KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the Royals made history on Thursday night with their first division championship in 30 years, they had one fan in attendance who was a part of history. Lieutenant Colonel Dick Cole was part of the famed Doolitte Raiders in World War II.
As the Royals sealed a division crown and a second-consecutive postseason appearance, the 100-year-old man was just a baseball fan proud to be making some more history.
Lt. Col. Cole has been part of some pretty good teams, like the team he pitched for which featured a major leaguer, who was taking time off to fight in World War II.
“When we were overseas we had a baseball team and our third baseman was Buddy Lewis,” he said.
But the group he’s best known for belonging to is that team of 80 brave airmen who volunteered for what would later be known as the Doolittle Raids.
“The mission was designed for two reasons; one was to tell the Japanese people that their leaders were lying to them about being struck by air, and the other was for morale purposes,” Cole said.
The air raids on Tokyo were in retaliation for Pearl Harbor, but were thought to be a suicide mission, with no way for the 16 B-25’s bombers to return home safely. Still, Cole signed up, and sat in the co-pilot seat of the first plane off the flight deck, next to Doolittle himself.
“When you hold up your hand you and realize, ‘ok, I’ve got a job,’ you can’t help but think about what may happen to me, but it’s too late for that,” he said.
More than half of the airmen landed safely in China, and eventually made their way home. Cole is now one of two remaining Raiders still living, and was joined at the game by his daughter and the Independence author who recently wrote his biography.
Honored during the game for his heroism, Cole was just as happy to be talking baseball and Royals playoff possibilities.
“I used to be a pretty good baseball player, but father time has took its toll,” he said.
Cole lives in Texas, but will spend the weekend here at the Air Expo and Airshow. He told FOX 4 he’s looking forward to watching the Royals in the playoffs on TV.