The Doolittle Raid: 101-year-old Air Force veteran recalls World War II mission

- December 7 marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The American Naval and Air Forces on Oahu were bombed by Imperial Japanese aircraft on December 7, 1941 -- killing 3,400 and drawing America into World War II.

The U.S. was clearly unprepared for war and at first, didn't know how to strike back -- until a very brave group of aviators decided they could use Air Force bombers to attack Japan from a Navy carrier.

The Doolittle Raid, named after the Air Force officer who led it, was a psychological lift for the U.S. and a traumatic setback for Japan, but 75 years later, there's just one American still alive who remembers it all.

Lt. Dick Cole is about to go back in time. This B-25 parked at Ellington Air Field in Texas looks just like one of the planes in his unit during the war.

"I guess it's all about.. boils down to be able to take father time out of the way and say I wish I was young again," said Cole. 

In a photo taken in 2014, Cole looks like a kid again flying a B-25. He was a kid himself when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Later, Cole was part of the plan to strike back -- a plan cooked up by aviator Jimmy Doolittle: train 80 men to fly their B-25 Mitchel bombers off the deck of a Navy aircraft carrier. They would bomb Tokyo, then land safely in China. But they had to take off early after the fleet was spotted by a Japanese fishing boat. Cole and the others knew they might not have enough fuel to reach land.

"As a group, we didn't feel it was any more of a suicide mission than the young people who were going over to Germany every day," said Cole.

Cole had to bail out over China at night. He evaded capture, but not everyone did. Some of those taken prisoner by the Japanese were executed. For the rest, time has taken away what the Japanese couldn't. Cole is the only Doolittle Raider still alive.

"We had a job to do and we did what we were supposed to do and that's it," he said.

The U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid in 2017 and 101-year-old Richard "Dick" Cole plans to attend.


  • Popular

  • Recent

Stories You May Be Interested In – includes Advertiser Stories