Last of WW2 Doolittle Raiders dies at 103

Dick ColeImage copyright

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The famed Doolittle Raiders lead an attack against Japan at a critical point in WWII

Dick Cole, the last veteran of a World War Two bombing raid on Japan in retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor, has died. He was 103 years old.

The famed Doolittle raid was named for then Lt Col Jimmy Doolittle, who led the first US strikes against Japan during the war in 1942.

Retired Lt Cole was Lt Col Doolittle’s co-pilot in the lead plane.

The raid, which included 16 B-25 bombers and 80 crew members, helped boost morale after Pearl Harbor.

“There’s another hole in our formation”, Air Force chief of staff General David L Goldfein said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The Legacy of the Doolittle Raiders – his legacy – will live forever in the hearts and minds of Airmen,” he continued.

Who is Dick Cole?

Born in 1915 in Dayton, Ohio, Mr Cole enlisted in the military in November 1940, after two years of college at Ohio University.

He was on a training mission in Oregon with the 17th Bombardment Group when he heard that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor, according to a news release from the Air Force.

After he was transferred to Columbia, South Carolina, Mr Cole and his entire group volunteered for a secret mission with no known details – what would become the Doolittle Raid.

It wasn’t until two days into the group’s voyage to begin the raid that the men were told they were on their way to Tokyo.

On 18 April, 1942, the US Army Air Force and the Doolittle Raiders launched an attack on Japan in retaliation for its devastating bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Though it only caused minor damage, the attack dealt a critical blow to the Japanese, undermining its assurances that the country was safe from an American air attack.

Image copyright
Facebook, courtesy of US Airforce

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Members of the Doolittle raiders lead ship

Of the 80 men who participated in the raid, eight were captured by Japanese forces.

Six of these men died by execution or while imprisoned.

Many had to parachute out of their planes as part of the mission, including Mr Cole who jumped out at around 9,000 ft (2,743m).

Mr Cole retired from the Air Force in 1966, after logging more than 5,000 flight hours in 30 different aircrafts.

He remained familiar at Air Force events, including the Doolittle Raiders’ annual reunions.

“We will miss Lt Col Cole, and offer our eternal thanks and condolences to his family,” wrote Gen Goldfein.

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