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Dick Cole poses with a bust of famed Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, for whom Cole developed "the highest order of respect" as mission commander. (Senior Airman Brian Ferguson/U.S. Air Force)
On April 18, 1942, little more than four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 80 airmen in 16 modified North American B-25B Mitchell bombers lifted off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in the northwest Pacific bound for targets in Japan. The operation marked the first Allied retaliatory strike on the Japanese Home Islands. To plan the daring mission U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold had tapped Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, the famed air racer, test pilot and aeronautical engineer. Doolittle piloted the lead plane from Hornet. His co-pilot was 26-year-old Lieutenant Richard E. “Dick” Cole. Neither Doolittle nor any of his men had flown a single combat mission. Cole, 98, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and one of four surviving Doolittle Raiders, recently spoke with Military History about the bold raid and its surprising aftermath.
The North American B-25 Mitchell is an American twin-engine, medium bomber manufactured by North American Aviation (NAA). It was named in honor of Major General William "Billy" Mitchell, a pioneer of U.S. military aviation. Used by many Allied air forces, the B-25 served in every theater of World War II and after the war ended many remained in service, operating across four decades. Produced in numerous variants, nearly 10,000 Mitchells rolled from NAA factories. These included a few limited models, such as the United States Marine Corps' PBJ-1 patrol bomber and the United States Army Air Forces' F-10 reconnaissance aircraft and AT-24 trainers. The Doolittle Raid, also known as the Tokyo Raid, on Saturday, April 18, 1942, was an air raid by the United States of America on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on the island of Honshu during World War II, the first air raid to strike the Japanese Home Islands. It demonstrated that Japan itself was vulnerable to American air attack, served as retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, and provided an important boost to American morale. The raid was planned and led by Lieutenant Colonel James "Jimmy" Doolittle, United States Army Air Forces.
Info: B-25B Mitchell Doolittle Raiders - Signed by Dick Cole Doolittle Raider Mahogany Model