U.S. Army Air Corps Lieutenant Dick Cole’s passing Tuesday, April 9th, raised barely a ripple of interest. But Lt. Cole was a genuine American hero. Today’s youth display scant knowledge, interest or patience with the history of the blood that has been shed to raise them to their current sheltered existence, of which they do much complaining. It is men and women of such courage and dedication to freedom that has assured them that privilege.
Lt. Cole was the last surviving member of an elite group of 80 Airmen who, in one of our country’s darkest hours, gave it hope that by courage and dedication, America and our allies would prevail against the axis forces. Under the command of Colonel James Doolittle, this small band struck the first American offensive blow of the war against Japan, shocking that nation and its leaders to know that America had just begun to fight.
Japanese commanders were humiliated, confused and confounded because they had no idea from where the aircraft had launched the attack. The B-25 medium bomber required 1000-2000 feet minimum of runway to take off. They paused offensive planning and refocused on Midway Island which became a pivotal battle and turning point in the Pacific War.
Of course, the Doolittle Raiders had been launched from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in an amazing feat of cooperation between the Navy and Air Corps, a feat that was thought impossible by most everyone except Jimmy Doolittle. His all-volunteer unit had been training and practicing short-runway take-offs without knowing what they were going to be asked to do. When they boarded the Hornet, watching their aircraft being swung aboard they assumed they would be off-loaded elsewhere. Once at sea, Doolittle finally told them the plan. He gave every man a chance, no repercussions, to back out of what seemed like a near-suicide mission. The plan was to get close enough to Japan so that they could make their bombing runs, fly straight on to mainland China to land at a Chinese airstrip. Unfortunately, the small fleet ran across a Japanese fishing trawler. Afraid that the boat had radioed Tokyo of their presence, it was determined that the raid had to be launched immediately – 200 miles farther away from their target than planned. It was almost a guarantee that fuel would not last long enough to reach the safety of the Chinese army lines. Again, every man was given the chance to back out, with no stigma attached. Again, every man stood fast. To make matters worse, the fleet was in storm conditions, the bow of the Hornet dipping so deep that water was spraying over the end of the flight deck. The navy launch officer had to time every dip just right. The pilots would run their engines up to top speed while standing on the brakes, then release and hope the timing was immaculate – which it was for all 16 aircraft. No power assisted take-off was available in those days – just the guts and skill of the pilots and navy personnel.
Though it did little damage, the bombing and strafing of Japan by 16 American aircraft was a scandal that shook the confidence of the Japanese people and their leaders. 15 of the aircraft crashed, 3 men were killed in action, 8 were captured, 3 were executed and one died in captivity. One crew landed in Russia and was quarantined there. The rest miraculously survived after parachuting from aircraft flying on fumes, were rounded up by Chinese nationalist troops and civilians and taken to safety.
The Doolittle Raid is an iconic example of bravery of which all Americans, and especially the youth of our country, should be aware. That the last surviving member of that heroic band of men would pass with so little notice is tragic. How can we expect young Americans to fully appreciate what they have inherited if they do not know, or understand, what has been sacrificed for them.

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43 thoughts on “AN AMERICAN HERO PASSES”

  1. Good writing! I do enjoy reading WW-2 stories. Great history lesson! I remember watching a movie about it when I was a kid “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” Thanx Whoever you are! Harry 1371

    1. I would beg to differ with the comment that this country no longer has heroes nor celebrates them; fake news, as our president would say. Frankly, many in this country don’t listen as well as they hear or, in playing the political correctness game, simply choose to ignore “what is” in favor of “what I wish it would be”. We have never been without heroes. I would suggest, in light of all opposition, that our President is a hero. Laugh if you wish; history will vindicate him and this troubled time. If you really believe your statement perhaps you’ve raised yourself and your children poorly. Just saying….this country is you, me and all of us.

      1. A lot of us volunteered to join the Marines during the unpopular war in Vietnam. No, we weren’t all heroes, just patriotic Americans volunteering to serve this “always” a great country. Trump is nothing short of a lying, draft dodging coward. I would suggest to you to take the time and investigate the facts, and not believe the BS that’s streaming out of White House and Fox day in and day out. You have a right to your own opinion, not your own facts. Semper Fi too all my Marine brothers and sisters.

