Just days shy of the 77th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, Lieutenant Colonel Richard “Dick” Cole, the sole surviving Doolittle Raider, flew west this morning. He was 103 years old.
I had the great privilege of working with Cole at airshows and through veteran services. We laughed over him telling my father he was getting old on his birthday and his standard answer to being “pickled” whenever someone would ask how he was able to be so spry for a man of his age. Even into his late nineties, he was able to crawl up the hatch of the B-25 Mitchell Bomber and assume his position in the right-hand seat to take a flight. A humble hero and perfect gentleman, Cole was always eager to visit with others and share his passion for history through his memories. In doing so, he created new ones. Cole related his military experiences in four Veterans History Project interviews including one with the Reichelt Oral History Program at Florida State University in 2004, one with Senator Lugar’s office in 2010, one with the Daughters of the American Revolution in Fredrick Chapter in 2014, and then with the Atlanta History Center in 2017. Although the collections all vary in content, Cole’s tremendous story of the heart of a volunteer endures.
As a young boy growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Cole spent his childhood dazzled by aircraft. Idolizing Charles Lindberg and Jimmy Doolittle, Cole participated in the Airplane Model League