HomeNewsArticle Display

Final Doolittle Raider’s tradition of honor, legacy of valor celebrated at memorial

Attendees bow their heads during the invocation at a memorial service for retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, April 18, 2019.

Attendees bow their heads during the invocation at a memorial service for retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, April 18, 2019. Cole, the last surviving Doolittle Raider, was the co-pilot on a B-25 Mitchell for then-Col. Jimmy Doolittle during the storied World War II Doolittle Tokyo Raid and was a founding Airman of the USAF Special Operations community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tristin English)

The family of retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole, Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Goldein, and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson watch the T-38C Talon Missing Man flyover during a memorial service celebrating Cole's life at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, April 18, 2019.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and memorial attendees watch flyover during a memorial service celebrating the life of retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, April 18, 2019. Cole, the last surviving Doolittle Raider, was the co-pilot on a B-25 Mitchell for then-Col. Jimmy Doolittle during the storied World War II Doolittle Tokyo Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sean Worrell)

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to attendees at the memorial service to celebrate the life of retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, April 18, 2019.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to attendees at the memorial service to celebrate the life of retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, April 18, 2019. Cole, the last surviving Doolittle Raider, was the co-pilot on a B-25 Mitchell for then-Col. Jimmy Doolittle during the storied World War II Doolittle Tokyo Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

Richard Cole, son of retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole, speaks to attendees during a memorial service for his father at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, April 18, 2019.

Richard Cole, son of retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole, speaks to attendees during a memorial service for his father at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, April 18, 2019. The last surviving Doolittle Raider and a founding Airman of the U.S. Air Force Special Operations community, Cole passed away April 9 in San Antonio. (U.S. Air Force photo by Johnny Saldivar)

Aaron Cole, a grandson of retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole, sings the national anthem during a memorial service for his grandfather at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, April 18, 2019.

Aaron Cole, a grandson of retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole, sings the national anthem during a memorial service for his grandfather at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, April 18, 2019. Cole, the last surviving Doolittle Raider, was among 80 Airmen who took part in the storied World War II Doolittle Tokyo Raid and was a founding Airman of the U.S. Air Force Special Operations community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Johnny Saldivar)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Doolittle, a descendant of Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, sings “America the Beautiful” during a memorial service celebrating the life of retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas April 18, 2019.

Staff Sgt. Michelle Doolittle, a descendant of Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, sings “America the Beautiful” during a memorial service celebrating the life of retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, April 18, 2019. Cole, the last surviving Doolittle Raider, was the co-pilot on a B-25 Mitchell for then-Col. Jimmy Doolittle during the storied World War II Doolittle Tokyo Raid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Johnny Saldivar)

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein addresses the family of retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole during a memorial service at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas April 18, 2019.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein addresses the family of retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole during a memorial service at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas April 18, 2019. Cole was the last surviving Doolittle Raider who took part in the storied World War II raid on Tokyo and was a founding Airman of the U. S. Air Force Special Operations community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Johnny Saldivar)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) --

The tradition of honor and legacy of valor that defined the life of retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole were celebrated during a memorial service at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, April 18.

On the day marking the 77th anniversary of the storied World War II Doolittle Tokyo raid and in a hangar surrounded by vintage aircraft linked to the Doolittle Raider’s career, Cole’s family and friends, Air Force senior leaders, and Airmen of all ranks gathered to recognize the accomplishments of the humble warrior from Ohio who answered his nation’s call in America’s darkest days.

After a stirring rendition of the national anthem by Cole’s grandson Aaron, Rich Cole, Lt. Col. Cole’s son and a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel like his father, spoke passionately about his father and his willingness to be a wingman and leader, defending his country with his life.

“All the (Doolittle Raiders) thought they were doing their job and they didn’t expect the adoration they got when they returned home,” Rich Cole said. “One of the greatest lessons my dad imparted on us was that being willing to do something impossible and die for your country was an honorable thing.”

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson talked to those gathered about the strategic importance of the Doolittle Raiders and their risky mission to fly, fight and win in retaliation against Japan for their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor just months earlier.

“(The Raiders) planned the unthinkable,” Wilson said. “To strike Tokyo from an aircraft carrier...with a land-based bomber. If the 16-ship package had been discovered by Japanese subs, it could have ended what was left of the U.S. fleet in the Pacific.”

Wilson recounted how Cole once described heroes as those “who took risks that brought about important consequences,” but never counted himself among them.

“When America was at its lowest point, it needed a hero,” Wilson said. “(America) found 80 of them who put the country on their back and flew straight into the heart of the enemy. For this, we will never forget.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told the audience several stories centered on Cole and how unassuming he was about his career, which included becoming one of the first air commandos in the U.S. special operations community, viewing his own place in history simply as someone doing their job as part of the big picture.

