Last Doolittle Raider, 101, recalls attack 75 years later - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Last Doolittle Raider, 101, recalls attack 75 years later

(Source: Raycom Media) (Source: Raycom Media)

By DAN SEWELL
Associated Press

CINCINNATI (AP) - At age 101, retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole says his memories are vivid of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders mission that helped change the course of World War II.

Now the sole survivor of the original 80-member group, Cole recalls the excitement of learning the bombing target they had been secretly training for was Japan itself.

He remembers the eerie quiet as they neared their target, not knowing whether anti-aircraft firepower was ready for them; the precise series of orders, from open bomb bay doors to prepare to bail out, from mission leader Jimmy Doolittle as Cole flew alongside him as his co-pilot; parachuting into darkness, then being helped by Chinese villagers to stay one ahead of vengeful Japanese troops.

Three of his comrades were executed.

Cole plans to take part in events Monday and Tuesday at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton, Ohio, marking the 75th anniversary of the attack that rallied America and jarred Japan.

It will be "a somber affair," Cole said in a recent telephone interview with The Associated Press, when he fulfills the long Raider tradition of toasting those who have died in the past year, using goblets engraved with their names. In a private ceremony, he will offer tribute to retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, who died last year at age 94 in Missoula, Montana.

Sometimes chuckling, sometimes reflective, Cole sounded clear and military officer-courteous during an AP telephone interview, with his daughter Cindy sometimes repeating the questions if he didn't fully hear them in his home in Comfort, Texas.

Cole is sorry he won't have any of his mission comrades with him to share stories and joke with as they did in annual reunions that began after World War II. He didn't expect to be the last one standing, since he was older than many others on the mission.

"I never thought in that vein," Cole said. "We all know that somewhere along the line, you have to drop out."

The Raiders launched their assault April 18, 1942, in B-25 bombers not built to fly off an aircraft carrier at sea. Suspecting they had been detected by Japanese patrols, they left sooner than planned from the USS Hornet, utilizing their mission training in Florida on short-runway takeoffs.

"Everybody thought that the takeoff would be the most challenging thing, but as a matter of fact, it turned out to be easiest thing," Cole said.

The crews of the 16 planes were "very quiet" as they neared Japan, he recalled, saying his role next to Doolittle was to "be seen, not heard. ... You didn't speak until spoken to." But the country song "Wabash Cannonball" started running through his head and he unconsciously began tapping his toe, which caught Doolittle's attention.

"He gave me a look which didn't need any conversation," Cole said with a laugh.

Doolittle soon ordered bomb bay doors opened, and the attack was on against what turned out to be limited anti-aircraft fire.

"The enemy was doing something else and surprised that we were there, and then I just thought, 'So far, so good,'" Cole said.

They then headed to China, running out of fuel. Cole said Doolittle gave the command to prepare to bail out as they neared the coast, adding: "I wish you all good luck."

Cole said it was scary to parachute into a dark "unknown" in rough weather. His parachute caught in a tree, leaving him dangling but safe.

Three Raiders died trying to reach China, and eight were captured by Japanese soldiers. Three were executed, and a fourth died in captivity.

Their attack inflicted scattered damage, but more important, stunned Japan's people. Its military diverted resources to guard their homeland, while news of the raid lifted U.S. morale after the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and a string of Japanese victories in the Pacific.

"Seven decades later, we are still awed by the sheer audacity of the Doolittle raid and the incredible men whose grit and bravery made it possible," Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi of California said when the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the Raiders in a 2015 ceremony. "Though time has thinned their ranks, it will never dim the daring of their deeds."

Cole, a Dayton-area native, has been to the Ohio museum for reunions and other special events. He and Thatcher were there in 2015 for events highlighting the Gold Medal.

Cole also led a special public "final toast" ceremony at the museum in 2013, when four Raiders were still alive, saying of the departed: "May they rest in peace."

Cole attended Thatcher's funeral last June in Missoula.

Being an optimist and living his life in "moderation" probably has contributed to his longevity, Cole said, adding that he can't really say for sure.

Asked about historical legacy, Cole replied that he believes he speaks for his late comrades in saying they considered themselves no more special than anyone else who served.

"We don't want to be remembered any more than the rest of the people who took part in beating the Japanese," Cole said. "They started it, and we finished it."

