Gathering of Eagles Foundation

Honored as an Eagle in:

2004 2013 2016

Eagle Biography

Richard E. Cole

Richard "Dick" Cole

Richard "Dick" Cole was Jimmy Doolittle's copilot on the first bomber to launch from the 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 conducted antisubmarine patrols off the coast of Oregon and Washington. In late January and early February 1942 the group 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, Cole and the other crews flew their North American B-25 Mitchells to California where 16 of the aircraft were loaded onto the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. On 18 April 1942, only four months after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Doolittle Raiders accomplished the first air raid on Japan. Cole was 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 the carrier, all 16 aircraft had to ditch or crash land after striking their targets because they did not have enough fuel to make it to their intended landing sites. Cole and Crew 1 luckily caught a rare tailwind blowing east to west and they were able to make land before fuel ran out. Bailing out of his aircraft over China into the pitch-black void, Cole landed in a tree and spent the remainder of that first night sleeping in that tree. The next day, he evaded capture and located Chinese nationalists who helped escort him to safety. 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. Following the Air Commando mission, he returned stateside and for the rest of his career held assignments in various commands including Headquarters Far East Air Forces; Headquarters United States Air Force; Caracas, Venezuela; and Headquarters Tactical Air Command. He retired in 1967 at a Lieutenant Colonel. He has been awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses. 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.

See the Lithograph
2013
Lithograph Setting

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 against Japan during World War II. Cole was the co-pilot of B-25 Number One, piloted by Jimmy Doolittle. Launching 250 miles earlier than planned because a Japanese fishing boat had spotted the carrier, 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.

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