Original Print Date: March 2013
From those who battled during WWII to those who served in more recent wars such as Iraq,we wanted to honor and recognized some of our local veterans. These men and women gave the ultimate sacrifice by fighting for our country and we wanted to get to know them a little better by asking them questions about their service. Enjoy getting to know some of our local heroes.
Richard E. Cole
Rank: Lt Col USAF, Retired
Years of Service: U.S. Army (USAAC, USAAF) 1940-1947;
U.S. Air Force 1947-1966; World War II 1941-1945;
Cold War 1945-1966; Korean War Theater 1952-1953
Branch: United States Air Force; Military Occupation: Bomber and Airlift Pilot
In World War II on 18 April 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Cole participated in the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, Japan as a B-25 pilot on General Jimmy Doolittle’s crew. This mission was personally ordered by President Roosevelt, but the aircrews were unaware of the mission, destination, or the risks they faced. These 80 brave Warriors voluntarily went into harm’s way because they knew their country needed them. This was a critical time in the war with morale sagging due to a series of military setbacks.
The success of the raid was an immediate high octane boost to the American fighting spirit. The Japanese responded quickly and their devastating defeat at the Battle of Midway turned the tide of the war in the Pacific.
Today at 96, Lt. Col. Cole is the oldest of the 5 remaining Doolittle Raiders and he is the only airman to have participated in both the Doolittle Raid and the aerial invasion of Burma, two of the most memorable and daring mission in special operations history.
He was asked how he came to be Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in the lead aircraft of the historic raid. “It was not planned,” he explained. “It just happened! We were at Eglin Field in Florida for training. We had to become carrier qualified, and we had instruction in low-level navigation and bombing. Each plane had to take off within 500 feet with a full load of gas and 2,000 pounds of bombs. We were about to go up on a training flight just before leaving for San Francisco to board the carrier, Hornet. I was in the co-pilot seat, but my pilot wasn’t there.” Doolittle saw the empty seat, climbed aboard and took over. It turned out that the pilot was sick and never made the raid. But Jimmy liked the crew and their teamwork, so he stayed with them. “Airplane numbers hadn’t been assigned yet, but of course we became aircraft No. 1 when they were,” said Cole.
I have many articles that I enjoyed, but my one of my favorites was the March 2013 Military issue highlighting veterans in our area, specifically Richard Cole. He was the last living member of the WWII Doolittle Raids. I read a ton of books, especially when I am pregnant, and I had just finished Unbroken, a book about WWII. I was able to talk on the phone to Richard Cole. His memories and his stories fascinated me – these men truly are heroes. I was star struck when I got to meet him. – Kate Kent