The last Doolittle Raider has died at 103


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

The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Roys)

The Navy is investigating reports that a female Marine discovered a hidden camera in one of the women's restrooms aboard the USS Arlington, an amphibious transport dock that's currently on at port in Greece, NBC News originally reported.

Read More Show Less
The sun sets behind a C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, as Soldiers wait in line to board Nov. 17, 2008. (Air Force/Tech Sgt. Erik Gudmundson)

Today, an American service member died in a "non-combat incident" in Ninawa Province, Iraq according to a statement by Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State.

Read More Show Less

First came the explosion. Then, the cover-up.

"I held one [sailor] in my hands as he passed. He died in my arms."

USS Iowa on April 19, 1989. (Wikipedia Commons)

It's been 30 years since an explosion inside the number two gun turret on the USS Iowa killed 47 American sailors, but for Mike Carr, it still feels like yesterday.

"I knew all 47 guys inside that turret because as part of the ship's policy we had rotated between all three turrets," Carr, who served as a gunner's mate in the Iowa's aft 16-inch turret, told Task & Purpose. "We all knew each other rather intimately."

On April 19, 1989, the day of the blast, the ship was preparing for live-fire training at Vieques, Puerto Rico Naval Training Range.

Carr was wearing headphones that allowed him to hear what the crews in the other turrets were saying.

"At 10 minutes to 10 a.m., somebody came over the phones and said, 'We're having a problem, Turret 2, center gun,'" Carr recalled. "Then approximately two minutes later, I recognized Senior Chief [Reginald] Ziegler, who was the chief in charge of Turret 2, yell into the phones: 'Fire, fire, fire! Fire in center gun, turret 2. Trying to contain it.'"

Then came the blast, which was so strong that it ripped the headphones right off Carr's head.

Read More Show Less

Barracks to business: Hiring veterans has never been easier

Organizations offer training, certifications, networking to connect veterans, businesses

Jason Sutton

As a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a newly minted second lieutenant, I felt well-prepared to tackle the challenges facing a junior field artillery officer in the U.S. Army. When the time came to leave the Army, however, I was much less prepared to make the transition into the yet-unknown civilian sector.

One of the primary issues facing veterans after we transition is that we lack the same sense of purpose and mission that we had with our military careers. Today, more than ever, our service members volunteer to put themselves in harm's way. They are defending our freedom across the globe and should be recognized as our country's true heroes. It's critical that employers educate veterans and provide viable options so we can make informed decisions about the rest of our lives.

Read More Show Less
Maj. Gen. David Furness

The two-star general in charge of the roughly 15,000-strong 2nd Marine Division has turned micromanagement into an art form with a new policy letter ordering his Marines and sailors to cut their hair, shave their faces, and adhere to a daily schedule that he has prescribed.

In his "Policy Letter 5-19," Maj. Gen. David Furness lamented that he has noticed "a significant decline in the basic discipline" of troops he's come in contact with in the division area, which has led him to "FIX IT immediately," instead of relying on the thousands of commissioned and non-commissioned officers below him to carry out his orders.

Read More Show Less