Capt. Gentile Recognized As War's Top Ace
London, 8 April 1944 - (AP) - Capt. Don S. Gentile's claim of five planes destroyed on the ground on April 5 was confirmed today while he was blasting three more nazi planes out of the sky to run his bag to 30, and the Piqua, O., Mustang pilot became the first American ace of this war formally recognized as having broken Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker's World war record.
All In Air
Piqua, Oh., 8 April 1944 - (AP) - The mother of Capt. Don S. Gentile wept with joy and concern today after learning her son had shot down three more nazi planes and had been formally recognized as the top American ace of two World wars.
Capt. Gentile's Mother Proud Of Record, but Also Worried
The boy who built model airplanes grew up to be a strapping six-footer weighing 200 pounds, typically Midwestern in his appetites and hobbies.
"I guess he liked hamburger best," she said. "But he likes milk too, and pie and cake. He's crazy about them"
At Piqua High School from which he was graduated, Gentile won his letter in football and played basketball and baseball.
"I don't know what position he played at football," his mother said. "I get mixed up on those things. But he was a swimmer, too. He loved to swim."
Musically inclined, Gentile played the saxophone, drums, guitar and clarinet at home although he never played with a band. He has one sister, Edith, aged 18, who is employed in a local office.
Joined Canadian Air Force
His "Roughest Mission"
Wins His Battle
Sets New Record
Home Town Seeks Well Deserved Rest for Capt. Gentile, Air Ace
PIQUA, O., 9 April 1944 - (AP) - Piqua's city commissioners today telegraphed a request to President Roosevelt that Capt. Don S. Gentile of Piqua, America's leading ace in the European war theater, be allowed to return home "for a much deserved rest."
Toronto Officer Says U.S. Ace 'Doesn't Know How He Does It’
A United States Fighter Base, England, April 10, 1944 - (AP) - Capt. Don S. Gentile, the leading United States Air Force ace in the European war theatre, makes the job of mowing down Nazi planes sound as easy as picking birds off a fence.
GENTILE IS HONORED AS TOP U.S. AIR ACE
Two Crack U.S. Fliers Shot Down During French Raids
Gentile on a previous "beat up"
The results of his (Too) "Low Pass"
An ignoble end to a grand career
By A. I. Goldberg, A U.S. Fighter Base In England, 14 April 1944 - (AP) - Capt. Don Gentile, top American ace in the European theater, may have closed his operational fighter career with his latest mission in which he was injured slightly in a crash landing.
The Piqua, Ohio, ace who has 30 German planes to his credit - 23 shot down in aerial combat and seven destroyed on the ground - has long since passed his second quota of missions.
He was going after the top European mark of 32 planes held by R.A.F. Group Capt. A.G. Malan, but had planned it to be his last operational flight in any case.
"I'm going after Malan's mark," he had said as he leaned over the cockpit just before the take-off.
Gentile, now released from the base hospital where he was treated for minor injuries, had hoped to return home with "Shangri-La" - the plane in which he rode out his operational career. But a crash crew found him sitting on the torn plane's wing after his crash landing.
"I don't want to be a transport pilot but I sure want to keep on flying," he had said in the officers' lounge the night before his last mission. "I hope I can get into the business end of aviation after this war and then be able to take planes up every time I want."
Gentile did some of the finest flying or his career in lifting his red-nosed Mustang off the turf of this landing field when he returned from that mission and saved himself and a group standing in front of the operations hut.
Loses Power Coming In
He was coming in low after a seven-hour flight when his plane lost power. It almost seemed he lifted his sleek plane himself, gunning it over the operations hut flag pole and picking a spot for the crash landing in a plowed field, just short of a ditch and a high-tension wire.
He was taken to the hospital and put to bed after showing signs of shock. He woke up later, however, demanding dinner and spent the rest of the evening listening to the radio.
The next morning friends found him dressed and ready to go back to his quarters.
A friend who talked with him this morning said he could have gotten three more planes in the air "like sitting ducks" on his latest mission and beaten Malan's record, but he suddenly saw a Focke-Wulf on a companion's tail and left his targets to save his friend.
Then two Germans got on Gentile's tail and he bad to break off in evasive action.
Gentile is highly regarded by his companions.
"He's the best pilot there ever was." his armorer, Corp. Gerhard Johns, Deer River, Minn., had said when he took off before his crash.
"We lose him anyway," observed
Sgt. Roy Muffler, radioman, St. Louis, at the take-off. "If he gets his planes he will have passed the mark and won't need to fly again. If he doesn't —" and Sergeant Muffler shrugged his shoulders.
Gentile was tucked into his plane like a baby by Ground Crew Chief Sgt. John Ferra, El Segundo, Calif., who has worked with him for 14 months, and Sgt. Richard Mansfield, Long Meadow, Springfield, Mass., assistant crew chief. The ace never had said he was going after Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker's World War I record of 26 planes downed in aerial combat, which was bettered this week by Maj. Richard I. Bong, Poplar, Wis., with 27 kills in the air over the Pacific.
His closest friend said Gentile was unpretentious and never compared himself with Rickenbacker.
He has piled up all his flying pay - gossip has it that it runs into thousands - but Gentile didn't volunteer how much it totals or what he intends doing with it.
"Things are going to be a bit uncertain after this war and it doesn't hurt to have a nest egg," he said.
His immediate task is to catch up with a pile of letters, and he figured some of them might be from Marge Dill, who worked at Decker's Piqua Packing plant, and from Dorothy Wilson, a former North Hollywood film player who is now training with the WAVES in the Bronx, N. Y.
