The president of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Association told The Air Force Times that Cole died in San Antonio on Tuesday morning with his son and daughter by his side.
Cole, originally from Dayton, Ohio, was mission commander Jimmy Doolittle's co-pilot in the 1942 bombing attack less than five months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The bold raid on Japan is credited with providing the United States with a morale boost and helping turn the tide of the war in the Pacific.
"I think the main thing was that you had to go in with a positive attitude," Cole said in September of the against-the-odds mission. "I really didn't worry about it. It was our job, and we knew what to expect."
In 2015, the Raiders, including Cole, were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for their "outstanding heroism, valor, skill and service to the United States."
Cole parachuted to safety, and he and other Raiders were helped by Chinese partisans. But seven crewmembers died – three were killed during the mission; three others were captured and executed, and one died in captivity.
In 2015, Cole’s book about his service called “Dick Cole’s War: Doolittle Raider, Hump Pilot, Air Commando (American Military Experience)” was published. Proceeds from the book go to a scholarship fund in Doolittle’s name for students in the aviation field, according to Fox 13.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan tweeted Tuesday: “Our Nation has lost a legend. Our thoughts are with the family of Lt. Col. Dick Cole, the last of the Doolittle Raiders, who passed away at age 103. He was a true trailblazer, and his selfless legacy of service lives on in our Airmen of today and tomorrow.”
A memorial service is being scheduled at Joint Base San Antonio. Cole will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.