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Colonel Cole Comes to The Elephant Story

December 31, 2016


Many millennials probably do not know about the Doolittle Raid, also known as the Tokyo Raid, on April 18, 1942. Colonel Richard E. Cole, at the youthful age of 101, is the sole living survivor of that famous World War II mission and as "Co-Pilot Crew 1" was the co-pilot of General James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle who commanded the flight. The raid had its beginning following the expressed desire of President Franklin D. Roosevelt that Japan be bombed as soon as possible to boost the morale of the American people following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor several months before. The other desired objective was to illustrate to the Japanese people they were vulnerable despite the propaganda from their military leaders.

Accordingly, the raid began with 16 modified B-25 bombers.  Each had a crew of five airmen and launched from the deck of the aircraft carrier, Hornet, to bomb assigned targets in Tokyo and other sites in Japan in the daylight hours for maximum visible impact and effect. It was clear to all concerned that it was not possible to return to the Hornet and there were few landing alternatives given the fuel limitations. The image below is the aircraft flown by General Doolittle and Colonel Cole taking off from the deck of the Hornet. You can see the remaining fifteen B-25's on the stern of the aircraft carrier.

 

Colonel Cole describes in his own words their bail out over a Japanese controlled region of China following the bombing raid on Tokyo: "As we ran out of gasoline, we bailed out in order of gunner, bombardier, navigator, co-pilot and pilot. We were flying on instruments at approximately 9,000 feet at night with moderate to heavy rain. Our indicated air speed was approximately 166 miles an hour...at that speed there was considerable distance between each crewman." You should know that Colonel Cole ate chocolate to keep going after he parachuted into a tree that night. Moreover, after a full glass of Elephant Story wine with us several days ago, he had one of the chocolates on the store counter so there may be a pattern here.

After several days behind Japanese lines, the five members of Crew 1 were eventually united thanks to Chinese Nationalist guerrillas.  Ultimately, General Doolittle's crew was moved to Chungking, China. The image below shows the Doolittle crew with certain Nationalist Chinese. Colonel Cole is the third from the left, on the front row, and General Doolittle is on his left. The co-pilot is always the right hand man of the pilot.

 

Interestingly enough, the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) pilot who flew General Doolittle from China to India is Moon Fun Chin who is going strong at age 103. Moon Chin is shown below at a CNAC Convention in 2016. What is with the longevity of these "fly boys"? Could it be they live closer to the gods than we mortals or is it the "Fun" in Moon Chin's name that Colonel Cole also appreciates?

 

Of the sixteen Doolittle's Raiders' aircraft, fifteen either crash-landed or the crew bailed out and the remaining one landed in the Soviet Union where the crew was interned and the aircraft confiscated. General Doolittle returned to the U.S. believing he would face a court-martial for losing all of his aircraft. Instead he was given the Medal of Honor and promoted two steps to Brigadier General.

Colonel Cole stayed in that part of the world and became a "Hump Pilot" flying fuel and supplies over the Himalayas to support the Nationalist Chinese and U.S. resistance forces. (See Blogs of 7/31/2016 and 5/21/2015). Now we are in the current period of a few days ago when Colonel Cole came to see us at The Elephant Story in our mutual town of Comfort, Texas. We are most grateful to his daughter Cindy and son-in-law Jim Chal for arranging this memorable afternoon.

 

What was very special about our visit was hearing stories of Colonel Cole's time with the elephants in Khor Bihar, India during his "Hump" days and other first-hand accounts of his many adventures. He signed a couple of our Commemorative Flying the Hump Bomber jackets that we will auction at some future Elephant Story event.

 

What is even more incredible about this gentleman is his humble description of himself as shown below.

 

What a remarkable individual and how fortunate we were to spend a few hours with him. Moreover, we and most of the rest of the world owe these airmen and their crew mates a deep degree of gratitude for their efforts.
 
On December 27, 2016, some 75 years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese which was followed by the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo, President Obama and Prime Minister Abe of Japan met at the Pearl Harbor memorial to honor those who perished at Pearl Harbor and the countless others that followed over the course of the war.
 

 

It was a great moment of closure.