Richard E. Cole

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Richard Eugene Cole
Luncheon in honor of Doolittle Raiders 141107-N-CS953-014 (cropped).jpg
Cole in 2014
Born(1915-09-07)September 7, 1915
Dayton, Ohio, U.S.
DiedApril 9, 2019(2019-04-09) (aged 103)
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service1940–1966
RankUS Air Force O5 shoulderboard rotated.svg Lieutenant colonel
Unit17th Bomb Group
1st Air Commando Group
Commands held831st Combat Support Group
Battles/warsWorld War II
Korean War
AwardsDistinguished Flying Cross (3)
Bronze Star Medal
Air Medal (2)

Richard Eugene Cole (September 7, 1915 – April 9, 2019) was an American career officer in the United States Air Force. He was one of the airmen who took part in the Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1942, serving as the co-pilot to Jimmy Doolittle in the lead airplane of the raid. He eventually reached the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Cole remained in China after the raid until June 1943, and served again in the China Burma India Theater from October 1943 until June 1944. He later served as Operations Advisor to the Venezuelan Air Force from 1959 to 1962. He retired from the Air Force in 1966 and became the last living Doolittle Raider in 2016.[1]

Early life[edit]

Richard Eugene Cole was born on September 7, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio.[2] He graduated from Marion L. Steele High School and went on to attend Ohio University for two years.[3]

Military career and Raid[edit]

Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 1, 34th Bombardment Squadron. From left to right: Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. On the deck of USS Hornet, April 18, 1942

He enlisted as an aviation cadet in the Air Force on November 22, 1940, at Lubbock, Texas. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in July 1941 and rated as a pilot.[4]

Cole was assigned as the co-pilot of the first aircraft, plane # 40-2344, for the famous "Doolittle Raid" following the attack on Pearl Harbor. This was the first B-25 medium bomber to depart the deck of the USS Hornet during the mission, and it was piloted by the leader of the raid, then-Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle.[5]

On April 18, 1942, Doolittle and his B-25 crew took off from the Hornet, reached Tokyo, Japan, bombed their target,[6] then headed for their recovery airfield in China. Doolittle and his crew bailed out safely over China when their B-25 ran out of fuel[1] after flying 2,500 miles (4,000 km). By then, they had been flying for about 13 hours,[7] it was nighttime, the weather was stormy,[1] and Doolittle was unable to locate their landing field in Chuchow.[8] He and his crew linked up after the bailout and were helped through Japanese lines by Chinese guerrillas[1] and American missionary John Birch.[9]

He retired from the military in 1966.

Post-retirement and death[edit]

Dick Cole, the last living Doolittle Raider (left), announces the name of the B-21 with Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James (right), during the Air Force Association conference on September 19, 2016.

Cole was the last surviving participant in the Doolittle Raid. Staff Sergeant David J. Thatcher, gunner of aircraft No. 7, died on June 23, 2016, at the age of 94.[4][10][11] Cole was the only one to live longer than Jimmy Doolittle, who died in 1993 at age 96.[12]

On September 19, 2016, the Northrop Grumman B-21 was formally named "Raider" in honor of the Doolittle Raiders.[13] As the last surviving Raider, Cole was present at the naming ceremony during the Air Force Association conference.[14]

Cole died in San Antonio, Texas, on April 9, 2019, at the age of 103.[15][8][1][16] A memorial service for Cole was to be held at Joint Base San Antonio on April 18, the 77th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid.[17] He will be buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d e Goldstein, Richard (April 9, 2019). "Richard Cole, 103, Last Survivor of Doolittle Raid on Japan, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2019. He was 94 and the next-to-last survivor among the mission’s 80 airmen. His death... leaves Richard Cole, age 100, as the last surviving veteran of a legendary chapter in Air Force history. Mr. Cole was a co-pilot alongside Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, the raid’s commander and pilot of its lead plane.
  2. ^ Piper, Gary (May 2012). "Surviving Doolittle Raiders Attending The Reunion" (PDF). EAA Chapter 863. Experimental Aircraft Association. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  3. ^ Goldstein, Richard (April 9, 2019). "Richard Cole, 103, Last Survivor of Doolittle Raid on Japan, Dies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Richard E. Cole, 0-421602, Colonel, Co-Pilot Crew 1".
  5. ^ "80 Brave Men: The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Roster".
  6. ^ Okerstrom, Dennis R. (December 31, 2015). Dick Cole’s War: Doolittle Raider, Hump Pilot, Air Commando. University of Missouri Press. p. 153. ISBN 9780826273550.
  7. ^ Barber, Barrie (April 14, 2017). "WWII 75 years later: 101-year-old Dayton man relives Doolittle Raid". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Losey, Stephen (April 9, 2019). "A legend passes: Dick Cole, last of the Doolittle Raiders, dies at 103". Air Force Times. Sightline Media Group. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  9. ^ Oliver, Charlotte C. (May 27, 2017). "Doolittle raid gave America a boost". Nevada Appeal. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  10. ^ Howell, Kellan (September 5, 2015). "Richard Cole, last of two surviving 'Doolittle Raiders,' turns 100 on Labor Day". The Washington Times.
  11. ^ Horton, Alex (June 23, 2016). "1 member of the Doolittle Raid remains as fellow airman dies". Stars and Stripes.
  12. ^ Frank Kappeler and Thomas Griffin also lived to age 96, but not as many months as Doolittle.
  13. ^ Martin, Mike (September 19, 2016). "The B-21 has a name: Raider". US Air Force.
  14. ^ Giangreco, Leigh (September 20, 2016). "Last surviving Doolittle Raider rises to name Northrop B-21".
  15. ^ "Last surviving Doolittle Raider passes away". Troy Daily News. April 9, 2019. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  16. ^ Stephens, Andrew (April 9, 2019). "Lt Col Dick Cole, last surviving Doolittle Raider, passes away at age 103". United Air Force. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  17. ^ Losey, Stephen (April 12, 2019). "Memorial for Dick Cole, last of Doolittle Raiders, to be held on 77th anniversary of his legendary mission". Air Force Times. Sightline Media Group.
  18. ^ Gast, Phil; Roth, Richard; Patterson, Thom (April 9, 2019). "Dick Cole, last of the Doolittle Raiders, dies at 103". CNN. Retrieved April 11, 2019.

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