Deceased February 26, 2015
One of our quiet World War II warriors, Don passed away Feb. 26 after a remarkable life in the field of aviation. Born in Montreal, raised in Brooklyn, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force as a teenage pilot and was assigned to the RAF, where he flew fighters before transitioning to the USAAF.
Then came Amherst and Phi Delt; he joined the reserves at Westover AFB as a flight instructor. In 1950, he was recalled for the Korean War, continuing what became a 32-year military career leading to combat missions in the Vietnam War, his third.
Prior to Korea, he married Helen, his wife of 64 years, and was blessed with two daughters, one of whom predeceased him. He flew the first supersonic jet, did 100 missions, became involved with weapons research and was selected to attend the George Washington University School of Business, where he earned his M.B.A. in 1961.
Don flew or tested 55 different aircraft types. In combat, he used 16 diverse weapon systems. He was highly decorated by both the United States and Britain. He was sent to Panama during the 1965 riots, but Vietnam heated up, and he was reassigned to Saigon. Permitted to drive back to the United States via the new Pan-America Highway, he contacted Jim Bandeen ’49, who shipped him a new Chevy wagon for the wild ride. His experiences in Vietnam were full and varied, highlighted by a week of R&R in Tokyo, where he had Helen flown over.
His final assignment was commander, Tyndall AFB, and vice commander, Air Defense Weapon Center. He then became involved in activities in Panama City, Fla.—real estate, chamber of commerce and his church. He was a distinguished president of Rotary and helped set up the comprehensive health system for northwest Florida. Don filled every day with worthwhile endeavors. A most enterprising ’49-er.
Gerry Reilly ’49