The Press today begins publication of the exclusive signed story of Capt. Don S. Gentile, first American ace to eclipse Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker's World War I record of 26 enemy planes destroyed. The Piqua, Ohio, flier tells the theory of modern air warfare and how it feels to go up against the Nazi airmen's guns.
This is the first of a series of stories by the man Gen. Eisenhower called a "one-man air force."
Captain Don Gentile Tells his Story
The theory of fight between fighter planes is very simple. You see the enemy, grab for his coat-tails, hold on to them, put your guns up against his back pocket and press the trigger. But while you are reaching for his coattails, he is reaching for yours.
'No Time to Think'
'So Slow. So Endless'
Armor-piercing incendiaries hit him all over. They cloud him up all over and go all over him like snake tongues. That's what they look like - little red snake tongues, hundreds of them, licking at him, flicking him poisonously all over. That goes on and on, each little flick quick as a twist, but the whole thing so slow, so endless.
Then black smoke starts out of him and goes slowly and endlessly out of him and glycol, too, is seeping out of him.
At first it comes as if you've squeezed it out of him and then a cloud of it appears. Glycol is the fluid that keeps the motor from overheating. You can't fly more than a minute or so without it. It comes out in the air looking white and when you see it coming out good in a pour then that's the end.
That is the wind of death blowing up to storm proportions in him, blowing his life's blood out of the holes you've made in him.
'Slow and Endless'
It's a small pour at first, usually thin, like a frosty breath: then bigger, bigger, bigger and always slow and endless and stuck into your eyes and stopped there like a movie held still.
And after that, sometimes when you're really clobbering him and are really all over him hammering his guts out, pieces start coming off him.
It's nuts-and-bolts stuff at first, then bigger things - big, ripped off looking things like you're tearing arms and legs off him and arms and legs and the head of him are going slowly, endlessly over your shoulder.
When you look back at it or see it from the outside, it just seems like one whoosh and bang!
The Hun is dead. But not when you're in it. Oh no, not then.
When Enemy Is Hitting You
And when the enemy has got you and is clobbering you, that's slow, too. It's like lighted matches being dragged slowly across the bunched up flesh of your brain. It feels like your brain is dissolving away under the pain on top of it.
It's a fight to keep your brain together, and while you're fighting this fight, putting, like it seems, your two hands on your mind holding it in one piece with all the strength in your fingers, how long it seems to last and how far away the end you want seems to be.
I've had help in fighting this kind of fight from two Huns with whom I struck up a brief acquaintance on separate occasions. Each fought very well.
They were crafty and had courage. One of them I thought was going to be real serious trouble for me. The other I thought was going to be able to get away to fight another day.
'Not Man, Just Gadget'
But suddenly, I don't know, something happened in their minds. You could see it plainly. Their brains had dissolved away under pressure of fear and had become just dishwater in their heads.
They froze to their sticks and straightened out and ran right into their graves like men stricken blind who run, screaming, off a cliff.
Since then, whenever a Hun has gotten my tail into his teeth I've thought of those two fellows. Ordinarily, the Hun, with his oxygen mask on appears to you as without life or movement to him - as not a man at all, but just a gadget in that machine of his. Those two fellows were the only Huns I ever thought of as people and it helped me a lot to do so. It kept me several times from doing what they had done - from going blind and running, screaming, off a cliff.
AN EIGHTH AIR FORCE FIGHTER BASE, England, 17 April 1944 - The important thing to me about my score against the Germans, and I think the thing that makes it worth a person's reading time, is that it symbolizes the whole course of the air war to date and is, in its small way, the chart of it.
I started flying in Spitfires, June 22, 1942 nearly two years ago now. It was the day I put myself up against the Huns for the first time. The Spitfire of that day was a defensive weapon that could not carry the war far into the enemy territory. It could just about go into his front line trenches.
Then the group I was attached to got Thunderbolts. At that time the Thunderbolt was a plane for limited offensive fighting. It could beat the Luftwaffe out of the neighborhood of our home, but could not follow him all the way back and pull down his own house over his ears.
Finally, we started flying Mustangs.
This was the plane for unlimited offensive action. It could go in the front door of the enemy's home and blow down the back door and beat up all the furniture in between.
All told, I have had now about 350 hours of combat flying against the Huns. There were many things I needed to live through those hours and run up a good score in them. Some of them I had to supply myself, but the war itself was the payoff - the way it was going and the part the air force was allowed to play in it and could play in it.
When I started fighting the Germans, our side was on the defensive. We had to do more running away than running after. It was not until Aug. 19, 1942, that I got my first German planes, a Junkers 88 and a Focke-Wulf 190. That was over Dieppe at the time of the great raid on that port - the time, if you remember, when our side was turned loose on the offensive, if only for a day.
Through all the long months that followed, while the Eighth Air Force was building itself up from the ground, we prepared to take the offensive away from the Germans and then with the Thunderbolts really started to go out and get it.
The big bombers were the heavy guns in this phase of the war. Their job was to beat the German air force out of Western Europe and our job was to help keep the German air force from stopping them.
In those days we flew close support for the bombers. When the German fighters came in on the bombers - not before - we turned into fighters and shot at them. As soon as an individual plane or a single formation of them broke off to attack, we hustled back to the bombers. The thing was a limited offensive. We couldn't go all out. We had to peck and peck at them until they were weak enough to be trampled down.
In those days I got some "probables" and some "damages."
We could not follow the enemy fighters past the point at which they broke off the attack. We had to climb back to the bombers to make sure they were not hit from another side.
So we could not follow the "smokers" or the partially clobbered to see them crash or, if more shooting was needed, to do that and finish them off.
