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    After the raid that stopped Japan: Doolittle’s co-pilot’s experience and life after the Doolittle Raid

    The raid that stopped Japan: Doolittle’s co-pilot’s experience of the Doolittle Raid

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Brandenburg | Retired Air Force Col. Richard E. Cole stands in front of a B-25 Mitchell at the...... read more read more

    FORT HOOD, Texas – The sun rose over the horizon early in the morning of April 19, 1942. A young American second lieutenant crawled down from the tree he had spent the night in. Cold and wet he gained his footing on the Chinese hillside. He took out his compass and started heading west.

    “I started walking west,” said retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, co-pilot of then Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s plane. “We [the 80 Doolittle Raiders] knew that if we walked west we would be leaving and getting away from [Japanese] occupied territory.”

    He walked until late afternoon before coming upon a small clearing. He spied a small camp of Chinese Nationalist guerillas - whom were allies of the United States - from a ridge and after being “dubious at first” made contact. He learned that Doolittle had arrived there sometime earlier and was taken to another outpost. He too was soon taken to the second outpost. By the end of the next day the rest of the bomber crew were rescued and brought to the same assembly point.

    The following morning, with the five crewmembers of the first B-25 Mitchell reunited, they were escorted to a command post.

    “There was a Chinese general by the name of Ho,” he added. “And his office had a telephone. Colonel Doolittle was really interested in having a telephone because he wanted to find out where everybody was and what kind of condition they were in.”

    Despite the crew’s good fortune, the overall mission was not without its share of losses. One man died after bailout, two more drowned off the China coast. The Japanese executed three and captured five. Only one plane landed safely in China – all others were lost.

    The losses, coupled with the fact that the bombing did inconsequential damage to Japan, would have defined this mission as a massive failure; however, the raid is credited as one of the most successful missions of the Pacific war. Why?

    “They never did extend their forces any farther after the raid.”

    The raid is widely recognized to have boosted the low morale of allied forces in the Pacific. However, it also gave a large shock to the people and commanders of Japan. Their emperor had been telling his people that the island of Japan was untouchable. The raid proved their beloved emperor wrong, and for an honor society, this was an insult as well.

    As a direct result of the raid, the emperor pulled many top commanders from the fronts to Japan. It was also the first time that Japan took a more defensive stance. This allowed the allies desperately needed breathing room in the Pacific. If the Battle of Midway was the turning point for the war; the Doolittle Raid was the turning point to allow Midway.

    All 80 raiders were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The five imprisoned raiders were awarded the Purple Heart. Three received the Silver Star for gallantry and all received decorations from the Chinese government. Doolittle was awarded the Medal of Honor from President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was promoted two ranks to brigadier general.

    With the end of one of the most daring missions of WWII, what happens next for the Raiders? Most went on to fly additional combat missions in both theatres of the war. Fighting over the skies of Europe, the Germans captured and imprisoned four until the end of the war.

    For Cole, he joined the 1st American Volunteer Group, commonly referred to as the Flying Tigers.

    “By that time, they had formed the 11th Bomb Squadron. They were looking for pilots to fly transports, so nine of us decided that’s what we wanted to do.”

    Cole spent the next 14 months flying with the Tigers before returning to the United States, logging 50 missions. By the time he had returned stateside, the blazing and daring raid was old news. He spent a little more than three months in the States before going to fight the Japanese again.

    “I went back overseas with the 1st Air Commando Group. We invaded Burma with gliders; built a couple of airfields behind Japanese lines… that was the beginning of the march from northeastern India, by the ground forces, to retake Burma. Which they did.”

    After his service with 1st ACG, and logging another 50 missions, Cole returned home at the end of July 1944.

    With the war at an end, Cole moved around from base to base as most service members do throughout their careers. He was stationed at various bases in the U.S. as well as Venezuela but for three years during the Korean War he was stationed in Tokyo.

    “It was fine. I had no feeling or animosity in all the time I was there. I brought my family over there and we lived out in the middle of Tokyo… and had no bad experiences. In fact, the neighbors were very helpful.”

    Lt. Col. Cole retired from the U.S. Air Force in south Texas, Jan. 1967. For a combat pilot of 101 missions, one of which was the famous Doolittle Raid, he chose a surprisingly not so military profession after the service.

    “I became a citrus farmer,” Cole said nearly jumping out of his boots. “I did that with another gentleman I knew in the Air Force… so we formed a company and raised oranges and grapefruit and avocados.”

    Although he no longer actively farms he still lives in Comfort, Texas, to this day. He has kept busy by attending the Raider’s Reunions in the past, often with his grandsons.

    “I had the opportunity to start going to reunions at a very young age,” said Elliot Chal, one grandson who is now a West Point cadet in his junior year. “I remember the first one I went to… I kind of put two-and-two together and was like ‘wow this is a really big deal.’”

    The first Raider Reunion started in April 1945 and just ended last year with three of the last four surviving Raiders in attendance. They finally sipped and enjoyed the oaky, woodsy flavor of their 117 year-old cognac from silver goblets. The cognac, that commemorates Doolittle’s birth year, has been passed down from Doolittle, for just that occasion. Each goblet engraved with a Raider’s name upon it twice, the second name upside down. The goblets of the deceased were turned upside down.

    Chal said his brother, Cpt. Nathan Chal, a pilot stationed at Pensacola, Fla., and he had been to dozens of air shows and Raider Reunions with his grandfather and that the Raiders were always very humble wherever they went.

    “He was always very humble about it, ‘that was our job, that’s what we did’ and every time another veteran would come up, he would thank them just as much for their service,” added Elliot.

    He also mentioned that attending the air shows and reunions and seeing the camaraderie of the Raiders year after year played a part in his decision to join the military with the hope of flying helicopters.

    “I knew from a very young age that I wanted to join the military, so it kind of taught me that it’s not about me, it’s about the service and the giving back.”

    Now Cole’s main focus is the Raider’s college scholarship program, which offers scholarships for students pursuing a degree in either the space or aviation fields.

    “It [the scholarship program] involves going to air shows and I have a print that we offer to the public for a 20 dollar donation,” said Cole. “I know that since we started it, in the 60s, we have contributed close to half a million dollars to the association.”

    Even though war has changed a lot over the past decades, Cole wanted to make sure to tell current troops one piece of advice.

    “Know as much as you can about your job and keep a heads up about what’s going on around you.”



    Date Taken: 04.14.2014
    Date Posted: 04.14.2014 12:44
    Story ID: 125821
    Location: TX, US
    Hometown: COMFORT, TX, US

    Web Views: 315
    Downloads: 1