The last Doolittle Raider has died at 103

History
The Doolittle Raid

The last airmen who took part in the daring Doolittle Raid during World War II has died.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dick Cole, who served as Army Lt. Col. James Doolittle's co-pilot during the raid, passed away on Tuesday at 103 years old. His death was first reported by Air Force Magazine's John Tirpak.


Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein paid tribute to Cole on Tuesday at the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Goldfein told audience members he had just visited Cole on Monday night in Texas.

"I told him our Air Force was thinking about him and his family because we're so proud to carry the torch that he and his fellow Raiders handed us," Goldfein said. "He couldn't speak, but he grasped my hand firmly and he nodded his approval."

"Sadly, just before taking the stage, I took a call from his son Rich, who shared that there's another hole in our formation, and our last surviving Doolittle Raider has slipped the surly bonds of earth and he is now reunited with his fellow Raiders," Goldfein continued. "What a reunion they must be having."

Ret. Lt. Col. Dick Cole, Doolittle Raider co-pilot crew 1, signals the start of engine 2 on a B-25 named "Special Delivery" on April 20, 2013 (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Carlin Leslie)

Cole was one of the few men of whom it can be honestly said changed history. The attack by 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers on April 18, 1942 set into motion a series of events that culminated in the Battle of Midway less than two months later, which decided the Pacific war in the United States' favor.

The raid was as dangerous as it was bold. The plan called for the bombers to take off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet — a feat that had never been done before.

With no chance of returning to the carrier, the planes were supposed to land in China, but the crews' chances of making it to safety dropped precipitously when the Hornet was spotted by a Japanese ship and Doolittle launched the bombers 200 miles further from Japan than planned.

Both Cole and Doolittle were in the lead bomber, so they had the least amount of the deck to get airborne. Yet all 16 bombers took off successfully and struck their targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Nagoya, and Kobe.

Seventy-five years later, Goldfein asked Cole two years ago what it felt like trying to make it to the Chinese coastline while low on fuel without any navigational references.

"He offered: 'Well, general, it sure would have been nice to have had GPS back then,'" Goldfein recounted on Tuesday. "You know, we're going to miss Col. Cole and we offer our eternal thanks and our condolences to his family. The legacy of the Doolittle Raiders will live forever in the hearts and minds of airmen long after we've all departed."

SEE ALSO: Wreckage Of Aircraft Carrier At The Heart Of The Doolittle Raid Found In South Pacific

WATCH NEXT: Guadalcanal's 75th Anniversary

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider

If you're in the market for a bunker in the southwest, you're in luck. A decommissioned missile complex is now on sale outside of Tucson for nearly $400,000. The complex was home to an armed Titan II missile for 24 years, before it was decommissioned in the 1980s.

The structure is listed with Grant Hampton at Realty Executives. Now, the home is back on the market, and these photos show what lies underground in Arizona.

Read More Show Less

Connecting with the youths is all fun and games until Congress starts worrying you could accidentally expose the U.S. military to Chinese data collection, am I right?

Read More Show Less

A Florida Navy Reserve officer rescued a woman who was trapped in a sinking car, according to a report by CBS 47.

Read More Show Less

The Marine Corps will investigate whether another Marine has ties to a white supremacist group after he allegedly made racist comments on neo Nazi message boards that have since been taken down, according to a Marine Corps official.

Vice News reporters Tess Owen and Tim Hume first reported on Nov. 8 that at least three people who posted on the new defunct Iron March message boards were service members, but their story did not include any of the troops' names.

Newsweek reporters James LaPorta and Asher Stockler were able to independently confirm the identity of one of those service members as an active-duty Marine: Lance Corporal Liam J. Collins, an 0311 Rifleman assigned to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Tuesday the United States knows the location of the third in command to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who killed himself last month during a U.S.-led raid.

"We have our eye on his third," Trump said during the question-and-answer session following a speech at the Economic Club of New York. "His third has got a lot of problems because we know where he is too."

Read More Show Less