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Last of World War II's Doolittle Tokyo Raiders turns 102

Posted September 7

FILE - In this April 18, 2015, file photo, two members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard "Dick" Cole, seated front, and retired Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, seated left, pose for photos after the presentation of a Congressional Gold Medal honoring the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Cole, the last of the 80 Doolittle Tokyo Raiders of World War II is celebrating his 102nd birthday on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Gary Landers, File)

— The last of the 80 Doolittle Tokyo Raiders of World War II celebrated his 102nd birthday on Thursday.

Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. "Dick" Cole has remained active, attending commemorative events in recent years including April ceremonies for the raid's 75th anniversary at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

"I'm holding together," Cole said Thursday by telephone, adding with a chuckle: "The only thing is I need a lot of WD-40."

President Donald Trump called the Ohio native in July as Cole was recovering from a fall, to check on him and thank him for his service.

"It was a nice surprise," Cole recounted. "He was very polite and cheerful. It was very upbeat."

Cole is originally from Dayton, and now lives in Comfort, Texas. He has a daughter who lives nearby and two sons.

He said in April he hadn't expected to be the last Doolittle Raider survivor because he was older than most on the mission. Cole attributed his longevity to being an optimist and living a life of "moderation."

He was mission commander Jimmy Doolittle's co-pilot in the bombing attack less than five months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The bold raid is credited with lifting U.S. spirits and helping change the tide of the war in the Pacific.

Three Raiders died trying to reach China after the attack, and eight were captured by Japanese soldiers. Three were executed, and a fourth died in captivity. Cole parachuted and he and other Raiders were helped to safety by Chinese partisans.

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Follow Dan Sewell at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell

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