DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — The national U.S. Air Force museum plans to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders’ stunning attack on Japan with the only one of the 80 airmen who’s still alive.
The museum near Dayton, Ohio, says 101-year-old retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, of Comfort, Texas, plans to return for April 17-18 events expected to include B-25 bomber landings. The Dayton-area native will help pay tribute to retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, who died this year at age 94 in Missoula, Montana.
Thatcher joined Cole at the museum in 2015 to present the Raiders’ Congressional Gold Medal for display.
They were the last of those who took off in bombers from an aircraft carrier for the daring raid that lifted U.S. spirits and forced the Japanese military to divert resources.
Cole attended Thatcher’s funeral in June.
“Mathematically, it shouldn’t have worked out this way,” he told The Missoulian newspaper. “I was quite a bit older, six years older, than David. Figuring the way gamblers figure, he would have been the last man.”
Cole was the co-pilot flying alongside the mission’s leader and namesake, Jimmy Doolittle. The Raiders reunited for Doolittle’s birthday celebration in 1946 and began holding annual reunions.
They also established a tradition of toasting those who had died since the previous reunion, drinking from specially engraved silver goblets and then turning over the goblets carrying the names of those who have died.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force hosted several reunions, including a special “final toast” ceremony in 2013.
The museum theater plans to show films on the Doolittle Raid during the commemoration.