The score of the whole group was low in those days and it stayed low. It was April 2, 1943, when the group quit Spitfires for Thunderbolts and about June or July of that year when we started noticing a kind of faltering in the Luftwaffe.
The pecking of the bombers and ourselves was beginning to take effect. It looked like the time would come soon when we'd be turned loose to trample them down.
German Is Crafty
But the German is a crafty foe and he undertook then one of those "planned retreats" of his. He took many of his planes out of France, Holland and Belgium and there we were sitting in our Thunderbolts unable to follow after them.
The Fortresses and Liberators barreled right into Germany after the Luftwaffe. We could go along with them only so far and no farther. The bombers had to go the rest of the way without us. The Luftwaffe just waited for the bombers to go past our sphere of action.
Then they hit and didn't stop hitting until our bombers were back with us. Then the Luftwaffe strutted back home like dogs which chase a marauder out of the front yard and are content to let it go at that.
Meanwhile, the home front was busy on the Mustang. With the Mustang there was no place for the Luftwaffe to retreat. That plane put the Huns bark right up against the wall, but we did not have enough fighter cover in the latter part of last year and the early part of this year to give anything but close support to our bombers.
Idea Is 'To Get Them'
Fighter planes had to fly close formation and had to devote themselves to breaking off enemy attacks but could not follow through on the Hun making his getaway.
This was the old pecking days all over again - pecking, pecking and pecking at the enemy's strength until he was weak enough to trample down. But this time there was this important difference; when we would get strong enough to start trampling he would have no place to run. He would have to stand and fight.
The time finally came for us in late February of this year. There was no more need to put all our planes in close support of the bombers. There was no more need to keep the formation at any cost. We were sent out there to go and get and clobber the Nazis. If they wouldn't come up into the air we would go down against their ground guns and shoot them up on the ground. "Get them" - that was the idea, kill them, trample them down.
It was this time I, personally, was ready for. I had been wanting to fly, and flying was practically my whole life. In the two years of mixing it with the Germans I had learned a great many things that you can't learn in any but the hard way.
And there were many in Col. Don Blakeslee's group who were in the same condition. It was no accident that when the bell finally rang for the big fight Col. Blakeslee's team became, in seven weeks of the happiest, craziest hayriding ever, the highest scoring outfit in the whole league.
In all this time of the rising and falling of the tide for us, the Luftwaffe has deteriorated steadily, but it has been a thing about which I have been slow to make up my mind. The Nazis all seemed like champs to me at first but as I started to learn my business I began to notice that some of them did not know their business as well as others.
Nazis Have 'Hot Shots'
In recent days I have noticed more and more Huns who do not know their business. This may be because the older I get in this game the more critical I become and the easier it is for me to spot a boy who is green at the trade and worried and not sure of himself and on the defensive all the way.
But I don't think that's the whole reason.
I think it is true that the Luftwaffe consists more and more of new boys as the old hands get killed off. However, there are still quite a lot of the old hands around and they are real hot shots. They know two things you need to know in this business: How to kill and how to keep from being killed. There is nothing defeatist about their attitude - nothing that I can notice any way.
'Things Broke Right'
So, by and large, I don't think this team I'm on would have run up the score it has if things hadn't broken just right for it - if the bell hadn't rung to go all out at exactly the time when it was ripe to do just that. I know that's true in my case.
I have a feeling now, looking back over the last few weeks, that all my life everything I have done in it has gone to fit me to take advantage of the weeks between Feb. 10, 1944, and April 8.
U.S. MUSTANG BASE, England. April 17 - (UP) - Capt. Don S. Gentile, of Piqua, O., credited with destroying 30 enemy planes, including 23 in the air, fully recovered from crash injuries, announced today that he was going on a seven-day recuperation leave starting tomorrow.
"I'm feeling good and have not asked for extended leave," he said.
He was not certain where he would spend the leave nor what he would do afterward. He said he hoped to go to some vacation spot in England where he could get a good rest.
"I would like to go home for a month or so," Capt. Gentile said, "but I sure would want to come back."
Lying in bed Sunday, recovering from the shock of a recent crash, Capt. Gentile said: "If I should get to go home I would want to come back pretty quick, perhaps after a month. I want to finish the war right over here in the big league where I began.
Capt. Gentile said he would not care for fighting in the Pacific.
"I think we have the stiffest air competition in the world over Europe and I like being where the going is toughest," he explained.
Glad of Bong's Record
Capt. Gentile said he was glad Maj. Richard I. Bong, Pacific fighter pilot, had broken the record with a score of 27 planes shot down in combat.
Capt. Gentile came out of a recent crash while landing at his base with only a swollen finger but suffered shock.
He got up for the first time yesterday and last night he escorted a British girl friend, Chris Naylor, of Essex, to a station dance.
By UNITED PRESS, 18 April 1944 - The field is wide open for a new leading American fighter ace. Four of the top ranking fliers today were grounded for various reasons. These aces and their records are:
Capt. Don S. Gentile, Piqua, O., credited with 30 planes, including seven destroyed on the ground in daring sweeps over enemy airdromes in the European Theater.
Maj. Richard I. Bong, Poplar, Wis., credited with 27 air victories in the Southwest Pacific area.
Maj. Joe Foss, Sioux Falls, S.D., credited with 26 victories in the Southwest Pacific.
Capt. Bob Johnson, Lawton, Okla., who has shot down 25 Nazi planes in combat. Only 22 of them have been confirmed, however, with three pending.
Great Risks Emphasized
Should he eventually receive credit for those three, Capt. Johnson, along with Maj. Bong and Maj. Foss, would top Capt. Gentile if only planes shot down in combat were counted.
