97-year old retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole took the controls of a vintage B-25 bomber and flew it over the skies of Destin, FL, on April 16. It was part of the final reunion of WWII’s Doolittle Raiders.
Cole is one of only four surviving members of the raid on Tokyo, carried out just months after the Japanese attacked the U.S. at Pearl Harbor.
The Doolittle Raid was carried out by eighty men, all volunteers, in sixteen B-25 bombers. The plan was to drop their ordnance on Tokyo then fly to China–which was still free–and land the planes there. However, low fuel, bad weather, and other factors made the flight and landings in China treacherous to say the least.
There were crash landings, eight crewman were captured by the Japanese, and crew members of one of the B-25s were interned by Soviets after landing in the Soviet Union. The Japanese executed four of the eight crewman captured.
The raid was a success because it took the Japanese by complete surprise, and showed that the Americans could reach them if and when they wanted to.
The April 18, 2013 reunion marks the 71st reunion of the Doolittle Raiders.
Photo credit: Associated Press