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Last Surviving Doolittle Pilot, Now 100, Honored For WWII Mission

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- One of the turning points in World War II was when the Doolittle Raiders bombed Tokyo. The courageous and dangerous mission happened after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Lt. Col. Dick Cole, the last surviving Doolittle pilot, made a special trip to Granite Falls on Thursday at the age of 100.

Historians know the impact that the Tokyo Raid had. They also know the courage it took. The men involved -- including Cole, who was Jimmy Doolittle's co-pilot -- were all volunteers. Many feared they wouldn't return home.

"It said they wanted pilot volunteers for a dangerous mission," Cole said.

It was both dangerous and top secret. Cole remembers first hearing the details while on the USS Hornet.

"The public address system came on and said this force is bound for Tokyo. There was a lot of jubilation right off the bat," Cole said.

He admitted to being scared. After bombing Tokyo, the B-25's only had enough gas to get to China. Cole had to parachute 9,000 feet into the dark of night to survive.

"The Chinese didn't have the lights on the runway so they could land because they thought they were Japanese," Ron Fagen said.

Fagen and his wife keep stories like that alive at the Fagen Fighters World War II Museum.

"It's an honor and a privilege to be a part of this and we are just excited every day. We are very excited to have him," Diane Fagen said.

The Fagen's have preserved priceless World War II history, and a part of the museum is dedicated to the Tokyo Raid.

"Amazing heroes. They gave people faith that we are going to do something here," Ron Fagen said.

On Thursday, Cole travelled from Texas to Granite Falls to honor the museum with a Congressional Gold Medal in front of more than 800 people, many of them veterans. The crowd at the museum was nearly twice as large as they originally expected.

Cole said the medal is about dedication and morale, something his fighters helped raise during a crucial moment in history.

"We did that. I felt pretty good about it," he said.

Cole continued to serve with the Air Force after the raid. He flew more than 100 missions during the war.

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