NOTE: This event has sold out. Those who were unable to register, are waitlisted for the event or would have been unable to attend this event due to a conflict are encouraged to attend a similar, but abbreviated program on Tuesday, Dec. 6, from 3 to 4 p.m. in Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel on the University's Parkville Campus. Reservations are not required, but seating is first come, first served. Questions about this event can be referred to Park University's Office of External Relations at (816) 584-6209.
On Wednesday, Dec. 7, the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Park University will host Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, 101 years old and the last surviving member of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, for a conversation on the significance of the air response that changed the course of World War II. The discussion, titled “Before 9/11, there was a 12/7: Reflections of Doolittle Raider Dick Cole on World War II,” will be held at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., starting at 6:30 p.m. A cash bar/small plates reception will precede the event at 6 p.m.
Admission to the event is free; however, due to the expected crowd, reservations are required, with seating on a first come, first served basis. To reserve a seat, visit www.park.edu/cole.
Cole will be joined on the stage by Dennis Okerstrom, Ph.D., Park University professor of English and the author of Dick Cole’s War: Doolittle Raider, Hump Pilot Air Commando. Okerstrom will present a brief history of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. response before introducing Cole, who served as co-pilot to Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle in the first B-25 to take off from the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, in the U.S. air raid on Tokyo. Cole will discuss his wartime experiences and will answer questions from the audience, moderated by Okerstrom.
Despite the raid on Tokyo resulting in relatively minor damage to the Japanese city, Cole and all of the members of Doolittle Raiders, in recognition the tremendous boost their mission gave to American morale in World War II, were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in May 2014 “for outstanding heroism, valor, skill and service to the United States in conducting their bombings of Tokyo.” The raid is credited by many historians as the critical factor of the Japanese defeat at the Battle of Midway, often cited as the turning point in the Pacific war.
Doolittle’s Raid was only the opening act of Cole’s flying career during the war. When that mission was complete, many of the survivors were assigned to combat units in Europe. Cole remained in India after being rescued and was assigned to Ferrying Command, flying the Hump of the Himalayas for a year in the world’s worst weather, with inadequate aircraft, few aids to navigation and inaccurate maps. More than 600 aircraft with their crews were lost during this monumental effort to keep China in the war, but Cole survived and rotated home in 1943. He was home just a few months when he was recruited for the First Air Commandos and he returned to India to participate in Project 9, the aerial invasion of Burma.