Historic WWII raid life with Doolittle survivor, now 103

FILE – In this April 18, 2015, file photo, two members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, retired US air force Lt.-Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, sit in the front, and a retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, seated left, pose for photos after the presentation of a Congressional Gold Medal in honor of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders at the National Museum of the U.S. air force at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. The last surviving Doolittle Tokyo Raider is still the telling of the World War II stories, and he enjoys hearing new passed on to the younger generations. (AP Photo/Gary Landers, File)

CINCINNATI – The last surviving Doolittle Tokyo Raider is still the telling of the World War II stories, and he enjoys hearing of new ones that have been passed down to the younger generations.

Retired Lt.-Col. Dick Cole recently celebrated his 103rd birthday. And he is ready to attend another air show in Hillsboro, Oregon, from Sept. 28. The Comfort, Texas, resident lived one in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, this summer.

Young people tell him about their great-grandfathers’ world War II memories.

“That’s nice,” Cole, originally from Dayton, Ohio, said by phone Thursday. “You meet a lot of people and shake a lot of hands. I love to talk with children.

“I enjoy it, and I think they do, because they keep coming back.”

He was mission commander Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in 1942 bombing attack in less than five months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The daring attack on Japan is credited with the lifting of the V. S. spirits and help turn the tide of the war in the Pacific.

“I think the most important thing was that you had to go with a positive attitude,” Cole said of the against-the-odds mission. “I really didn’t worry about it. It was our job, and we knew what to expect.”

The 80 Raiders were four years ago honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for their “outstanding heroism, valor, skill and service to the United States.”

Three Robbers died trying to reach China after the attack, and eight were captured by Japanese soldiers. Three were executed and a fourth died in captivity. Cole with his parachute, and he and the other Robbers were helped to safety by Chinese partisans.

Cole has attended Raider-related events over the years, including the funeral in Missoula, Montana, in 2016 for the retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, the 79th Raider to die. He has also participated in the 75th anniversary of the events in 2017.

Cole said because he was older than many of the other Raiders, he had not expected to be of the latter.

“I thought that Mother Nature and the good man upstairs would make, and I would have no control over it.”

He chuckled when he was asked what it is like to be 103:

“A little bit slower than when you’re 102.”


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