Dick Cole was born on September 7, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio. He enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Corps on November 22, 1940, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Randolph Field, Texas, on July 12, 1941. His first assignment was as a B-25 Mitchell pilot with the 34th Bomb Squadron of the 17th Bomb Group at Pendleton, Oregon, from July 1941 until he was selected for the Doolittle Mission in February 1942. Capt Cole was the co-pilot on the first B-25 to take off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) on April 18, 1942, and after bombing Tokyo his crew flew to China and bailed out when their aircraft ran out of fuel. LtCol Cole remained in the China-Burma-India Theater flying combat and transport missions from May 1942 to June 1943, followed by service with the 5th Fighter Group in Tulsa, Oklahoma, from June to October 1943. He then returned to the China-Burma-India Theater, serving with the 1st Air Commando Group from October 1943 until he returned to the United States in June 1944. His next assignment was as an Army Air Forces Plant Representative and Acceptance Test Pilot at Wichita, Kansas, from June 1944 to October 1945, and then as Officer in Charge of the Training Section at Victorville Army Air Field, California, from October 1945 to November 1946. LtCol Cole went on terminal leave beginning November 13, 1946, and left active duty on January 11, 1947. He returned to active duty on July 7, 1947, and served on the group staff at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, from July 1947 to January 1952, followed by Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia, from January to September 1952. LtCol Cole next served on the staff of Far Eastern Air Forces in Japan from September 1952 to March 1955, and then on the staff of Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from March 1955 to July 1958. After attending Spanish Language Training, he served as an advisor to the Venezuelan Air Force in Caracas, Venezuela, from January 1959 to August 1962, followed by service with the 464th Troop Carrier Wing at Pope AFB, North Carolina, from August to October 1962. His next assignment was on the staff of the Joint Development Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from October 1962 to February 1963, and then as Director of Operations, Executive Officer, and as Vice Commander of the 831st Combat Support Group at George AFB, California, from February 1963 until his retirement from the Air Force on December 31, 1966.
His 1st (of 3) Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary achievement while participating in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland on April 18, 1942. Captain Cole volunteered for this mission knowing full well that the chances of survival were extremely remote, and executed his part in it with great skill and daring. This achievement reflects high credit on Captain Cole and the military services.