___

Follow Dan Sewell at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell. For some of his other recent stories: http://bigstory.ap.org/content/dan-sewell

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • National SportsMore>>

  • Kickoff: Spain, Portugal can't coast to World Cup 2nd round

    Kickoff: Spain, Portugal can't coast to World Cup 2nd round

    Sunday, June 24 2018 11:04 AM EDT2018-06-24 15:04:12 GMT
    Sunday, June 24 2018 11:05 AM EDT2018-06-24 15:05:49 GMT
    (AP Photo/Francisco Seco). Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo plays the ball with teammates during the training session of Portugal at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Kratovo, outskirts Moscow, Russia, Saturday, June 23, 2018.(AP Photo/Francisco Seco). Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo plays the ball with teammates during the training session of Portugal at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Kratovo, outskirts Moscow, Russia, Saturday, June 23, 2018.
    Led by Ronaldo's former coach, Iran could spoil either Portugal or Spain's chances to advance at the World Cup.
    Led by Ronaldo's former coach, Iran could spoil either Portugal or Spain's chances to advance at the World Cup.
  • LEADING OFF: Rangers-Twins get testy, Reds on grand run

    LEADING OFF: Rangers-Twins get testy, Reds on grand run

    Saturday, June 23 2018 9:55 PM EDT2018-06-24 01:55:22 GMT
    Sunday, June 24 2018 11:05 AM EDT2018-06-24 15:05:40 GMT
    (AP Photo/Jim Mone). Texas Rangers' Jurickson Profar, right, smiles as Elvis Andrus congratulates him after Profar scored on a two-run single by Delino DeShields off Minnesota Twins pitcher Jake Odorizzi in the second inning of a baseball game Saturday...(AP Photo/Jim Mone). Texas Rangers' Jurickson Profar, right, smiles as Elvis Andrus congratulates him after Profar scored on a two-run single by Delino DeShields off Minnesota Twins pitcher Jake Odorizzi in the second inning of a baseball game Saturday...
    LEADING OFF: Rangers-Twins get testy, Reds on grand run, Yankees in scoring slump, Harper struggling.
    LEADING OFF: Rangers-Twins get testy, Reds on grand run, Yankees in scoring slump, Harper struggling.
  • Kane hat trick in 6-1 rout of Panama puts England in last 16

    Kane hat trick in 6-1 rout of Panama puts England in last 16

    Sunday, June 24 2018 10:13 AM EDT2018-06-24 14:13:43 GMT
    Sunday, June 24 2018 11:04 AM EDT2018-06-24 15:04:03 GMT
    (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni). England's Harry Kane celebrates after he scored his side's second goal during the group G match between England and Panama at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod , Russia, Sunday, June...(AP Photo/Antonio Calanni). England's Harry Kane celebrates after he scored his side's second goal during the group G match between England and Panama at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod , Russia, Sunday, June...
    Harry Kane scored a hat trick to help England to its most one-sided World Cup victory, a 6-1 rout of Panama that secured a place in the last 16 with a game to spare.
    Harry Kane scored a hat trick to help England to its most one-sided World Cup victory, a 6-1 rout of Panama that secured a place in the last 16 with a game to spare.
  • Strange NewsMore>>

  • Kind of a big dill: Boston hosts 2nd annual pickle fair

    Kind of a big dill: Boston hosts 2nd annual pickle fair

    Saturday, June 23 2018 10:09 AM EDT2018-06-23 14:09:21 GMT
    Sunday, June 24 2018 4:16 AM EDT2018-06-24 08:16:33 GMT
    The Boston Pickle Fair is back for the second year in a row and it's kind of a big dill.
    The Boston Pickle Fair is back for the second year in a row and it's kind of a big dill.
  • Park system celebrates 150 years with pink flamingo record

    Park system celebrates 150 years with pink flamingo record

    Friday, June 22 2018 2:39 PM EDT2018-06-22 18:39:06 GMT
    Sunday, June 24 2018 1:15 AM EDT2018-06-24 05:15:50 GMT
    (Zhi Ting Phua/Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy via AP). In this Thursday, June 21, 2018 photo, garden flamingos decorate a city park in Buffalo, N.Y. Park officials are tickled pink over claiming a new world record for having the longest line of the ...(Zhi Ting Phua/Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy via AP). In this Thursday, June 21, 2018 photo, garden flamingos decorate a city park in Buffalo, N.Y. Park officials are tickled pink over claiming a new world record for having the longest line of the ...
    Parks officials in Buffalo, New York, are tickled pink over claiming a new world record for having the longest line of garden flamingos.
    Parks officials in Buffalo, New York, are tickled pink over claiming a new world record for having the longest line of garden flamingos.
  • Drug spoon sculpture placed outside drugmaker headquarters

