Richard "Dick" Cole was Jimmy Doolittle's copilot in the first bomber to launch from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet on the famous Tokyo Raid. Born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1915, Dick Cole enlisted in the Army on 22 November 1940. He was accepted into the Army Air Corps and graduated in 1941 from advanced flying training at Kelly Field, Texas. Commissioned a second lieutenant in July 1941, he was first assigned to the 17th Bombardment Group, Pendleton, Oregon. After Pearl Harbor, the Group immediately began antisubmarine patrols off the coast of Oregon and Washington, during which one of the crews received credit for sinking a Japanese submarine near the mouth of the Columbia River.
In late January and early February 1942 the group was transferred to Columbia, South Carolina. It was here that Cole volunteered for a top secret mission under the command of Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle. Following intensive training at Eglin Field in Florida, the crews flew their North American B-25 Mitchells to California where 16 of the aircraft were loaded onto the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in April 1942. On 18 April, only four months after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Doolittle Raiders accomplished the first air raid on Japan. Cole had the enormous responsibility of being the co-pilot of the number one B-25, piloted by Doolittle himself.
Launching 250 miles earlier than planned because a Japanese fishing boat had spotted them, all 16 aircraft had to ditch or crash land after striking their targets because they simply did not have enough fuel to make it to their intended Chinese landing sites. Catching a rare tailwind blowing east to west, Cole's aircraft was able to make land from 180 miles out to sea, instead of running out of fuel as initially projected. Bailing out of his aircraft over China into the pitch-black void, Cole spent the remainder of that first night sleeping in the tree where he landed. After return to US control, Cole stayed in China and India flying cargo aircraft until he returned home in June 1943.
In October 1943, Cole volunteered for duty as pilot and engineer officer, 1st Air Commando Group, India-Burma Sector, where he took part in Operation THURSDAY, the first Allied all-aerial invasion. Cole landed soldiers more than 200 miles behind Japanese defenses to establish an airfield in the midst of enemy-held territory. Upon completion of that tour, he was reassigned as Assistant Army AF Plant Representative, Midwestern District, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Following the war and until his retirement, he was assigned to various commands including Headquarters Far East Air Forces; Headquarters United States Air Force; Caracas, Venezuela; and Headquarters Tactical Air Command. Awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses, Cole retired in 1967. He is a command pilot with 5,078 hours in 30 aircraft including 250 combat missions with 500 combat hours. He currently lives in Comfort, Texas.
On 18 April 1942, only four months after the Pearl Harbor attack, Dick Cole and 79 other Doolittle Raiders successfully accomplished the first bombing mission on Japan. Cole had the enormous responsibility of being the co-pilot of B-25 number one, piloted by Jimmy Doolittle himself. Launching 250 miles earlier than planned because a Japanese fishing boat had spotted them, all 16 aircraft had to ditch or crash land after striking their targets--they did not have enough fuel to make it to their intended Chinese landing sites.