        1. Sometimes we Americans vote for the lesser of two evils. Yes, there are some decent men & women in Congress, but that number may well be determined by those expressing that opinion. Trump is no angel, but when one compared him to Hillary Clinton it came down to one incident for me and that was Benghazi. Her expressions about the Americans who died fighting there and were refused military assistance along with her subsequent statement, “what’s the difference……” was an American disgrace. I hope that every military person in the service of this country will find truth in those words. Everyone may not pick up a rifle and fight, but we owe our fighting men and women our utmost support and she and President Obama did not provide that. They even tried to blame Benghazi on a video that was supposedly anti-Muslim. Ms. Clinton, when she testified in Congress, had no shame nor did she apologize. I think we need to return to the times when we disagreed, but didn’t hate one another because we had an opposing political position. Early on when Trump made an insulting remark about John McCain I wrote him a letter chastising his remarks. He is far from perfect, but he has helped America in a number of ways economically and we have regained the respect of many nations in that we are no longer licking feet or kissing rings as in the previous administration. I voted for him and I am not sorry, but I wish he would not do certain things. I write him regularly and tell him so. I never publicly said insidious statements about President Obama even though I felt his actions were harmful to our nation and he lacked respect for our military. Fox news is far from perfect, but they invite those of opposite opinion on the air all the time. Main stream media seldom does that in this hateful climate that has been brought forth in our great nation. If I had my way we’d return to the middle ground where no one loses all or wins all, but we all pull on the rope together, not against one another. God Bless this country and may we find the peace we need among our citizens both left and right. Semper Fi to all the Marines past and present and I wish the best to all the other branches of the military and their families.

        2. Bill, first off thank you for your service to our great country and Semper Fi. I will agree with you that during the Vietnam war Donald J. Trump did not act honorably. I have read that he received numerous draft deferments for something regarding his feet. This happened even though he played college baseball and was supposedly good enough to be drafted. Let us keep in mind that the last election was a binary choice as it always is. It was either he or Hillary (I had to dodge sniper fire in Bosnia). We as veterans have to choose who would be the best CnC. I think between the two there was no question who was the better choice. I’ll tell you why I personally think President Trump is a very brave man. He was a billionaire who was adored by all of the glitterati who now hate him. He didn’t need this job. He could have sat back and enjoyed his ‘golden’ years on his golf course at Mira Largo. I believe that he’s doing a great job as CnC for numerous reasons that I won’t get into here. If you want me to elaborate on that, please reply and I’ll tell you why. Thanks

  2. Sad that this hero passed with little or no mention by the media. So few WWII vets left. They all should be remembered. I lost my dad 5 years go at age 91. He served 4 plus years in the US Army.

  3. R.I.P. Lt. Cole!! It is no wonder that the vast majority of young people today have no idea or knowledge of “real history” when they are being “brainwashed” from birth to adult-hood by liberal teachers and professors that believe that trans gender studies and safe spaces will qualify for a “worthless degree”!! A large % of today’s millennials actually believe that buying lottery tickets is a adequate plan for “retirement”!! Hopefully, we won’t live long enough to ever have to depend on these “snow-flakes” to defend the nation, because they would likely grab their smart phones instead of a AR-15!! Combined with the dysfunctional idiots (AKA Congress) what could possibly go wrong in a emergency?? Look no further than the southern borders, or at what the bureaucrats are doing to current warriors like Chief Ed Gallagher U.S.N. seal team 7. Thank you Lt. Cole, some of us will remember..

    1. Hello fellow Marine, Cpl. Chuck. Obviously, you missed or failed to understand why this article was posted? I would hope some of us appreciate reading great information of those that serviced our country. You posted your opinion of today’s generation. I ask that you allow your thoughts to go back to 69-70, and try and remember what was really happening in your life. Do you mine sharing those thoughts????. This article wasn’t posted for you or any other to bring on deck your $hit-pit opinion of your slanted political opinion. Marine, I ask, what data can you share to support your statement about lottery tickets/retirement? And, in addition, please share with me, were you the least bit concerned of your fellow Marines political leaning , while serving?

