On Tuesday, April 9, 2019, Singing Water Vineyards and all of America lost a great hero. Retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders, died in San Antonio surrounded by his family. According to the Air Force Times, “Lt. Col. Cole rallied the nation’s spirit during the darkest days of World War II.”
Lt. Col. Cole was a dear friend and neighbor of Singing Water Vineyards and was a great presence, honoree, and speaker at the winery’s annual Freedom Day. We were honored to host his 103rd birthday at the Winery last September. The video showing this celebration is below.
Born September 7, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio, Richard E. Cole first became interested in flying, when he would ride his bicycle to the Army Air Corps test base McCook Field and watch the pilots fly. Per the Air Force Times, “he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in November 1940 because ‘it was a good job,’ especially in the midst of the Great Depression, and after finishing training went to the 17th Bombardment Group at Pendleton, Oregon.
More information about Lt. Col. Cole and The Doolittle Raid (from The Air Force Times):
The Doolittle Raid was the United States’ first counterattack on the Japanese mainland after Pearl Harbor. Eighty U.S. Army Air Forces airmen in 16 modified B-25B Mitchell bombers launched from the aircraft carrier Hornet, about 650 nautical miles east of Japan, to strike Tokyo. While it only caused minor damage, the mission boosted morale on the U.S. homefront a little more than four months after Pearl Harbor, and sent a signal to the Japanese people not only that the U.S. was ready to fight back but also that it could strike the Japanese mainland.
Cole’s influence is still very apparent in today’s Air Force, and he remains a beloved figure among airmen.
When Cole retired, his list of decorations included the DFC with two oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star, and the Air Force Commendation Medal. In 2014, President Obama presented Cole and three other Raiders the Congressional Gold Medal at the White House.
But Cole said the Raiders didn’t feel like heroes.
“We were just doing our job, part of the big picture, and happy that what we did was helpful,” Cole said.
Lt. Col. Cole will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Memorial services are also being scheduled at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in San Antonio. Once arrangements have been finalized, we will post the information on the Singing Water Vineyards website.