Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Doolittle Raider Passes Away; Now There is only One

By Jim Emerson, staff writer
This week America lost another hero.  Retired Staff Sgt. David Jonathan Thatcher passed Wednesday in the Missoula hospital in Montana as a result of a Stroke. He was 94.
After finishing High School, Thatcher joined the Army Air Corps in 1940. He was assigned to the Air Corps’ 17th Bomb Group as a B-25 Gunner. After the attack on Pearl Harbor that forced the United States into WWII, he volunteered for a top-secret mission. SSGT Thatcher was assigned and trained with 1st Lt Ted W. Lawson. Their B-25 was known as “The Ruptured Duck" and was made famous in Lawson’s book “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.”  After the crews trained for short field take offs at Eglin AFB, Florida, the bombers were flown to NAS Alameda, California where they were placed on the Aircraft Carrier USS Hornet, heading straight for the coast of Japan.
The B-25s launched a daring raid against Japan after launching from the Hornet. The crew hit their target and flew to China. The Ruptured Duck’s crew were forced to ditch their plane off the coast of a small island. Most of the crew were severely injured except SSGT Thatcher who acted fast
Doolittle Raiders. David Thatcher, left; Richard Cole, right
to save other crew members from drowning and applied aid for their wounds. With the help of Chinese guerillas, they evaded the Japanese soldiers to safety in Mainland China. For his action SSGT Thatcher was awarded the Silver Star. 

After the War he worked for the U.S. Post Office for 30 years before he retired in 1980. Last year he along with Retired Lt. Col. Richard "Dick" Cole were presented with the Congressional Gold Medal — the highest civilian medal given to American citizens.
Last Survivor
Retired Lt. Col. Richard "Dick" Cole, age 100, was Lt. Col. James "Jimmy" Doolittle’s co-pilot on the first B-25B to take off from the deck of the USS Hornet. The bombers had to take off before reaching the planned launch point because the Hornet had been spotted by a Japanese ship. The early launch made a safe landing in China unlikely.  Doolittle and Cole’s aircraft were tasked to drop incendiary bombs to mark targets for other bombers.
Lt Cole was forced to bail out over China and was reunited with Doolittle a day later. He later flew resupply missions over “The Hump” between India and China.
Lt Col. Cole graduated from Steele High School, Dayton, Ohio and completed two years at Ohio University. He enlisted in the Army in 1940, completed pilot training and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant, July, 1941.
Cole keeps busy at his home in Comfort, where he focuses on the work of The Doolittle Tokyo Raiders’ Association.

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