But some fliers contend this would not be altogether fair because fighters take even greater proportionate risks to bag planes on enemy airfields than they do in dogfights in the substratosphere. The danger from anti-aircraft fire, they say, justifies counting ground destructions even though this is not done in other theaters.
Capt. Gentile is going away for a short rest starting sometime today. He has served his tour of duty several times and has more than 350 combat hours behind him.
Maj. Bong likewise has been ordered to rest after running up his "ace of aces" string of 27 combat victories.
Maj. Foss has been given a ground and instructional assignment utilizing his experience as a teacher, after returning to the Southwest Pacific from home leave.
Capt. Johnson has completed his tour of duty and is not likely to return to active service.
Oil City Man Rates High
Leading contenders in the European Theater include Lt. Col. Francis Gabreski, Oil City, Pa., who has shot down 28 planes in combat and has been credited with destroying two on the ground; Col. Glen Duncan, Houston, Tex., who has a 17 total, 16 of them in combat, and Lt. Col. David Schilling, Detroit, who has shot down 15.
AN EIGHTH AIR FORCE FIGHTER BASE, England, 18 April 1944 (By Wireless) - I can't remember the time when airplanes were not part of my life and can't remember ever wanting anything so much as to fly one.
When I was six years old I started pestering my father, Patsy, into taking me down to Troy every Saturday and Sunday to see the Wacos outside the plant there. Then I used to go down by myself and when I was in my early teens, I began nagging dad for flying lessons.
His eyebrows went way up when I first mentioned it and my mother's mouth pulled way down. It was plain in their faces that what I had asked for seemed undreamed of to them and absolutely impossible. And to me it seemed impossible that it should be undreamed of by anyone.
In Separate World
It was kind of a shock to me. I think I felt then for the first time like the person who is different from his parents and lives in a separate world.
Dad used to give me money every now and then to go out on dates. He was not a rich man. He had come to the United States at the age of 14 and started to work as a water boy in the gas company at Columbus, O. He remained with them for twenty-five years. He rose to be foreman and he kept up our home and raised my sister, Edith, who is two years younger than myself, and me on $5O and $60 a week, saving his money until when repeal came he could do what he liked, which was to open a bar and grill and live off that.
Saved Date Money
But even though he was not rich, he is what they call "regular," and he was really wonderful to me. When he gave me $5 to take a girl out I'd put $3 or $4 into the bank and splurge the rest on the girl. When he gave me $10 I'd put eight or nine of it into the bank. Dad was amused and mother was delighted, I think, but I knew what I was doing. I wanted to fly.
I was pretty bashful and afraid of people, and Dad, who is a ground-minded man, chose his own way to correct that. When I was sixteen in 1936, he had me come in to wait on tables in the good old Geneva Bar and Grill. It worked out all right, I guess. Anyway, I got so that I could talk right along with the boys and kid them back as I brought them their beer.
But it was not until I was 17 when 1 finally got into an airplane. At that time I felt I had come to the place where I belonged in the world. The air to me was what being on the ground was to other people. When I felt nervous it pulled me together. Where things got too much for me on the ground, they never got that way in the air.
Flying came into my mind like fresh air smoked up into the lungs and was food in my hungry mouth and strength in my weak arms. I felt that way the first time I got into an airplane.
I wasn't nervous when I first soloed. There was excitement in me but it was the nice kind you get when you're going home after a long, long, unhappy time away.
Dad gave up then and started buying me a half hour's flying time every Sunday. It cost about $10, depending on the kind of plane you could rent.
Then I began pestering him to buy me an airplane. His eyebrows went up again and my mother's mouth went down again. They said no, no, no, and I said yes, yes, yes. I found a man with a home-made, single seater, open cockpit plane that he was willing to sell for $300. Mother said I was crazy, Dad said he wouldn't hear of any such thing. So I went down to the bank and drew out the $300 and paid it over.
Somebody, we never knew who, called up mother anonymously and said. "Your son bought himself a death trap to fly in."
This made mother rush screaming down to the airport to cancel the sale. It turned out that the man who had sold me the plane was a crook. He had somebody to fly the thing on to Indiana at mother's first scream and dad went down with me to try to get my money back. We couldn't without lawyers and dad figured it would be too expensive that way.
"Okay," he told me. "You've learned a lesson. You've got $300 worth of experience now."
But I brought up the subject again and again and another time and another time - every chance I could. Finally, dad bought me a single-seater biplane Aerosport for $450. When dad gives in, he gives in good.
The general reputation I had in Piqua was not, I think, too good. The folks around there thought I was a pretty crazy kid. I played football and baseball for Piqua Central High and managed to make the second team in basketball and was average in my studies, going along with the middle of the class. There wasn't anything they could pick on there.
But when I got into an auto that had a lot of horses to gallop, I galloped them. I'd race every car on the road. I'd go 100 miles an hour sometimes when the cops chased me, because they were in Fords and could make eighty, while I had dad's Lincoln Zephyr.
Maybe twists and turns and skids and looking back while driving wasn't good citizenship on the Ohio roads, but it turned out to be good training for driving over Germany.
Beat Up the Town
On Saturday afternoons I would beat up the town in my airplane, and the cops chased me in that, too. I could see their cars running after me, trying to get my number. I'd raise the hair on everybody's head with my propeller. I’d blow in the curtains on Betty Levering's house and make the geraniums in Marge Dill's front yard give up their petals.
Then the cops would come into our parlor and dad would give them cigars. "Was that you flying low?" they'd ask me.
"Did you see a number on the plane?" I'd say.
"Hell," they'd say, "You was going 900 miles a minute. Who could count the numbers?"
