April 10 (UPI) — The last surviving member of World War II’s so-called Doolittle Raid, retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole, died Tuesday at a San Antonio hospital, his family said. He was 103.
Cole’s daughter, Cindy Chal, told the San Antonio Express News he died peacefully at Brooke Army Medical Center with family, including son Richard Cole, by his side.
The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders was a group of 80 airmen who flew 16 modified B-25B Mitchell bombers on an April 1942 raid on the Japanese capital of Tokyo and nearby locations during World War II. Lt. Col. James Doolittle planned and led the raid, and Cole was his co-pilot.
The bombers launched from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier with the plan to continue on to China after the bombing. Three of the raiders died in the attack.
The raid, which proved mainland Japan was vulnerable to a U.S. air assault, was immortalized in the 2001 movie Pearl Harbor.
The Air Force’s chief of staff, Gen. Dave Goldfein, said he visited Cole in the hospital Sunday. Though Cole was unable to speak at the time, he had “just as firm a handshake as ever.”
“And I told him that we were thinking about him, his Air Force was thinking about him, and … the long blue line is carrying the torch that he had handed to us, and he nodded his approval and smiled,” he said. “And I’ll tell you, there will never be anybody like him.”