Col. Richard Cole, The Last Surviving Member Of Doolittle’s Raiders Is 102 Years Old

On September 7th, Col. Richard E Cole turns 102 years old. He is the LAST surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders. He was the co-pilot for Doolittle’s plane, #1 in the formation of 16 B-25Bs bombers.

The Doolittle Raid was one of the most outrageously conceived battle plans of World War II. On April 18, 1942, 80 volunteers (52 officers, 28 enlisted), 5-each in the 16 medium-range bombers, took off from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier, to bomb targets in the Japanese homeland. The plan was to attempt to reach China after the raid and be rescued by friendly Chinese.

Of the 16 bombers, 12 crashed in China, 3 ditched in Chinese coastal waters, and one landed in the Soviet Union. Of the 80 airmen who participated in the raid, 69 escaped capture or death. One died falling down a cliff shortly after landing safely.

The B-25 is the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri

The crews of two aircraft (ten men in total) were unaccounted for. It was subsequently learned that two crewmen drowned after crash landing in the ocean and that eight of the others were being held as prisoners of the Japanese in the Shanghai Police Station. Of those eight, three were executed, one died in captivity, and the remaining four were rescued by American troops in August 1945.

Col. Doolittle’s After Action Report (July 9, 1942) provides a summary of the results for each of the 16 bombers and most of their crew. Included in this report are after action reports from most of the pilots.

Army fliers greet Gen. James Doolittle at a raider reunion in 1948

Although it actually resulted in little damage, the intent of the raid was to raise the morale of the American people as soon as possible after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 (a short period of seven months).

Members of the Doolittle Raiders meet in 1987

Because he lost all the mission’s aircraft in the raid, Doolittle believed the attack to be a failure, and he expected to be court-martialed after returning to the U. S. However, because the raid had raised American morale to such a high level, Doolittle was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Roosevelt, and was soon promoted to brigadier general, thereby skipping the rank of colonel by two grades.

We veterans salute Col. Cole and honor those who have already gone.

into the wild blue yonder, Climbing high into the sun… Nothing’ll stop the U.S. Air Force!” 

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Chuck Yarling has had many titles in his career thus far: veteran, engineer, math teacher, consultant, technical writer, book author and publisher, and triathlete. He was a member the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Bugles Across America, which plays Taps at military funerals and special events. Spec. 5 Chuck Yarling served with the 26th Combat Engineering Battalion in Vietnam as an awards clerk. His service with the U.S. Army resulted in being awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Army Commendation Medal. You may reach Chuck at [email protected]

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