Fredericksburg, Texas (CNN) Richard Cole was not thinking much about the future when flying in the surprise Doolittle revenge raid on Japan 75 years ago Tuesday. He says he was scared all the time. Now, at age 101, he is the last survivor of the 80 gallant men who successfully bombed Japan and delivered a giant morale boost for the United States just months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Doolittle Raiders were beloved by a nation caught up in World War II. Cole will mark the 75th anniversary in ceremonies held at the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force Base In Dayton, Ohio.
Lt. Col. Cole said, "It's kind of lonely because I'm the last one." When pressed about what the 75th anniversary of the attack means to him, Cole, with a twinkle in his eye, said, "It means I'm getting to be an old man." Later, Cole said on the anniversary, "You think about the whole group."
The 80 pilots, navigators, engineers, bombardiers and gunners took off in B-25 Mitchell bombers from the USS Hornet in the Pacific Ocean bound for Japan. A bomber takeoff from the deck of an aircraft carrier had never been done. The crew found themselves scrambling to make a hasty takeoff, 12 hours ahead of schedule, after they were spotted by Japanese fishing boats. The early departure also meant the planes would likely run out of gas before landing in friendly China. Cole was the co-pilot in the lead plane alongside the commander of the mission, Jimmy Doolittle. ....