The Last Surviving Member Of Doolittle’s Raiders Celebrates His 101st Birthday

Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, the last surviving member of Doolittle’s Raiders, celebrated his 101st Birthday on Sept. 7, 2016.

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 16 B-25B Mitchell medium 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.

Last Surviving Member
Crew No. 1 in front of B-25 #40, on 18 April 1942. From left to right: (front row) Lt. Col. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; (back row) Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. (U.S. Air Force photo)


The operation marked the first Allied retaliatory strike on the Japanese Home Islands. To plan the daring mission U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold had tapped Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, the famed air racer, test pilot and aeronautical engineer. Doolittle piloted the lead plane from Hornet. His co-pilot was 26-year-old Lieutenant Richard E. “Dick” Cole. Neither Doolittle nor any of his men had flown a single combat mission.

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 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.

The American Veterans Center recently sent a message to their subscribers letting them know about Col. Cole’s birthday. You too can help celebrate his birthday by signing an online birthday card. You can add your name and a message by going here.

We all salute the surviving member of Doolittle’s Raid 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!”

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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