Every April 18 when I wake up in the morning, I immediately think of a particular group of 80 men who seemingly did the impossible. If not for them, this world as we know it today might not be. Of the original 80, only one remains alive.
Richard Cole, of Comfort, Texas, is The Last Raider. This September he will turn 103 years-old. Seventy-six years ago, he was a young man of 26 serving in the Army Air Corps. His station as a young lieutenant on this day in 1942 was sitting in the right seat of the first bomber to leave the deck of the USS Hornet. Next to him at the controls of the B-25B was Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, leader of the raid.
I have written in the past of this mission. I remember the day Jimmy Doolittle died. I wrote about it on November 19, 2010. Another interesting blog described the Doolittle Goblets. By the time I wrote that composition, many of the Raiders had already passed.
All of us alive today, and many born after the raid, some of whom have already passed, owe an incredible debt of gratitude to these men and to the others who died in the service of our great nation. On this day they did something incredible. Their naval armada was discovered early by the Japanese, and they were forced to start their mission prematurely. It was tantamount to being told, “Your mission was doubtful before as planned, but now it is a suicide mission.”
The plan was to start 400 nautical miles from the coast of Japan; they were discovered by Japanese picket boat more than 650 nautical miles out. This changed the mission planning altogether. It went from a night bombing mission to a day mission. It also meant they would not have enough fuel to get to their destination airfields in China. It literally changed to a suicide mission. Still, every one of the 80 did not balk. They took on as much extra fuel as they could in extra gas cans and launched.
Their stories are incredible. If you develop more of an interest in learning about this mission, here are some of the historical titles I can recommend. One of the first books was Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo by Ted W. Lawson and Robert Considine. Lawson was the pilot of the seventh airplane off the Hornet. This story of the preparation and what he and his crew went through after the mission is an incredible story, a read that is very difficult to put down until the reader finishes the story.
Another book that once started, has to be finished right away is Jimmy Doolittle’s autobiography, I Could Never Be So Lucky Again, by James Doolittle and Carroll V. Glines. This book is the account of Doolittle’s life, which also includes a lot of information about the raid.
Another authoritative book about the raid is The Doolittle Raid: America’s Daring First Strike Against Japan by Carroll V. Glines.
Finally, there is Colonel Cole’s story, told in Dick Cole’s War: Doolittle Raider, Hump Pilot, Air Commando by Dennis R. Okerstrom. These are the accounts of the raid and the following war experiences of The Last Raider.
Each of these books is a great start on learning and understanding more about one of the most significant military events in the history of war.
©2018 J. Clark
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