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2017-06-15

Last surviving Dolittle Raider

Contributed

It was a love of the outdoors and fascination with boyhood idols like Wilbur and Orville Wright and Charles Lindbergh that led Dick Cole into flying. Growing up in Dayton, Ohio he wanted to be a forest ranger but the lure of the sky continued to haunt him. Cole often found himself at the airfield watching airmen take off and land including daredevil James Doolittle. After two years of college he had to make a decision on his direction in life. When he was accepted into the Civilian Pilot Training Program the trajectory for his life was set. Later he found himself as the copilot on Doolittle's plane on a daring project to bomb Tokyo four months after Pearl Harbor. The odds of success of the venture were unclear and after running out of fuel most crash landed in China with one plane landing in Russia. Of the sixteen young crew members that took off from the U.S.S. Hornet not all were fortunate to return. Eight were captured by the Japanese, four spent forty months as prisoners of war, three were executed and one died in prison. Torture, solitary confinement and inadequate food took its toll on the survivors. Many people don't know that over 250,000 Chinese coastal villagers were massacred by the Japanese if they even suspected them of helping the airmen escape.
The Doolittle Raid took place on April 18, 1942 and was designed to cast doubt in Japan as to whether their own homelands were safe plus to boost American morale. This Spring at an air show in Hondo, not only was the last surviving member of the raid there but an example of the bomber he flew. It's been 75 years since that fateful day but this 4th of July holiday REMEMBER those who came before and helped keep us FREE.