Only one Doolittle Raider is left

David Thatcher, left, and Richard Cole, right, were honored at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio in April.  U.S. Air Force

One April 18, 1942, 80 men in 16 B-25 bombers did the impossible: They took off from aircraft carriers and dropped bombs on Tokyo. It was close to a suicide mission, so all of the crews were volunteers.

They were Doolittle’s Raiders, and now there’s only one left.

David Thatcher has died. He was an engineer and tail gunner on the seventh B-25 in the group.

His son posted on Facebook that his father suffered a stroke on Sunday afternoon and died this morning in Missoula, Montana.

When his pilot ditched the plane in the ocean, it flipped over. Thatcher helped the survivors escape the wreckage and then evade the Japanese forces for several days.

“Beyond the limits of human exertion, beyond the call of friendship, beyond the call of duty, he – a corporal – brought his four wounded officers to safety,” Merian C. Cooper, a logistics officer for the Doolittle Raid, wrote of Thatcher after debriefing all the surviving, uncaptured Raiders.

“Medal of Honor? Pin it on him. He earned it.”

Instead, he got a Silver Star, one of only three awarded from the raid.

Richard Cole, who’ll turn 101 on Labor Day is the only one left. He was Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot.