Thank you for your service 

Published in the Wilson County News on November 6, 2013

A Tribute to Texas Veterans of World War II

                                                                                     Below: The First Plane Off the USS Hornet Enroute to Bomb Tokyo

AC #1-Hornet

Thank You For Your Service                                                                                                                                     

      On the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the temporary cessation of hostilities of World War I as Armistice Day. On October 8, 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a proclamation changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day in order to fully recognize the sacrifices and contributions of all veterans. Recently we had the honor of interviewing several WWII Veterans living in south-central Texas, each contributing to the course of our history.

LT. COL. Richard E. “Dick” Cole                Doolittle Raider (NOW in Memorial-The last of the Raiders, may they all rest in peace.)

   Born on September 7, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio, Richard E. “Dick” Cole was the fifth child of six and grew up as a strong, independent person. He would ride his bicycle for some distance to McCook Field to watch airplanes; and at 12 years old, he paid $1.00 for his first plane ride in a Ford Tri-Motor. He already knew he wanted to fly.


     Young Cole enlisted in the Army Air Corps in November, 1940, completed pilot training and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in July, 1941. His first assignment was with the 34th Squadron of the 17th Bombardment Group flying the brand new       B-25.

     It was a twist of fate that placed Dick Cole in the co-pilot seat of aircraft #1 aboard the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942. His pilot was Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle. Together they made history as the lead plane of a flight of sixteen B-25s on a one-way mission to bomb Tokyo that would turn the tide of WWII. They were known as the Doolittle Raiders; their story vividly told in the movie Pearl Harbor.


     Lt. Col Dick Cole is one of only four surviving members of the 80 Raiders who stepped into the unknown with only trust in their leader, Jimmy Doolittle. At 98 years old, Cole continues to foster the legacy of that fateful mission through the General James H. Doolittle Scholarship Fund.

                                                                                                                               Dick Cole Today

Dr. Granville Coggs, Original Tuskegee Airman (Now in Memorial-The last of the Tuskegee Airman, may they all rest in peace.)


     Granville Coggs was born in Arkansas in 1925 and growing up Black in the segregated South was not easy. Education was emphasized in his family, evidenced by all five of the Coggs’ children earning college degrees. In 1943, following high school and as the war raged in Europe and the Pacific, Granville enrolled in Howard University with pre-med in his sights. While there, however, he received a letter from the draft board notifying him that there was a good possibility of him being draft

        He made the decision to apply for admission into the new all Black Army Air Corps unit based in Tuskegee, Alabama, and was accepted. By mid 1944, the Tuskegee Experiment, as it was originally called, had already proven to be successful with the famous Red Tail fighter pilots. Granville was originally trained as a bombardier and gunner on B-25s but his dream of becoming a pilot was finally achieved. He received his wings as a multi-engine military pilot in October 1945, one month after the Japanese surrender. He became one of the 992 Tuskegee pilots. During this time, he met the love of his life, Maud, who later became his wife.


      After the end of the war and with financial help from the GI Bill, he earned a chemistry degree at the University of Nebraska and in 1953 graduated from Harvard Medical School as one of only two Black Students in his class of 140.  He had an illustrious 40-year career as a radiologist working in both California and Texas and decided to make San Antonio his home after he retired. Today, he remains active as an advocate for healthy living-both physical and mental – to anyone who will listen.

       When asked what legacy he would like to leave, Dr. Coggs replied, “I would like to be remembered as a surviving original Tuskegee Airman. I am the benefactor of the 66 Tuskegee Airmen that lost their lives in combat. "I am not a fighter pilot - I am a B-25 pilot. I am a Tuskegee Airman.”


                       Granville Coggs Today 

John “Jake” Howland, Pathfinder Force (Now in Memorial, may he rest in peace)

     At age 23 and after being in the military for only 15 months, John “Jake” Howland became the lead navigator on a B-17 Pathfinder Aircraft, which was an incredible responsibility. With minimal training, he was able to master the highly technical navigational system - code name GEE -the first hyperbolic navigation system developed for night operations and long-range missions.

     His job was to lead a flight of 54 B-17s to their targets over Europe during World War II, including several missions over Berlin. He and his crew were assigned to the 381st. Bomb Group. When they walked into a briefing, he said they could hear the groans from the other crews because they knew it was going to be to tough mission as the Pathfinders only did what was termed deep-penetration missions.


       Can you image being responsible for leading this huge armada of bombers; Jake was the one man responsible for getting them there at the precise place and time to drop their bombs. He completed a total of 30 missions. Today at age 93, working from his small home office, he remains dedicated to preserving the history of the Pathfinders. 

John "Jake" Howland became the lead navigator on a B-17 Pathfinder aircraft as a young man of 23. He completed 30 missions durning World War II.

                                                                                       Jake Howland Today

      These Veterans are representative of the vast number of average Americans who were willing to step forward and do their part in the defense of freedom. They put their lives on the line to ensure that all Americans would continue to have the liberties we enjoy today.  So, if you meet a Veteran, don’t hesitate to offer a handshake and say, “Thank you for your service.” They have earned it.                

Sunkist Special

While the Price Of Freedom is Never Free, We all are free to defend it!!

From The Author: As a point of observation; when you look at these photos you can see a genuine sense of confidence in these men - then and now. We met them face-to-face - they are true gentlemen! 

   © Harry Perez 2012