“(Cole) and the Doolittle Raiders made the impossible, possible since 1942 as pioneers of global strike,” Goldfein said. “On that fateful day, Col. Cole and his fellow wingmen cemented the very notion of joint airpower with the clear statement that America’s Air Force can hold any target at risk anywhere, anytime.”


Acknowledging the Cole family’s loss, the chief of staff spoke to Cole’s significant contributions to our nation’s defense and lifetime place in the Air Force family as “one of the rare giants of the Greatest Generation.”

“(Cole’s) legacy will endure because as long as there is a United States Air Force, Airmen will toast him and his fellow Doolittle Raiders,” Goldfein said. “We are better prepared today to defend our great nation because of him…and because of you.”

Staff Sgt. Michelle Doolittle from the Band of the Golden West based at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., then sang “America the Beautiful” with backup from the Band of the West’s Freedom Brass quintet from JBSA-Lackland.

The performance held special meaning to the family with Staff Sgt. Doolittle being a descendant of Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, who led the raid on Tokyo and flew with Cole in Aircraft No. 1 in the B-25 Mitchell formation off the deck off the U.S.S. Hornet.

The city of San Antonio, represented by Mayor Ron Nirenberg, then presented the Cole family with a resolution of respect for Cole’s military service and record of personal sacrifice in helping others, as well as acknowledging Cole’s deep ties to the San Antonio area and expressing their condolences over his passing.

Even after retirement from the service in 1966, Cole never left his fellow Airmen behind, representing the Air Force and the Doolittle Raiders at events around the country, promoting the spirit of service and heritage among new generations of Airmen.

“The Doolittle Foundation Scholarship foundation was extremely important to my dad,” Rich Cole said. “He spent the last 50 years of his life raising awareness and donations for the scholarship; it really was his way of not only giving back to Gen. (Jimmy) Doolittle’s memory, but to the Air Force.”

After a final salute to the Doolittle Raider from his son, and with “Amazing Grace” wafting over the hangar from a ceremonial bagpipe, guests were ushered outside for flybys from aircraft with historical significance and ties to Cole, including an RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft from his days with the 95th Bombardment Squadron; a B-52 Stratofortress bomber; a historic B-25 Mitchell bomber; and finally a “Missing Man” formation flown by T-38C Talons from the 12th Flying Training Wing.

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @AirmanMagazine: Getting help to the right location for land rescues in the aftermath of a major hurricane falls to the @usairforce Resc…
#B2 Spirit, a combination of #stealth & advanced avionics. #ThisWeekinHistory https://t.co/Bd7OrB3bbb
RT @AF_WSOC: 👀 who popped up with the big dogs on TopDrawerSoccer’s Top 40 Ranked Recruiting Classes for 2019! Excited to have these fresh…
For saving two fellow wingmen while deployed in Afghanistan, Tech. Sgt. Nick Torres received two bronze star medals… https://t.co/83bcAvqCxG
RT @DefenceHQ: Today the various NATO aircraft flypast at #RIAT19 to mark the 70th anniversary of NATO! Since its creation, NATO has been…
The @DeptofDefense has partnered with the @DeptVetAffairs to implement the first Women's Health Transition Training… https://t.co/JUTFicsXDw
⚡️ “Apollo 11 50th anniversary” https://t.co/GSeJYz6wPJ
The 413th Flight Test Sq. @TeamEglin successfully conducted the 1st #USAF piloted flight of the #HH60W Combat Rescu… https://t.co/wTyTtcmZjv
Jetting into the weekend like... #F16 https://t.co/wEWD7vr476
.@AstroHague showing his #USAF pride during the anniversary week of the #Apollo50 landing. @ISS_Researchhttps://t.co/WdgCFDmz6f
'Only two of us were not shot or dying': #USAF #Airman receives Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan heroism… https://t.co/IdmKq8gtDx
RT @AFResearchLab: Dr. Lisa Rueschhoff was one of 82 engineers chosen to attend @theNAEng 2019 U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium! Sh…
RT @ActingSecAF: .@GenDaveGoldfein is bolstering partners & #allies across Europe, discussing how we can be #StrongerTogether in air, #spac
Annual recovery efforts have helped to identify 40 of the 52 service members lost when a C-124 crashed into Mount G… https://t.co/fdHUY2IATf
8 of the surviving #Apollo #Astronauts got together for the 50th anniversary of the #moonlanding. @NASAhttps://t.co/szPJHXupa1
RT @HQUSAFEPA: Gen. Goldfein, during his keynote address at the 2019 Chief of the Air Staff's Air and Space Power Conference said the follo…
.@WrightPattAFB opened a #cyberdefense facility for #USAF Life Cycle Management Center's Fighters & Bombers Directo… https://t.co/QibdORLX2q
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: Our asymmetric advantage is represented in this room. It is all of us working together on a common cause. Great to see…