      1. Dear Sgt. Stokes, first & foremost, Semper-Fi brother & thank you for your service. I will try to reply to your questions in order as best I can. As you likely observed, the very first paragraph of this posting referred to the “lack of understanding” of history by the current generation, and that sir is what prompted part of my response based on everyday observations of current events. As far as my thoughts of what was happening in 69-70, well to be honest, politics was not a factor, to be sure, I had no interest in politics, simply doing my job, which by the way included providing accurate & timely artillery support to a beleaguered recon team as a gunner with a 175 mm gun. btry. @ an-hoa. and thereby allowing the recon team to be safely extracted. My only chain of command was the battery GUNNY! The political leanings of fellow Marines at that time was never a issue and is NOT today. Everyone has their own opinion, and every MARINE has my respect. As far as the “data” about the 60% of millennials and the retirement comment, that was quoted from a recent news article from the Microsoft network that appeared on my computer, and based on what I see, it seemed believable, but at the end of the day is likely “fake news” like so much of the crap we see today… In summation, I like yourself, being senior citizens we likely have too much time on our hands to focus on identity politics, but at the end of the day, we LIKE Lt. Cole are simply a small part of history and will never make a difference AND no one will remember us either! Sgt. Stokes, I sincerely thank you for your service and for your comments to the posting I submitted, and if we could ever meet up, the first round is on me!! SEMPER Fi Brother. Cpl. Chuck P.

        1. SEMPER FI, Cpl. Chuck.. and I truly thank you for your dedication to our country. Reference, the first round, I’m not old enough to drink, but thanks. LOL… I was a non drinker and non smoker going in and I was that going out. Goggle my name, Medal of Valor, Silver Star. Marine, I still get emotional sharing this information.

        2. Alvin Stokes earned the Silver Star medal as a 19 year old Lance Corporal serving with A Company, 3rd Recon in 1966.

          1. Hi Bill, I tried to find the correct link to read the citation of Sgt. Stokes, but was unable to get it. If you read this, can you direct me to where to find it. Tks. much I am not a very good candidate for a job on the geek squad, but can generally find my way around the internet. I was personally awarded the Navy Achievement medal w/ “V”. and to this day still wonder what I did to deserve it other than what I was trained to do!! However, the Marines that received a S. Star in Nam were in a different league for sure!!Me & my brother served at the same time in 69-70 in !st. Mar. Div.and spent x-mas of 69 @ in country r&r @ China beach. He was with 7th. Marines, on 81 mortars and I was a gunner on 175 mm. guns with 11th. Marines. Fortunately we both came home as cpl. e-4 and w/o any injuries HOO-RAH…Semper Fi to all of our “brothers”!!

      2. Still amazed at how a great story can morph into something as down low like POLITICS! With that said, Most of us are old enough to know that ALL of our Government servants, no matter what political party, have in common “They Lie!” Democrats lie, Republicans lie,All of our presidents lied to us, and still lie. Vietnam started with a lie, The Iraq war started because of a lie.The lies never end.Lets be honest there is no truth in politics! It is just like religion it is “What you choose to believe as the truth” Never trust the government and keep it “Small” I have too much of the government trying to tell me what to do. Nick

    2. Well said cpl, this story started because of the passing of Lt Cole and his heroic crew but these liberal snowflakes have to make it political. RIP Lt Cole

  4. Thanks Colonel James Doolittle and Lieutenant Dick Cole. I am a retired US Marine (1972-77) I did not have the opportunity to go to combat although that is why I enlisted in 72. I know that Hero’s like these men are not born hero’s, they become Hero’s in the heat of battle or when they see that something has to be done and someone must step up and do it. These men were all probably terrified but knew that what they were doing was for not only their own but future generations. It is a shame that our youth’s are no longer taught proper history but watered down history and told that it may not be accurate. These teachers and professors have gone from teaching truth to trying to indoctrinate our children to believe their misguided beliefs. Well again, Thank you for being the men needed at the moment in history that we needed you. Since I am a Marine I will say Semper Fi and may you be in heaven for your great deeds.

