Doolittle Raid 75th Anniversary: Dick Cole and Denny Okerstrom
The Doolittle Raid commenced 75 years ago, on April 18, 1942. Led by courageous and selfless Air Corps Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, it would
signal the beginning of America's push to win the Pacific campaign.
80 men were in the air that day, and many soldiers moved those men in position to fly over Japan. The USS Hornet, and other supporting ships, took
them as close as possible to Japan. With a nearly impossible mobile airfield, the pilots launched all 16 B-25 aircraft to their targets.
Many of us are familiar with that story. Doolittle's co-pilot, Dick Cole, is the last of those 80 men alive today. He is well known in photographs as the
man right next to Doolittle, and people ask him all the time about the raid. But, few people know what he did after the raid, and we believe
this was equally, if not even moreso a courageous act than the raid itself.
Dick Cole is very careful to avoid taking glory in what he did. He refuses to have biographers drill him on his experiences during the war.
There is, though, one author who helped Cole understand that talking about his experiences would keep the memory alive of the men who fought
with him but never came home. Those men who died only have the survivors to tell their stories, and as with all WWII vets, survivors are
Dennis Okerstrom, an author and professor of Park University, was the man
to convince Dick Cole to open up about his experiences after the raid. Okerstrom's book, Project 9: The Birth of the Air Commandos in World War II, describes the men and their actions in detail. He even had the space to add a note about Good Wear in the
book, and for this, we are eternally grateful.
Denny and Dick were able to attend a symposium on the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. Watch the video below, and see them both
talk about his experience, and answer questions from the audience. It is a great favor that Dick was able to tell so much of what his own
experience was at that time. Notice that Denny is wearing a Rough Wear A-2 made by Good Wear.
We highly suggest Denny's book Project 9, and his other book The
Final Mission of Bottoms Up, which is about finding the remains of a B-24,
and how a WWII airman who flew on that aircraft was re-united with it.