"It Ain't Safe"
After a while they'd go off, saying, "You've got to quit this low flying around town. You know it ain't safe."
And it was against the law, but I did it. I did it because I wanted to. I wasn't showing off, although maybe there was some of that in it. Anyway, it didn't feel like showing off to me.
Driving fast, flying low, stunting, putting my brain and my power over a machine against death and telling death, "catch me if you can" - that was the kind of competition I needed to make myself feel alive. Every man needs competition. If he's a scholar it's how much can he learn; if he's got a job, it's how well can he do it; or if he's unhappy in it, it's how much can he get away with goldbricking.
Getting the most out of a machine was my competition. I thought I knew what a machine could do and what I could do with a machine, and particularly when flying I never was nervous or afraid or felt in danger - even when I zipped a wing tip right under the nose of death.
The way it all worked out it was all right. It was just what I needed for war. I remember Sept. 1, 1939, well. The Piqua Daily Call came into the school and the teachers ran out of their classrooms and the kids, too, and everybody stood in the corridors reading the big, black headlines: "HITLER INVADES POLAND." A lot of fellows could read their death sentence in that headline. Millions and millions of fellows all over the world read their death sentence in that headline that morning.
But I didn't feel that way. I felt, standing in the school corridor there in Piqua with all that excitement all around me, that I was going to get into the war. But I was ready for it. I had confidence in myself if they would get me off the ground and put me into the air.
AN EIGHTH AIR FORCE FIGHTER BASE, England. 19 April 1944 - (By Wireless) - My father and mother and I worked it out together. They wanted me to go to college, and I wanted to go to college and get ahead and make something of myself.
But I told them this is the kind of fellow I am; It's airplanes or nothing for me. Anywhere else I'd be a round peg in a square hole for the rest of my life. Put me in an airplane and I know I am sure I can make something of myself.
Dad saw that. Mother did too, I guess, although she wouldn't admit it. She never understood why anybody wanted to fly and when it came to the flesh - her flesh - she was more than puzzled. She was frightened. She was like a hen which had hatched out a strange bird.
Foresaw the War
I told them we were going to get into the war soon and that I'd be drafted. I'd never be allowed to finish college. I applied for admission to Ohio State, but that was just to make my folks happy while the argument went on.
Without a college degree, I told them, I couldn't fly for the United States Army. When they drafted me, I said it would be the infantry for me or tanks or something, and I wouldn't have the chance to live that I'd have if I could fight in an airplane. Not me - not the type person I was.
But, I said to them, if I Joined the RAF now I'd get to be a pilot and when we came into the war I could transfer over and be a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Force, college degree or not.
France fell and the Battle of Britain started, and I kept on fighting the battle of Piqua, O., to give myself a chance for life in the war that was coming down on all of us.
"You'll see," I told my Dad. "I'll make my mark in this war if I can fly in it."
Wins 'Battle of Piqua'
I used the name and story of Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker on Dad to show him what a man could do and finally I won the battle of Piqua.
In September 1940, in the same week I was supposed to go off to Ohio State, Dad drove me down to Cleveland to enlist in the RAF. In all the long drive he didn't say much; he just sat there looking like an unhappy little boy.
Then when I got on an airliner to go off for training, Mother fainted at the airport. And a year later, after I got my wings and came home for my last overseas leave, Mother wouldn't get off the train that was taking me away from her. She wept and clung to her seat, and they had to hold up the train until Dad finally led her off.
Called 'Louse' By Sister
My sister Edith was very frank to me. She told me what a louse I was to do what I have done, and I felt like a louse as the train pulled me on past Ohio and toward Canada. There was a taste of sorrow in my mouth all the way, and sorrow lay in my eyes like clouds so that everything on the train and in the scenery there looked strange.
But I knew that what I was doing was right. It was the only thing and the best thing for me to do.
When Dad said goodbye he told me, "Son, you're on your own now. If you're in trouble just write to me and I'll help you. Whatever it is and wherever you are, I'll help."
Joined Eagle Squadron
I have thought of that often since. I have thought of it over Abbeville and Dieppe, over Berlin and a lot of other foreign places. I once sat all night, all by myself, in our squadron's quarters where I was the only survivor of the whole squadron, and thought of what Dad had said. But I always wrote him that everything was going fine.
Making a fighter pilot is a long business. My instructors had worked hard back home and when I was graduated, I was graded "better than average pilot."
But flying an airplane is only a part of the fighting with one, and most of the other part a man has to learn in actual combat. He has to learn from his fellow soldiers and from the enemy.
I was lucky enough to get attached to the Eagle Squadron where some of the finest fighter pilots who ever lived were working - lucky enough to get into the war at a time when a man could afford to be cautious about learning and feel his way and not just have to throw himself against the enemy and try to clout him down blindly.
Learned From Enemy
I learned a lot from the enemy too. In the beginning we were up against Goering's Abbeville kids - those yellow-nosed Focke-Wulf veteran big-timers. There were not many better teachers of attack and defense than those killers, and of those who were better teachers, quite a few were in the Eagle Squadron.
There are two things a fighter pilot must have in order to do his work in combat, things that he can't really acquire anywhere else except in combat; confidence in his ability to kill and confidence in his ability to get away in trouble.
The Offensive Spirit
If you feel you can kill and feel they can't kill you, then you'll have the offensive spirit. Without that offensive spirit ability - to lunge instantaneously and automatically like a fighting cock at the enemy the instant you spot him - you are lost.
You either "go along for the ride," as we call it when a fellow hangs back and doesn't make kills, or eventually you get shot down.
I know because it took me quite a long time to build up in myself the confidence that I thought I had when I left home, and there was quite a long time when I went along just for the ride.