  5. Doolittles’ proposition… Okay, listen up we need volunteers. We are going to fill up these B-25 bombers with fuel and bombs and then we’re going to take them off from an aircraft carrier, something never done before. We are going to bomb Tokyo, the capital city of our enemy Japan. As it turns out our carrier will be spotted by a Japanese boat and possibly reported so we are going to have to take off in the middle of a big storm and 200 miles early. That’s a big problem because after bombing Tokyo you cannot return to the aircraft carrier, taking bombers off of a carrier, maybe, landing bombers on a carrier, big no-no. What you will have to do after bombing Tokyo is fly to China. However, since you will be taking off 200 miles early, our calculations say you probably will not have enough fuel to reach China which means probably ditching at sea with no good guys around to rescue you. Lucky for you, you will get a tail wind which will help to get most of you to China. Unfortunately, much of China is occupied by the Japanese whose capitol you just bombed. The US Army is supposed to set up homing beacons on some airstrips occupied by friendly Chinese forces but it doesn’t happen so you’re kinda on your own. Fly that bomber till it runs out of gas, bail out and good luck! Any volunteers? 100% volunteered. They are indeed all heroes. Note: Doolittles’ co-pilot Cole commented that the easiest part of the whole thing ended up being the take off from the carrier: “When our wheels lifted off we still had 20-25′ of flight deck left.”

  6. I well remember hearing the news of the raid. I was 13 yrs old at the time. The news of the raid following the victory at Midway really convinced the doubters that the U.S. would not be beaten. Since the launch from Hornet was a secret, Pres. Roosevelt announced that the bombers had flown from Shangri-La. That must have confused the Japanese even more, it was a fictional city in the novel ‘Lost Horizon’. I know many people searched maps to find it, myself included. We didn’t realize it was a fictional place. There were two movies made about the raid, ‘Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo’ with Spencer Tracy and ‘The Purple Heart’ with Dana Andrews. ‘Thirty Seconds..’ seemed closer to the facts. ‘Purple Heart’ was more about the treatment of the crewmen captured by the Japanese.

  7. I strongly object to your comments about “today’s youth” not caring about about the sacrifices of previous generations who gave them their “sheltered existence”. With all due respect to your service, that’s an ignorant and vindictive comment. I see committed and intelligent younger generations who will be tasked with cleaning up the messes we have left behind. And, I might remind all, who do you think populates the military today, as always–it’s “today’s youth”, and they are awesome.

    1. Well Sally, perhaps you can enlighten us neanderthals as to why the military is having such a tough time finding potential applicants who can pass a physical fitness test? High percentage fail the ASVAB. Or why they fail drug screening tests? The first time the Army will fail in it’s recruiting goals. The colleges and Universities who deny access to recruiters and if they do the students attack them and boycott them. Yep, todays youth, generally speaking do not square up with those of past generations……..your turn.

      1. Your facts are way off. ROTC is alive and well. USMC is oversubscribed, and is traditionally so. Big Army does not have the same attraction for the best and brightest, though SF subscriptions are doing just fine. And BTW, big Army has many times missed its recruiting mark. Schools do not leverage physical fitness they way they used to–but if the schools are not teaching the correct curriculum it is the fault of the adults in this country, not the youth. Don’t know where you live, but in my area we are surrounded by bright, ambitious kids in public schools who are eager to go out in the world. There are always screw up kids–always will be. But if kids are lazy or stupid or disrespectful, look to the parents.

    2. Sally, I agree. I see today’s generation every time I go on base. I live near Ft. Dix/McGuire AFB and go there at least every couple of weeks. The place is packed with today’s young men and women in uniform. Not just regulars, but also Reserves and National Guard. Some young and inexperienced, others wearing the signs that they’ve served in combat. I always say a few words to the young sentries at gate, thanking them for taking of the torches from us old Warriors.

