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War hero returns to Barksdale Air Force Base - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

War hero returns to Barksdale Air Force Base

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BOSSIER CITY, La. (KTBS) -

When the U.S. first struck back against Japan in World War II, Richard Cole was on board. The Texas man is one of the last surviving Doolittle Raiders who bombed Tokyo and other Japanese islands.

Cole and that daring mission will be honored at Tuesday's Advocare V-100 Bowl in Shreveport.

On Monday, he got a tour of his old base -- Barksdale -- including a look inside the bomb bay of a massive B-52. And he told a gathering of pilots and maintenance crew about his historic mission in the old B-25.

"I don't think about it unless someone happens to mention it and it seems like it was yesterday," the 98 year old veteran says.

The date was April 18,1942. Cole was the co-pilot of Col. Jimmy Doolittle, leading a wave of 16 B-25's off the deck of the USS Hornet. The medium bombers weren't designed to take off from a carrier deck. But they did it anyway. And that was just the start.

"We had to manhandle the airplane for 13 hours at about 200 feet," Cole recalls.

He says the Raiders sent a message to the Japanese that they could be hit, too. But how would the Raiders get back? They couldn't land back on the carrier. And they were running out of fuel. All the planes ditched over enemy-held territory in China. Cole and the Raiders had to bail out.

"It was the scariest time for me looking down at the black hole of the floor in an airplane and wondering what's going to happen when you go through that door," Cole says.

Cole, along with Doolittle and most of the 80 Raiders found safety with Chinese allies. The Japanese pulled their air forces back to the homeland. And the tide of World War II turned.

Airmen took turns taking pictures and getting signed memorabilia from Cole during his visit to the base.

Cole will represent the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders when they're given the Omar Bradley "Spirit of Independence" award at Tuesday's bowl game. There'll also be a flyover of a B-25 like the ones Cole and the Raiders flew.

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