Measures Would Award Promotions to Tuskegee Airman and Last Doolittle Raider

  • Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, co-pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, smiles as he honors the U.S. flag during the singing of the National Anthem at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
    Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, co-pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, smiles as he honors the U.S. flag during the singing of the National Anthem at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
  • Retired Col. Elmer Jones and retired Col. Charles McGee address an audience during an open forum at the 2009 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15, 2009, at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andy Morataya)
    Retired Col. Elmer Jones and retired Col. Charles McGee address an audience during an open forum at the 2009 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15, 2009, at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andy Morataya)

House lawmakers have introduced legislative amendments to promote two military pilots who made great contributions to aerial battles during World War II.

Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, and Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, recently created an amendment to the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization legislation that would posthumously promote Richard "Dick" Cole from lieutenant colonel to colonel.

Cole, who died in April at age 103, was the last surviving Doolittle Raider and flew alongside then-Lt. Col. James "Jimmy" Doolittle. The raid was famously named after Doolittle, who led 16 B-25 bombers and 80 crew members from the aircraft carrier Hornet in the western Pacific on a strike targeting factories and military installations in and around Tokyo on April 18, 1942.

Cole, a lieutenant at the time, received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role in the bombing.

Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, introduced similar legislation. The news was first reported by Air Force Magazine on Wednesday.

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Separately, Rep. Anthony Brown, a Democrat from Maryland and former Army aviator, created a measure to promote retired Air Force colonel and distinguished combat aviator Charles McGee to brigadier general. McGee, who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, flew 409 fighter combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

“Col. Charles McGee broke numerous barriers in the military and completed more than 400 combat missions spanning three wars. This distinguished, decades-long career in the Air Force serves as an inspirational legacy to thousands of African American servicemembers and aviators,” Brown said in a statement. “This honorary promotion would be well-deserved recognition of a dedicated patriot.”

Both McGee and Cole spoke to Military.com in recent years about their service.

"The flight was designed to do two things: One, to let the Japanese people know that they could be struck by air. And the other thing was the morale, and we did that, so we were very proud of that," Cole told Military.com in 2016.

That year, the Air Force announced it would name its next-generation B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber the Raider after the Doolittle Raiders. Cole made the announcement for the service.

The experience was much different for the Tuskegee Airmen: They were the first African-American pilots, navigators and support personnel to serve during World War II, often escorting and protecting bombers.

McGee said he was just doing his job.

"It came from the basis of doing something for our country -- for me, doing something I liked, knowing that's what I'd pass on to young people now," he said during an interview in 2017.

"We accomplished something that helped lead the country," McGee said. "We didn't call this civil rights. It was American opportunity."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to remove incorrect historical information in a quote.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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