AN EIGHTH AIR FORCE FIGHTER BASE IN ENGLAND. 20 April 1944 - (By Wireless) - When I first reached England early in 1942 there was some notion of putting me to work in the Royal Air Force as an instructor, but I took a Spitfire out one day and beat up a dog track where there was a race going on and the notion ended right there.
When I flew over the dog track, the dogs were tearing after the rabbit and the customers were cheering them on. But when I finished buzzing the track the dogs were running and yowling all over the park and the customers were sprinting after them. Some of the customers, I was told later, overtook and passed the dogs. Only the mechanical rabbit continued, undaunted, on its way.
Harsh words were uttered at great length and a decision was quickly reached that I did not have the temperament suitable for an instructor. And I didn't at the time. I wanted to fight.
On June 22 of that year I went "over the top" against the Germans for the first time. It was not easy or pleasant, nor did my conduct give me anything to be proud of. I concentrated on staying alive. We went against Boulogne. "They'll be there waiting for you," the control tower told us over the radio, "so be careful."
But 'Oh, Mama'
I have a habit when I am frightened of talking to myself silently - the words are so plain in my head that it's almost as if they were echoing there with real sound. "Now, boy," I'd say to myself, or call myself "Squirt" or "Son" and tell myself to just take it easy and I'll be all right. But whatever I told myself that day I kept thinking, "Oh, Mama."
We went along fast in a good, tight formation, like a bunch of killers going to town, I guess, but I kept sitting up there in the middle of the posse looking like one of the boys, no doubt, but thinking what a kid I was. I was twenty-one years old then, and what was I doing here, I asked myself, when where I wanted to be was at home in my mothers lap.
I was flying number two to Colby King that day. King had been a test pilot for Lockheed and was a veteran at shooting the Nazis down. "Just stay with me," King said, "until you get confidence. If you keep on my wing I'll take care of you."
Shouts on Radio
That's all I thought of - to keep on his wing. The radio suddenly filled up with shouts: "Break! They're bouncing us! He's on your tail. P (for Pectin). You damn fool. He's on your goddamn tail."
But I didn't see anything except Colby King's wing and I stuck to it through turns, twists and dives and it was not until I came home that I found out some of the Germans had been killed and some of our boys, too.
There wasn't anything there to give me confidence. I didn't feel like a veteran after that first show. But I suppose I must have learned something because on the second show when we tangled with Goering's famous Abbeville Kids in their yellow-nosed Focke-wulf's, I at least saw them. I saw one of them go down, and one of our Spitfires go down.
Colby King Downed
I kept gingering along like that, concentrating on holding on to Colby King's wing and staying alive, never daring to shoot my guns at a German until July 31 when, suddenly, Colby King got shot down right in front of me and there I was all by myself in the middle of the Abbeville Kids with nobody to help me.
Four or five Huns had bounced us from the rear and six or seven of them from head-on. I rolled out and then saw that one of the Huns had rolled with me and picked me out as his piece of cake. I figured I couldn't shoot him down, as I did not know enough about the business of fighting a plane yet to match his skill and experience. I figured, too, I didn't have skill enough even to evade his attacks.
Body Against Body
Well, if you can't win by matching your brain against another man's, then your only hope is to match your body against his. And that's what I did against this Jerry. I bet the body I had built up on Piqua, O. Central High's athletic fields against the body he had built up goose-stepping for Hitler.
I went into a spiral dive at 30,000 feet, making turns tight enough to black myself out. I hoped to be able to stand it better than he could. I kept the controls almost solid so I'd black out and keep blacked out until I felt consciousness going and felt the strength draining soupily out of my muscles. Then I would release the stick until I could see dim, gray clouds. Then I would pull the stick back again fast, until the curtain of black dropped over my eyes and my consciousness began again to drain away sluggishly with a thick feeling - like when blood is draining out of a body wound.
Jerry Gave Up
Jerry couldn't take it. When I got down on deck I saw I had lost him and I ran straight for home like a whipped boy. But I was not entirely whipped. I had known from my first flight that I was playing in the big leagues - in a game that is very tough wherever it is played; the toughest, most reckless game, in fact, that any human being ever thought up to play.
But after cheating that Hun of his piece of cake, I began to get the confidence that even if I couldn't make the pace in the game, I at least had a chance to go along with it.
Less than three weeks after that I had enough confidence in myself not only to evade the Nazis, but to go after them and kill them. That was over Dieppe on Aug. 19, 1942, the day of the big raid there.
I saw a Junkers 88 going down to lay his eggs on what was temporarily our beach. He was diving, and I dove with him and under him so that he couldn't see me and I could get up speed. Then I pulled up behind him and let him have it. I didn't take any evasive action I felt so confident. I was packed swollen with blissful ignorance and I just threw a barn door full of bullets at him. He jettisoned his bombs in the water trying to get away and I banged him again and he burned out on the beach. That crew was all dead inside, burning in that burning plane.
Right after that, while I was still down on the deck crazy with confidence and a sense of power, I saw two yellow-nosed Focke-Wulfs under me - some Abbeville Kids looking for a fight to get into. I got on to their tails and shot down one, but the other got away from me.
The 'Eyes' Have It
That day gave me a happy feeling, and I had found out another thing about myself to give me confidence - the quality of my eyes. I had always know my eyes were better than most. I have 20/10 vision. Twenty-twenty is perfect, but 20/10 is better than perfect for a fighter pilot. I can read the bottom line on the eye chart and also the manufacturer's name.
On that day over Dieppe, I found out just how useful it is to have better vision. That half-second or one second advantage it gives you over your enemy in picking the black speck of him out of a scud in the sky or the flecked-up grays, blues or blinding, bleached-out yellows is the difference, other things being equal between killing or being killed.
