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The last of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders from World War II turns 102 years old

(U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Krystal M. Garret)
September 08, 2017

Of the 80 Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, retired Lt. Col. Richard E. “Dick” Cole is the only one alive today. On Thursday, Cole turned 102.

Earlier this year in April, Cole took part in a 75th anniversary ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. He commemorated the anniversary of the raid by continuing a tradition of raising a silver goblet with 1896 cognac and toasting to his fallen comrades.

(U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Stormy Archer)

Cole was among the 80 airmen selected to bomb the Japanese mainland following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. On the morning of April 18, 1942, the raid was forced to begin earlier than expected when the Navy flotilla encountered an enemy patrol.

Led by renowned aviator Lt. Col. James Doolittle, with Cole serving as his co-pilot, the 80 men took off and flew in single file for hundreds of miles just 200 feet above the water. The 16 bombers hit Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Nagoya, Kobe and Nagoya. Even though the Doolittle Raid did not cause a lot of physical damage, it left Japan worried, as they found out that the United States was able to strike the Japanese mainland.

All but three of the the 80 men survived the Doolittle Raid. Most crash-landed in Chinese territory and one bomber landed in the Soviet Union.

Last year, Staff Sgt. David Thatcher passed away in June, making Cole the only surviving member of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders.

In July, President Donald Trump spoke with Cole thanking him for his service.