Tigers honor Doolittle Raider

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Hailey Staker
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
On Sept. 7, B-1 aircrews from the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron patrolled the skies over Southwest Asia in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom's Sentinel.

While the intent was to put bombs on target, there was a special twist to the sortie: the aircrew was carrying an American flag to be presented to one of the pioneers of strategic bombing - retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole.

"The 37th [Expeditionary Bomb Squadron] executes combat operations 24/7 within [Southwest Asia]," said Lt. Col. Joseph , 37th EBS commander. "When we realized Cole was celebrating his 100th birthday, we wanted to express our gratitude and appreciation to him and all the Tokyo Raiders for their example and legacy."

That legacy began April 18, 1942 when Lt. Col. James Doolittle led the Doolittle Raid designed to bolster American morale and provide the U.S. an opportunity to retaliate against Japan. Cole, the co-pilot of the first B-25 to launch off the deck of the USS Hornet, was one of 80 aviators who flew 16 aircraft during the raid.

"The Doolittle Raid was this nation's first return salvo against Japan after Pearl Harbor," said Col. John Martin, 28th Operations Group commander. "Over time, Japan began to perceive their island nation was quite simply an impenetrable fortress. Jimmy Doolittle set out to find and train a group of men, now known as the Doolittle Raiders, to prove otherwise."

On Sept. 7, the B-1 aircrews flew four missions, employing weapons against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant targets.

The Tigers, as the squadron is nicknamed, saved two of the bomb pins from the munitions employed as the finishing touches on the colonel's special gift, and returned them to Ellsworth a few weeks later. A shadowbox, which included the flag, pins and current squadron patches, was then constructed to be presented to Cole.

"It's an honor to be able to take the time to put in the details required to honor this veteran, especially a Doolittle Raider," said 1st Lt. Travis Adams, 37th BS pilot. "For me, being in charge of [putting the box together] and reading the history was absolutely amazing and eye opening. I hope Cole enjoys the box because we really liked putting it together for him." 

Initially, the gift was to be presented to Cole at his home. However, the Raider is visiting Washington, D.C., Nov. 3 through 9 and Martin had the privilege of presenting the shadowbox to Cole during a ceremony in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes Nov. 5.

Today, Ellsworth continues to honor the Raider legacy and has the distinct privilege of being home to Doolittle's 34th and 37th Bomb Squadrons, Martin added.

"The 28th OG is home to two of the four squadrons that participated in the raid," Martin said. "More than 70 years later, our Raider heritage clearly defines, motivates and compels us to tackle today's modern threats, such as ISIS."

Adams added the 37th BS "Tigers" appreciate their Raider heritage and strives to go into every mission with the same dedication and purpose.

"These Raiders flew into Japan with their B-25s, not knowing whether they were coming home," Adams said. "They sent a message to the world about America's air power, that we can strike any target, anywhere. It's such an honor for the 37th to be able to do this for them."