But I still was a long way away from being a hot shot. The Ju-88 hadn't a chance but I knew if those two Abbeville Kids had had their brains with them, they could have got me easier than I could have got them. I had luck there and a man in the fighter pilot business can't feel a thrust in his luck until he feels he can roll his own luck when, and as, he needs it.
SALUTE TO AN ACE READY FOR HUNT is given Capt. Don Gentile by ground crew members as the flight leader of an Eighth Air Force Mustang fighter group prepares to take off from an English field April 8. Capt. Gentile has shot down 23 enemy planes and destroyed seven more on the ground.
AN EIGHTH AIR FORCE FIGHTER BASE IN ENGLAND. 21 April 1944 - (By Wireless) - Looking back now from my vantage point after some hundreds of scraps with the Germans - of bouncing them and of being bounced and of the bangs and prangs and clobberings and of being clobbered - I would say now that in those ancient days of 1942 and 1943, the confidence I had in my ability to kill the Nazis and to keep them from killing our men was misplaced.
I know now how much remained for me to learn before I could handle myself in the rough, fast, big-time company they have operating over Europe. But in those days, I didn't even know how little I knew.
After I had a few fights under my belt and made a few scores, I became again what I had been before the war - a kid full of beans, who, when he sits in an airplane, feels there is nothing in the world that can master him. Fortunately for me, our side of the war was up against a situation in those years that prevented me from acting on my belief in myself. Otherwise, I probably would have had my beans cooked in some gasoline fire long before I learned how much there is to know besides flying about this business of fighting.
We were on the defensive then. When we first started going on the offensive with Flying Fortresses and Liberators, our fighter planes remained on the defensive, their job being to provide a close escort for the heavy artillery and not to mix it with the Germans but just to break off their attacks.
During most of this period Capt. Carl (Spike) Miley, a Toledo, Ohio boy whose savvy I have only now begun to appreciate, was my flight leader and he kept a tight check on me to hold me in the formation. I wanted to make the touchdowns. He wanted to keep the team together, running the interference for the touch down-scoring bombers. We didn't quarrel, but I became restless under his control. And the more restless I got, the firmer did Spike pull the reins. When he finished his tour of operations last September and was ordered home, Spike recommended me for his place as flight commander. After I got the promotion he took me aside.
Kids Depend on You
"All right," he said to me, "you're red hot and it's natural you should want to be a firecracker over here. But you've got boys following you now who have things to learn before they get red hot. They're going to follow you wherever you take them. Remember that. It's not only your brains that are going to get knocked out, but the brains of the kids who are depending on you."
That gave me a new slant and I kept the boys under as tight a rein as Spike had kept me. But the whole thing did not fall into place for me until Jan. 14 of this year when I bounced myself into the bag and I had to use every single thing I had ever learned in combat to get out with the Germans dead and myself alive.
Song Is Descriptive
There is a little song Lt. Jack Raphael of Tacoma, Wash., worked up to commemorate the occasion. It goes to the tune of "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys Are Marching." Here are the words:
"Help, help, help! I'm being clobbered
Down here by the railroad track.
Two 190s chase me around
And we're damn near to the ground,
Tell them I got two if I don't make it back."
The song is good, but the way the story really went was like this: We were on a sweep in the Paris area and down there somewhere I saw and reported a group of some 15 or 20 Focke-Wulf 190's flying east about 5000 feet below us. We bounced them, and I picked out two stragglers. I yelled to my number two man he said: "Keep going; I'm with you!"
Close In for Attack
The Huns turned into me and we closed the distance between us at better than 700 miles an hour. At the rate of 700 miles an hour you can eat up all the distance there is in one gulp, but when you're doing it, it seems slow. You can think of a thousand things and nothing seems to be happening in your life except that the plane is coming slowly toward you and you're living a lifetime - like it was a speedup movie reel - and aging fast and growing older and older and looking suddenly at the end of your life in just about the time it takes to say it.
This moment of closing in on a head-on attack can sometimes decide a whole battle. The question is: "Who will break off the attack first?" The one who turns away first goes on the defensive and the fellow with the guts to stick it out swings on his tail and has a chance to make the kill.
So I just sat still in the cockpit, with my thumb on the gun teat, cozening it and stroking it, waiting and growing old and older and looking suddenly at the end of my life. Then the Huns broke - and I knew they were mine. They broke together to keep their formation and I knew they were afraid of me and that I was going to kill them.
Gets Upper Hand on Foe
The Huns drove straight for the deck. A Focke-wulf 190 is better on the deck than the kind of Thunderbolt I was flying then. I thought I could make up the advantage their machines gave them by this feeling I had in myself and that I was sure I had instilled in them that I was their master and was going to kill them.
I had had some experience instilling this feeling into the Germans. Only a few days before the mere act of diving down to the deck with a Focke-Wulf and of showing myself confident enough to be thrown to him as if I were a bone being tossed to a dog had so panicked him, despite his mechanical advantage in a fight, that he had straightened out in a run from which he hadn't a prayer of a chance of emerging alive.
I was so intent on getting those Huns that I couldn't think of words to say into my radio to make sure my wing man was still with me. I wanted to make sure but I couldn't take my eyes off those Huns for a second or I'd lose them, and besides, I just couldn't think of any words to say into that radio. They wouldn't come out of my head and they wouldn't come into my mouth.
Has No Wing Man
What happened to my wing man was that on the way down to the deck we were bounced by some other Jerries and he turned off into them to break up their attack.
By the time he had done that we were as good as a million miles away from him - those two Huns were racing along the edge of their graves and myself, who was trying to push them in.
