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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Blakeslee

Donald Blakeslee

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Donald Blakeslee


Donald James Matthew Blakeslee (born September 11, 1918, Died September 3rd 2008 was an officer in the United States Air Force, whose career began as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force and flew Spitfire fighter aircraft, during World War II. He then became a member of the Royal Air Force Eagle squadrons. He arguably flew more combat missions against the Luftwaffe than any other American fighter pilot.
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Early life

Blakeslee was born in Fairport Harbor, Ohio and became interested in flying after watching the Cleveland Air Races as a young boy. With money saved from his job with the Diamond Alkali Company, he and a friend purchased a small airplane, flying it from Willoughby Field, OH. However, his friend crashed the machine, and Blakeslee decided the best way to remain flying was to join the RCAF.

RCAF and Eagle Squadrons

After training in Canada, Blakeslee arrived in England on 15 May 1941, where he was assigned to 401 Squadron RCAF. Flying sweeps over France, Blakeslee claimed his first kill on 22 November 1941, a Bf-109 destroyed over Desvres. He proved to be not a particularly good shot, but was receptive to the principles involved in air fighting tactics, and was soon shown to be a gifted leader, in the air and on the ground.
By the summer of 1942 he was a flight leader, and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. He then completed his first tour of duty, clocking 200 combat hours with 3 victories.
Blakeslee had studiously avoided being part of the American volunteer Eagle Squadrons, claiming "they played sister in making their claims." But when told he would be assigned to be an instructor pilot, he finally volunteered to be sent to No. 133 "Eagle" Squadron as its Commanding Officer, which was the only way he could remain on combat status. During the raid against Dieppe, France on 18 August 1942, Blakeslee shot down an FW-190, and another on the 19th, thus achieving "ace" status.

The 4th Fighter Group

On 12 September 1942, Nos 71, 122 and 133 Squadrons became "activated" as the USAAF's 4th Fighter Group, operating from a former RAF field at Debden. After a few months flying Spitfires, the group was re-equipped with the new Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. On 14 April 1943 Blakeslee claimed an FW-190 for the group's first P-47 "kill". Leading the 335th Squadron of the 4th FG, Blakeslee flew the group into Germany for the first time on 28 July. Towards the end of the year Blakeslee led the group more often, and developed a tactic of circling above any air battle and directing his fighters as necessary. Blakeslee flew the P-51 Mustang for the first time in December 1943 and thereafter worked hard to have the 4th FG re-equpped as soon as possible with the new fighter, pushing hard especially as he now became Commanding Officer of the 4th on 1 January 1944.[1]
The 8th Air Force Command eventually agreed to the request, provided the pilots were operational on the P-51 within 24 hours of receiving them. Blakeslee agreed, instructing his pilots to "learn how to fly them on the way to the target".
In March 1944 Blakeslee was in the first Mustang over Berlin. Escorting the massed daylight raids of the 8th Air Force over Occupied Europe while under Blakeslee's command, the 4th FG became one of the highest scoring groups of VIII Fighter Command. The 4th's aggressive style was very effective, and the 4th Fighter Group passed the 500 kill mark athe end of April, 1944.
The next landmark for Blakeslee was leading the first "shuttle" mission to Russia on 21 June 1944, flying 1,470 miles in a mission lasting over 7 hours.
Don Blakeslee was finally grounded in September 1944, after the loss of several high scoring USAAF aces. He had accounted for 15.5 kills in the air and 2 more on the ground and had flown over 400 operational sorties.
Blakeslee retired from the United States Air Force in 1972 with the rank of Colonel.[2]
 

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And another American hero passes. Without your post who would have known? Thanks. RM
 
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