    Drug spoon sculpture placed outside drugmaker headquarters

    Friday, June 22 2018 1:27 PM EDT2018-06-22 17:27:27 GMT
    Sunday, June 24 2018 12:43 AM EDT2018-06-24 04:43:39 GMT
    (Susan Dunne/Hartford Courant via AP). An 800-pound sculpture, titled "Purdue," created by artist Domenic Esposito is displayed outside the Connecticut headquarters of drugmaker Purdue Pharma, Friday, June 22, 2018, in Stamford, Conn. The sculpture was...(Susan Dunne/Hartford Courant via AP). An 800-pound sculpture, titled "Purdue," created by artist Domenic Esposito is displayed outside the Connecticut headquarters of drugmaker Purdue Pharma, Friday, June 22, 2018, in Stamford, Conn. The sculpture was...
    An 800-pound, nearly 11-foot-long steel sculpture of a bent and burned drug spoon has been placed in front of the Connecticut headquarters of drugmaker Purdue Pharma as part of an art protest against the opioid...
    An 800-pound, nearly 11-foot-long steel sculpture of a bent and burned drug spoon has been placed in front of the Connecticut headquarters of drugmaker Purdue Pharma as part of an art protest against the opioid crisis.
  • NationalMore>>

  • Han Solo's Blaster from 'Return of the Jedi' tops auction

    Han Solo's Blaster from 'Return of the Jedi' tops auction

    Saturday, June 23 2018 11:13 PM EDT2018-06-24 03:13:59 GMT
    Sunday, June 24 2018 11:04 AM EDT2018-06-24 15:04:46 GMT
    (Julien's Auctions via AP). This photo provided by Julien's Auctions shows character Han Solo's BlasTech DL-44 blaster from the Star Wars trilogy film "Return of the Jedi" (Lucasfilm, 1983) that sold for $550,000 at Julien's Auctions Hollywood Legends ...(Julien's Auctions via AP). This photo provided by Julien's Auctions shows character Han Solo's BlasTech DL-44 blaster from the Star Wars trilogy film "Return of the Jedi" (Lucasfilm, 1983) that sold for $550,000 at Julien's Auctions Hollywood Legends ...
    Han Solo's Blaster from the "Return of the Jedi" has sold for $550,000 at a Las Vegas auction.
    Han Solo's Blaster from the "Return of the Jedi" has sold for $550,000 at a Las Vegas auction.
  • Latino leaders question Census head over citizenship query

    Latino leaders question Census head over citizenship query

    Saturday, June 23 2018 2:36 PM EDT2018-06-23 18:36:51 GMT
    Sunday, June 24 2018 10:58 AM EDT2018-06-24 14:58:04 GMT
    (AP Photo/Astrid Galvan). Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, left, speaks with U.S. Census Bureau Acting Director Ron Jarmin about plans to add a question about citizenship to the 20...(AP Photo/Astrid Galvan). Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, left, speaks with U.S. Census Bureau Acting Director Ron Jarmin about plans to add a question about citizenship to the 20...
    Latino elected officials from around the nation questioned the head of the U.S. Census Bureau in Phoenix on Saturday over the proposed addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 survey, which they strongly oppose.
    Latino elected officials from around the nation questioned the head of the U.S. Census Bureau in Phoenix on Saturday over the proposed addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 survey, which they strongly oppose.
  • Romney makes final pitch to voters ahead of Senate primary

    Romney makes final pitch to voters ahead of Senate primary

    Saturday, June 23 2018 11:48 AM EDT2018-06-23 15:48:03 GMT
    Sunday, June 24 2018 10:57 AM EDT2018-06-24 14:57:59 GMT
    (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer). In this Wednesday, June 20, 2018, photo, Mitt Romney poses for photographs during a backyard campaign stop in American Fork, Utah. Romney is flashing his familiar smile at city parks and backyards in Utah's mountains and suburbs...(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer). In this Wednesday, June 20, 2018, photo, Mitt Romney poses for photographs during a backyard campaign stop in American Fork, Utah. Romney is flashing his familiar smile at city parks and backyards in Utah's mountains and suburbs...
    Mitt Romney is flashing his familiar smile at city parks and backyards in Utah's mountains and suburbs this week, making his final pitch before Tuesday's Senate primary.
    Mitt Romney is flashing his familiar smile at city parks and backyards in Utah's mountains and suburbs this week, making his final pitch before Tuesday's Senate primary.
Powered by Frankly