Goodbye to last Doolittle Raider, a hero of the Greatest Generation

Print Article

Dan Newhouse

On April 9, we said goodbye to a hero of the Greatest Generation. Retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders, passed away at the age of 103.

In the aftermath of the devastating sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the purpose of the Doolittle Raid four months later was to show that American air power could reach across the Pacific to threaten the home islands of Japan. The daring target of mainland Japan was symbolic because the Japanese military leaders had assured the nation that the Home Islands were too distant to be vulnerable to attack. While the amount of damage caused by the raid was minimal, it was the first U.S. attack on mainland Japan and succeeded in boosting American morale, changing the course of the war.

Led by Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle 77 years ago almost to the day on April 18, 1942, the 80 Doolittle Raiders flew 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers, taking off from an aircraft carrier in the Pacific more than 600 miles away from their targets. Dick Cole was mission commander Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot and would say later, “I had my own confidence, but we all had Jimmy Doolittle.”

The 80 volunteers knew the raid would be dangerous. According to Cole, Doolittle “offered anybody that had volunteered the opportunity to change his mind, without any repercussions. There were no takers.”

One contributing factor to the danger was that B-25s required 2,000 feet of runway, but the Doolittle Raiders took off the from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier with only a few hundred feet of space. Fighter escorts would not be able to accompany the raiders to their targets, leaving them vulnerable to air attack. Another factor was the lack of fuel to reach China. Cole described the dire fuel shortage the raiders faced: “Our only course of action was to climb up to what we thought was a safe altitude and fly until we ran out of fuel and bailed out.” 15 of the 16 bombers crash-landed near the coast of China. Dick Cole parachuted from 9,000 feet, giving himself a black eye as he pulled the ripcord. He was picked up on the ground by Chinese allies.

Of the 80 raiders, three were killed in action during the raid. Eight were captured, of whom four died in captivity.

After the war, the surviving Doolitte Raiders began an annual tradition of coming together, each raising one of 80 goblets bearing their names to toast one another. After a survivor passed away, his goblet would be turned upside down.

With the passing of Dick Cole, all of the silver Doolittle Raiders goblets have been raised for the last time. While they may be gone, the bravery of their actions and sacrifice, as well as the sacrifice of the dwindling Greatest Generation, will live forever in our national memory.

This column was submitted by Fourth Congressional District Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Yakima.

Print Article

Read More Editorial

American troops deserve better

July 17, 2019 at 6:31 pm | Columbia Basin Herald One of Congress’ most important Constitutional responsibilities is providing for our military and national defense. For the past 58 years, this has been a bipartisan affair. Members of the House an...

Comments

Read More

Protecting freedom and opportunity

July 10, 2019 at 5:10 pm | Columbia Basin Herald On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the United States of America was established. Last week, families across the country celebrated this momentous anniversary with firewo...

Comments

Read More

Recognizing National Dairy Month

June 26, 2019 at 6:49 pm | Columbia Basin Herald June is National Dairy Month, and Washington has many reasons to celebrate. Washington is home to almost 400 dairies, nearly 275,000 cows, and 18,000 dairy jobs. In fact, while Washington may be know...

Comments

Read More

Title-only bills need to go

June 19, 2019 at 5:47 pm | Columbia Basin Herald When the 2019 legislative session was coming to an end, elected Democrats used a little-known legislative loophole to pass their desired tax hikes. Democrats went the route of introducing “title-only...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(509) 765-4561
PO Box 910
Moses Lake, WA 98837

©2019 Columbia Basin Herald Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X