Inevitable but sad:
Sad news—the last Doolittle Raider has died. Lt. Col. Richard Cole passed away Monday at the age of 103.
Cole was the final surviving member of the daring raid on Tokyo by carrier-launched B-25s. As I wrote for his 100th birthday in 2015:
Col. Richard Cole was the co-pilot of “Crew 1,” which means he sat alongside Col. Jimmy Doolittle at the tip of the tip of the American spear aimed at Imperial Japan. The Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1942, was a virtual suicide mission. It was a daring sea-launched bombing mission in the earliest days of World War II.
After Pearl Harbor, Americans were desperate to hit back, and that first hit was the Doolittle Raid. Sixteen Army Air Force B-25s took off from the USS Hornet to hit multiple Japanese cities. The plan was to fly to China because a B-25 could not land on an aircraft carrier. Only one of the 16 planes actually landed safely — in the Soviet Union. The fate of the rest of the crews was a story of heroism and sacrifice.
Many didn’t survive. Some were beheaded by the Japanese. The Japanese burned entire towns in occupied China that helped the Raiders.
Go here to read the rest.
Seventy-seven years ago 80 very brave Americans, led by Army Air Corps Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, brought the nation a badly needed morale boost. The War in the Pacific was going badly as defeat followed defeat. Navy Captain Francis Low hit upon a plan to send a message, not only to the American public, but also to Japan, that the United States was not beaten and that it would strike back and prevail.
16 Mitchell B-25B bombers were placed on the carrier USS Hornet. In great secrecy the Hornet and its escorts steamed to within 650 nautical miles of Japan when the force was discovered by a Japanese picket boat which was sunk by gunfire from the USS Nashville. Fearing discovery the Doolittle force launched immediately, some 10 hours earlier than planned, and 170 nautical miles further from Japan.
The raiders reached the Japanese Home Islands at around noon. They had split up into groups ranging from two to four planes and struck targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Nagoya, Kobe and Osaka. The raiders then planned to fly their planes into Nationalist controlled China and make their way back to the US. Miraculously 69 of the raiders did just that. Three of the raiders died and eight were captured.
Of the captured raiders, three were executed by the Japanese on October 15, 1942 following a show trial.
The remaining five POWs were placed on starvation rations, with one of them dying prior to liberation by the Allied forces at the end of the War. Jacob DeShazer, one of the POWs, came back to Japan as a missionary in 1948 and worked there for 30 years spreading the Gospel.
The news of the raid electrified the American public. When FDR was asked where the raid originated he playfully said “Shangri-La!”, the fictional kingdom in the then popular novel Lost Horizons. The Navy went on to name one of its carriers Shangri-La.
Colonel Doolittle rose to the rank of Lieutenant General during the War and was awarded the Medal of Honor in tribute to the heroism he amply displayed in leading the raid. The raiders remained a close-knit unit after the War, holding annual reunions with this year being the last. Now the last of these men, who gave America hope in victory so long ago, is gone. A happy landing Colonel Cole in the Kingdom of Love Eternal.