2012-04-12 / Front Page

American Legion historian salutes last pilot from Doolittle’s Raid


IT’S AN HONOR Bill Papendick of Houghton Lake, historian of American Legion Post 245, Prudenville, honors Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole (retired) with a salute at the TICO Warbird 2012 Airshow March 10 in Titusville, FL. Cole is the last surviving pilot from Doolittle’s Raid that took place in 1942. April 18 is the 70th anniversary of the raid. (Courtesy photo) IT’S AN HONOR Bill Papendick of Houghton Lake, historian of American Legion Post 245, Prudenville, honors Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole (retired) with a salute at the TICO Warbird 2012 Airshow March 10 in Titusville, FL. Cole is the last surviving pilot from Doolittle’s Raid that took place in 1942. April 18 is the 70th anniversary of the raid. (Courtesy photo) Bill Papendick of Houghton Lake recently had the privilege of meeting a living legend, so to speak, from World War II.

Attending the TICO Warbird 2012 Airshow March 10 in Titusville, FL, Papendick met Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, a retired WWII veteran who took part in Doolittle’s Raid.

“I got to shake his hand and salute him,” Papendick said. “Boy, that was fun.”

Papendick serves as post historian for the American Legion Post #245, Prudenville. He heard about the show because his step-daughter lives in Titusville.

Cole is the last surviving pilot from Doolittle’s Raid that took place April 18, 1942. The air show commemorated the 70th anniversary of the raid led by then- Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle. The aerial attack was a response to the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. Using B-25 bombers, the raid helped boost morale on American soil.

In promotional materials for the WWII Veterans Committee Papendick acquired, Cole said he was “the co-pilot for Jimmy Doolittle himself. It was certainly a harrowing experience to take off from the deck of a pitching aircraft carrier at sea in an aircraft designed to only take off on land.”

Cole further stated that he looks back on his World War II service with pride:

“...when our B-25 bombers hurriedly revved up for take off on the deck of the USS Hornet ahead of schedule, none of us knew what to expect or if we would even survive take-off, much less our bombing mission over Tokyo. But my fellow fliers and I did what we felt we had to do just months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. We struck back at the heart of the enemy,” Cole wrote.

“He knew I was in the Legion,” Papendick said of his meeting with Cole. “So that was a thrill to me to honor him.”

Papendick said he served in the Army Air Force, joining in 1943. An airman first class – not a flier, he said – he was on active duty in 1944 and was discharged in 1946. He later served in the Reserves.

While on maneuvers in the Rocky Mountains learning how to fight the Japanese, hewasinjuredwhena21/2-ton truck tipped over and fractured his skull. Two airmen were killed in the incident, he said.

He spent six weeks in the hospital, he said, and when his squadron shipped out for Okinawa, he did not go. He did serve in other locations across the country. He also attended IBM School and served as an instructor.

“I greatly appreciate honoring this World War II veteran,” Papendick said of Cole.

He is aware of the tremendous danger Cole and his fellow troops faced.

“I’m glad he came out of it okay,” he said.

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