My name is Lt. Col. Richard "Dick" Cole. You may not know me, but I'm one of the 80 men you might know as the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. In fact, I was co-pilot to the masterplan of the whole mission – Jimmy Doolittle. After the attacks on Pearl Harbor, we did the unthinkable – we launched 16 Army bombers from a Navy aircraft carrier to bomb Tokyo, Japan April 18, 1942, all to show the Imperial Japanese military they were not invincible. Just four months after Pearl Harbor, no one ever thought this was possible.
Most of us bailed out of our planes in China or along the coast. One plane landed in Russia, where its crew was interned for 14 months before escaping. Three Raiders were killed because of bailing out from their planes. Eight were captured by the Japanese – three were later executed, while another died in captivity.
It's 74 years after our mission, and I'm sorry to say that we lost Dave Thatcher in June, which means I'm the last one left alive.
For decades, we never had to worry about people knowing who we were. Our story preceded us, as did the idea that the spirit of the American will never be down for long. Everyone knew that we, as a nation, would fight back no matter what or how impossible the odds.
But after 74 years the schools aren't teaching about what we did. Decades ago, dozens of my fellow Raiders spent their golden retirement years going from schools to auditoriums talking about our mission. The students and teachers had the enthusiasm to hear about us and we had a lot more energy.
But today I'm afraid that when I pass away, the importance of our mission and our legacy may die with me. That's why, even at 101, I've forgotten about retirement and I will spend my last breath going around the country to speak with young students about the importance of our mission and what it meant to Americans 74 years ago, and what it STILL means today.
The reason I'm writing to you today is because the American Veterans Center has invited me to travel to Washington, D.C. to speak to hundreds of young people at their annual conference. Most of those in attendance are in ROTC at college or are students at our nation's top military academies. These young folks, who I'm going to speak to will be the next generation of military leaders in our country. When they go into battle, I want them to remember what my fellow Raiders did 74 years ago, so our courage and spirit can be passed on.
I believe this is one of the most important events I can attend. It allows me to have some of the greatest impact on ensuring that our legacy continues long after I'm gone.
I hope you might consider supporting this great event the American Veterans Center is putting together. I also hope you might consider giving a gift of $26 in honor of the average age of the Raiders when we took off on our mission; or $46 in honor of the age of our leader and pilot of plane number one Jimmy Doolittle; or $74 in honor of our upcoming 74th Anniversary.
Your donation will help get me and other WWII veterans to this conference to ensure our legacy lives on.
Whatever you donate to the American Veterans Center, a portion of your donation will go toward the work of the Doolittle Raiders to educate the nation on the importance of the Doolittle Raiders mission and to help ensure our legacy will live on. With your donation you will be able to help support two great groups doing important work for our nation.
If you can give a gift of $74 or more, I'll send you one of our Doolittle Raider anniversary hats. I hope you can wear it with pride and every time you wear it I hope someone comes up to you and asks, "What's the Doolittle Raid?" You will be able to answer with pride and tell that person just what us Raiders did for our nation.
Four years ago the three remaining Raiders and I voted to entrust our legacy to the American Veterans Center. I truly believe the American Veterans Center is vital to keeping our story alive and I ask you to consider helping them continue our mission.
Lt. Col. Richard Cole
Jimmy Doolittle's Co-pilot
Member of the Doolittle Raiders
P.S. – I hope you might consider a gift of $26 in honor of the average age of the Raiders when we took off on our mission, or $74 in honor of our upcoming 74th Anniversary. If you can give $74 or more, the American Veterans Center will send you one of our Doolittle Raid anniversary hats.
I might be the last Raider left, but you can help keep our legacy alive one story at a time.