The nation bid farewell to the sole surviving member of the ‘Doolittle Raiders’ Tuesday. Dick Cole of Comfort, Texas, was 103 when he died. Your Chamber was honored to host and recognize Cole when he joined us for our 2016 Spirit of America Dinner.
Cole was one of 80 servicemen who led daring air raids on the Empire of Japan in 1942, including the April 18 raid on Tokyo, where Cole served as co-pilot. The band of brothers were all volunteers led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle.
As a young man, Cole worked on his aunt’s dairy farm in his home state of Ohio during the Great Depression. With the money made from his job, he was able to attend college. He met his wife Lucia Martha “Marty” Harrell in 1943, when she asked him to give her flying lessons. Although he declined to teach her, Harrell later appeared in Cole’s B-24 cockpit without warning. They were married two weeks later. Marty died in 2003.
Dick and Marty had two children, a son named Andrew and a daughter, Christina. Both preceded Dick in death, passing away in 2012 and 2010 respectively.
Cole remained active well into his 90s, mostly tending to his humble farm in Comfort, where he grew fruit trees. After turning 100, his life started to slow down and most recently, was checked into Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
Before his death Tuesday, Cole was visited at his bedside by visitors, including the U.S. Air Force’s Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein. For most of his life, he maintained that the Doolittle Raid was not the only significant part of his life and that the real reverence is for his comrades who didn’t return home or live as long a life as he did.
“One thing you think about is guys who didn’t make it, the fact that they have not been able to enjoy the popularity or whatever you want to call it, and enjoy life like we’ve been able to do,” Cole said.