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The Final Toast

Veterans’ Voices is directed toward veterans and their families who have given so much to ensure our freedom in this country. This is an area where you may share your experiences, or read of other veterans’ experiences. We thank you for your service, and hope that you know how much you are loved and appreciated.


It’s the cup of brandy no one wants to drink.

The following is on display in the Veterans Memorial Museum (Home of the Legion of Valor). This is a museum that Honors all Veterans and it’s dedicated to Americanism and Education. I volunteer there are a Docent. I find this very interesting.

In April 2013, at Fort Walton Beach, Florida, the surviving Doolittle Raiders gathered publicly for the last time.

They once were among the most universally admired and revered men in the United States. There were 80 of the Raiders in April 1942, when they carried out one of the most courageous and heart-stirring military operations in the nation’s history. The mere mention of their unit’s name, in those years, would bring tears to the eyes of grateful Americans.

After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, with the United States reeling and wounded, something dramatic was needed to turn the war effort around. Even though there were no friendly airfields close enough to Japan for the United States to launch retaliation, a daring plan was devised. Sixteen B-25s were modified so that they could take off from the deck of an aircraft carrier. This had never been tried before — sending big, heavy bombers from a carrier.

The 16 five-man crews, under the command of Lt. Col. James Doolittle, who himself flew the lead off the USS Hornet, knew that they would not be able to return to the carrier. They would have to hit Japan and then hope to make it to China for a safe landing.

But on the day of the raid, the Japanese navy caught sight of the carrier. The Raiders were told that they would have to take off from much farther out in the Pacific than they had counted on. They were told that because of this they would not have enough fuel to make it to safety. And those men went anyway.

They bombed Tokyo, and then flew as far as they could. Four planes crash-landed; eleven more crews bailed out, and three of the Raiders died. Eight more were captured; three were executed. Another died of starvation in a Japanese prison camp. One crew made to Russia.

The Doolittle Raid sent a message from the United States to its enemies, and the rest the world: “We will fight. And, no matter what it takes, we will win.”

Of the eighty Raiders, sixty-two survived the war. They were celebrated as national heroes, models of bravery. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced a motion picture based on the raid; “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” starring Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson, was a patriotic and emotional box-office hit, and the phrase became part of the national lexicon. In the movie-theater previews for the film, MGM proclaimed that it was presenting the story “with supreme pride.”

Beginning in 1946, the surviving Raiders have held a reunion each April, to commemorate the mission. The reunion was in a different city each year. In 1959, the city of Tucson, Arizona, as a gesture of respect and gratitude, presented the Doolittle Raiders with a set of 80 silver goblets. Each goblet was engraved with the name of a Raider. Every year, a wooden display case bearing all 80 goblets was transported to the reunion city. Each time a Raider passes away, his goblet was turned upside down in the case at the next reunion, as his old friends bear solemn witness.

Also, in the wooden case, was a bottle of 1896 Hennessy Very Special cognac. The vintage is no happenstance: 1896 was the year that General Jimmy Doolittle was born.

Family members and distinguished guests, including Air Force Chief of Staff General CQ Brown, Jr., gathered to pay their respects for Cole, who died at the age of 103 April 9, 2019. Lt. Col Richard “Dick” Cole, the last of the Doolittle Raiders, was honored and posthumously promoted to the rank of colonel during a Sept. 7 ceremony at the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Golf Course ballroom.

“After 103 years of serving his country, raising a beautiful family and honoring all of those who have served in the armed forces, Dick Cole went home to be with his beloved wife, and a group of (Doolittle) Raiders and is settled down in the Father’s house,” Baldwin said. “It’s a promise from God. Mission complete, Col. Cole; at ease for eternity. Amen.”

After the memorial service, the remains of Cole and his wife, Martha, were interred at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery during a graveside service, which included the presentation of colors and flyovers of B-25, C-47 Skytrain and F-15 Eagle.

The memorial service and posthumous promotion for Cole and interment of his remains occurred on what would have been his 106th birthday.


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— Royal D. Goodman, U.S. Army/Vietnam,

1st Cav/9th Infantry


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