    3. If you doubt “today’s youth”, volunteer for some sessions at a USO. I did and was highly impressed.

      1. There’s no doubt that today’s grunts are just as gutsy and motivated as past generations. However, Sally, less than one percent of our population is serving. That recruiters are having a hard time filling those slots is a combination of unfitness and unwillingness to voluntarily serve. Unfortunately, those patriotically enough to volunteer get worn out by repeated re-deployments and the odds against them rising with each one. If Congress had the guts they would bring back the draft, with physical disability the only deferment, and maintain a decent reserve. I can’t give enough praise to those young men and women who have stood front and center so the rest of us can twilight-out on our cell phones at the mall.

  8. That’s a great story, as a boy I lived on Doolittle Ave. On Otis A.F.B. named after the commander of that raid. When I became a man I enlisted in the United states marine corps. My father couldn’t understand why I didn’t enlist in the Air Force, but it was because of the code that we live by. Honor, integrity, espris of corps. But those men and so many more, showed so much courage and honor and as a result we won that war. Oorah, and RIP all of you men of honor. Cpl. Barry Griffin


  10. Those men are of a generation that we should all ascribe to. But to speak of we have them in all generations from Korea, Vietnam Nam ( my time), Desert Storm and so forth. As to the young service men and women of today my cover goes off to them. Those of us that took part of the Korean and Vietnam Nam are finally able to be proud of what we did as Marines and the other branches of service because how they changed public opinion Sgt. Dub USMC 70-76

  11. My,how the ungrateful youth of today forget where their freedom came from and at what cost. It is sad they don’t understand, blood shed is freedom won.
    USMC Ret. 17/Dec/68- 17/June/74

  12. Prior to his passing my Dad left me a sealed envelope with “Open only in the event of my death”. Well, I did just that and found a letter with how he wanted his obituary to read. Now, my Dad and his brother were truck drivers in the U. S. Army, which I knew, but what I didn’t know was they were both part of the famous Red Ball Express — something he never mentioned. Lookig through his old scrapbook, I found newspaper clips to this fact. I grew up with an American hero and didn’t even know it at the time Thanks for your service, Dad. Love you.— P.C. Frank, Sgt USMC ’70 – ’78

  13. Bill, I guess you think Obama was a hero!! Talk aboaut lying, he was the best!! And as far as draft dodging did you ever see Obama in uniform??? Trump will get 4 more years and keep America Great!! USMC 1956— I-3-7

  14. The result of our sorry young people today is a direct result of parenting administered by the same sorry bunch of idiots who protested us during the 60’s and 70’s. How can one respect or love something they have been poisoned against and never taught to love? For some reason they think freedom is a right and never were told the truth of the endless buckets of blood and courage it took by our troops to obtain that precious thing they take advantage of on a daily basis. God bless the USA, our troops and my fellow Marines, past and present and future. Semper Fi Devil Dogs, OOH RAH!!! 3 MAW MAG 16

  15. I think your spot on Edward but fortunately I think we still have a good chance to begin bringing some real honest history to our young, lets all hope so anyway since giving up hope will defeat us in the end. Semper-Fi LCPL 3rd Marines 56 -59.

  16. Robert Grant was a left wing gunner on one of the bombers that flew missions over Japan. Their bomber was shot down over Nagata Japan. I knew Bob pretty well and we would talk a lot but he never really told me all of what happened. He did keep me informed about a book that was being written about himself and the rest of the crew. The captain of the bomber was a man named Jordon so they were called the Jordon crew. I won’t go into detail about all that happened but if you want to know the full story the book about the Jordon crew was published several years ago. The book is “Field of Spears” I found it on Amazon. The story about the Jordon crew is quite interesting and when it is about someone that I knew personally it is something else. We lost Bob several years ago. Unfortunately we have lost most of our heroes from the second World War. I am sure there were a lot more stories that were never told and the men took those stories to their graves.

  17. Thank you, Jim Barber, for a very good article on the Doolittle Raid, and thank you to all of you for your heartfelt comments. I wish to especially thank all of you who have served our country to ensure our freedom, which I will never take for granted.

  18. SEMPER FI Graduated HIgh School on a Wednesday night and was in Parris Island early on Saturday morning. I have never regretted one minute of my 6 years in the Corps and I’m very proud to have served. It is a shame that so little was made of Lt Cole’s heroics, but I’am very sure he was always aware of his heroics and God bless him. He was a hero among so many hero’s iof that time..

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