1 of 3 living Doolittle Raiders takes final flight in B-29 bombe - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

1 of 3 living Doolittle Raiders takes final flight in B-29 bomber at Maxwell AFB

Doolittle Raider Lt. Col. Richard Cole, retired Air Force, will take his final flight in a B-25 bomber at Maxwell Thursday afternoon.

Cole was Jimmy Doolittle's co-pilot on one of the B-25s flown during the "Doolittle Raid," the first bombing mission against Japan on April 18, 1942. After the mission, Cole stayed in China and India, flying cargo aircraft and taking part in the first allied all-aerial invasion.

He retired in 1967 as a command pilot with more than 5,000 hours in 30 different aircraft.

Gathering of Eagles is an annual aviation event that traces its origin back to 1980, when retired Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets was invited to visit ACSC to share some of his experiences with the students.

This visit became the genesis for the Gathering of Eagles program. The first official Gathering of Eagles (then known as "Great Moments in Aviation History") was hosted by comedic legend Bob Hope in 1982. 

A small faculty and student group was chartered to develop an aviation heritage program encouraging the study of aviation history and the contributions of aviation pioneers. Fifteen distinguished aviators were invited to share their unique personal experiences through a series of teaching interviews and social events with members of the class.

The nation is losing an astonishing number of WWII vets at an alarming rate of nearly 1,200 each day. Events such as GoE are crucial in capturing this greatest of generations' stories and experiences to pass on to the next Greatest Generation. The Eagles represent a cross section of the iconic figures from each military service. Their stories enhance the joint professional military education environment at ACSC, whose graduates will operate in joint environments in today's military operations.

This year's Eagles are:

Lt. Col. Robert Berg, Air Force Reserve, was the lead critical care nurse on the rescue mission of John Solecki, the only American hostage rescued alive from Pakistan since 2000.

Ret. Lt. Col. Richard Cole, Air Force, was Jimmy Doolittle's copilot on the first bomber to launch from the USS Hornet on the famous Tokyo Raid in April 1942.

Chief Master Sgt. Ramon Colon-Lopez, Air Force, is a pararescueman with more than 23 years of service, supporting Operations Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom. His decorations include two Bronze Stars with Valor and is the first Airmen to receive the Air Force Combat Action Medal.

Ret. Col. George "Bud" Day, Air Force, is the nation's most decorated warrior since Gen. Douglas MacArthur. In a military career spanning 34 years and three wars, Day received 70 decorations, of which more than 50 are for combat, including the Medal of Honor.

Ret. Master Sgt. Scott Fales, Air Force, was the lead pararescueman on Blackhawk "Super Six-Eight" during the 1993 Mogadishu battle.

Ret. Rear Adm. James Flatley III, Navy, entered aviation history in October 1963 as a Navy test pilot. As the Flight Test Carrier Suitability Project pilot, he piloted the largest aircraft, a C-130, ever to land upon an aircraft carrier.

Ret. Gen. Ronald Fogleman, Air Force, retired as the 15th Chief of Staff of the Air Force. In September 1968, his F-100 took numerous hits from ground fire. He ejected, evaded capture and in a dramatic rescue, clung to the gun bay door of an Army Cobra helicopter gunship and was carried 20 miles to safety.

First Lt. Robert Hoover, U.S. Army Air Force, flew 59 combat missions over Europe before being shot down and captured as a POW during WWII. He escaped by stealing a German airplane. After WWII, he served as a test pilot and air show performer, accumulating more than 30,000 flight hours in more than 300 aircraft.

Pearl Judd, Women Airforce Service Pilot, was one of the WASP during World War II. Of the 25,000 women who applied to the service, she was one of only 1,074 who successfully completed the training program.

Ret. Col. Charles McGee, Air Force, is one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. His flying service started in WWII and continued into Korea and Vietnam, earning the highest three-war total for fighter missions of any Air Force aviator.

Ret. Lt. Col. Francis Murray, Air Force, was one of only six pilots to fly the A-12 for the CIA's legendary Oxcart program. From May 1967 to June 1968, he flew four A-12 missions at more than 80,000 feet and in excess of Mach 3 over Southeast Asia, attempting to locate the USS Pueblo seized in the North Korean port of Wonson Harbor.

Ret. Maj. Gen. Donald Strait, Air Force, flew the P-51 and P-47 fighter aircraft during WWII, becoming a flying ace with 13.5 kills.

Col. Raymond Strasburger, Air Force, led a two-ship of A-10 Thunderbolts during the battle for Baghdad in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He and his wingman destroyed major elements of an enemy armored force assaulting Task Force 2-69 Armor at Muthanna Bridge, saving American lives and allowing them to continue maneuvers to encircle Baghdad.

Ret. Col. Dennis Traynor, Air Force, answered President Ford's call when he lead a crew of 24 in the evacuation of orphans from South Vietnam during Operation Babylift's first official mission. During the mission, his C-5 aircraft experienced a catastrophic malfunction, and his actions saved 176 lives during a crash landing in a rice paddy.

Staff Sgt. Wesley Wells, U.S. Army Air Force, enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943, and served as a B-17 Flying Fortress ball turret gunner for the 379th Bomb Group, the most decorated 8th Air Force bomb group in WWII. Wells eventually became a POW and was transferred to six different POW camps before his release in 1945.

"Honorary Eagel" Ret. Maj. Gen. Stanton Musser (deceased October 2012), Air Force, had a 31-year Air Force career. He also served as a mentor to future leaders while vice commandant at the Air Force Academy and commandant of cadets at Virginia Tech. He is survived by his wife Dawn, who will be present at the GoE. 


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