-dead.html

One last time for a real American hero…

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