We were lost to the sight of anything in the air against the black, hunkered-up greens of the forest of Compeigne. I didn't realize I was without any wing man to protect my tail until after I had got both Huns. One of them crashed in the open country at the edge of the woods and the second one went splintering into the middle of all those trees there.
More Germans Attack
Compeigne was where Hitler forced his armistice on the French and it seemed to me a rather nice gesture to throw the bodies of two of his fliers down his throat there.
But in the meantime I was without any wing man. I found this out when just after I pulled up away from the trees tracers started shooting past me and I saw two more Focke-Wulfs on my tail, with nothing between me and them except the very thin, very naked air.
When you're down on the deck trading punches with a Focke-wulf and spotting him that mechanical advantage, you have to have something to help you, even if it is only the feeling of fear in the enemy's mind.
But these two new boys were not afraid of me. Oh, no! They came barreling right in, red hot for the kill. They hadn't even seen me shoot down those other two guys and quite likely they thought I was some rabbit who had come down to the deck to get out of a fight going on upstairs. Psychology wasn't going to help me with them.
Captain Gentile's Tools
Who's Ace of Aces, Captain Gentile or Dick Bong?
21 April 1944 - IN WORLD WAR I there was no controversy as to who was America's Ace of Aces - he was Capt. Edward V. Rickenbacker, credited with 26 air victories. But the title of America's Ace of Aces of World War II is in question. Is it Maj. Richard I. Bong or Capt. Don Gentile?
Major Bong's Tools
EIGHTH AIR FORCE FIGHTER BASE England. 22 April 1944 - (By Wireless) - So these two Focke-Wulf 190's came barreling in on me red hot and sure of a kill - so sure that they held their fire until they were right on top of me. The lead Hun was close enough to me when he started to fire for me to hear the ripped-out chugging of his machine guns and the soft poom-poom-poom of his cannon.
Tracers were going by me and my plane was starting to splinter around me. I saw a 20-millimeter shell go into my wing and the metal of the wing flower like a torn mouth and saw my tail quaking and shuddering with animal movements under the blows of more cannon shells.
I held my eyes into this mill-stream of bullets for what seemed a long time to me. Then I threw my plane around and right into him, thinking if I ram him I'll take him with me.
Pulls Up and Over
He had to pull up and over me. I stayed in a part turn because the Hun's wing man, number two, was still coming in. This number two guy ran out of guts and broke away. Right quick I threw my Thunderbolt into a starboard swing and let loose a burst at the guy but didn't hit him. I was starting to close on him and about to give him another burst when I found out I had used up the last of my ammunition.
Meanwhile, the lead Hun had about a 30-degree deflection shot but was giving it too much and I could see his tracers hitting in front of my nose, maybe thirty or forty feet in front. I kept watching his tracers walk toward me slowly as he corrected his arm, and it was one of the hardest things I had ever had to do.
If I changed too soon he would anticipate it and I would lose my chance of surprising him off my tail. So I just kept still and told myself in just these words: "Don, hold on to yourself; keep yourself steady and you'll get out of this all right. Don't panic, Don!"
Threw Hard to Port
When the tracers got up to the edge of my cockpit I threw the airplane to port as hard as I could, giving it the maximum on the rudder and stick that you can without going into a spin.
I was on the edge of a spin when I pulled out and the tracers were still coming at me. I don't know who this Hun was, but he was a wise, old cookie all right.
I am not sure exactly how many times I sat still in the cockpit, just watching the tracers walk toward me and telling myself: "Don, hold on to your brains!" But I think it was three or four times.
Plane Flicks Over
Then, suddenly, in a turn, my plane flicked over on its back, and I was right over the trees of the forest of Compeigne.
The trees reached up for me and I had my head stuck down toward them, but I didn't panic. And when I came out right side up again, there I was, where I had figured I would be - alongside the Hun and out of the angle of fire of his guns.
I found words for the radio transmitter then. "Help!" I screamed. "Help!" I'm being clobbered!"
I really screamed. I heard some of the boys call down: "Where are you?" to me, but I couldn't take time to look and they never found me.
That Hun and I kept our eyes on each other. A lot of things he did told me I wasn't bluffing him - not that crafty old cookie. But when he turned to attack, I turned in on him and charged him head-on. That gave him hardly any time at all to shoot.
But this German wouldn't break off the attack before he had passed me. He was too smart and had too much guts for that. We did that for about fifteen minutes, reversing turns from head-on attacks.
Dancing on Clouds
We were at a stalemate in this duel of ours. For every thrust there was a parry, but I knew that all I had to do was to stick with him until he ran out of ammunition, and that's what happened.
He used up his last bullets and then he went home and I climbed with a great surge into the sky, feeling I would like to find a cloud and get out and dance on it.
EIGHTH AIR FORCE FIGHTER BASE. England, 23 April 1944 - (By Wireless) - When the bell rang for the big fight against Hitler's Luftwaffe last February our twenty-six-year-old Col. Donald Blakeslee, another Ohio boy, led into action as fine a team as I think any nation has ever been able to gather together.
The boys had a lot of natural ability; most of them had been so eager to fly that they had joined the RAF or the RCAF before we had got into the war. Now their ability was tempered with experience.
There is a pretty good test of the confidence of a group in the amount of money the individuals in it save. Col. Don Blakeslee’s group stands high in allotments sent home.
Measure of Confidence
As a measure of my own confidence, I have been living on an average of about a dollar and a half a month since I got over here and have been banking the rest to carry me through the lean, job-hunting days I expect after the war.
We started the offensive battles with 106 German aircraft destroyed to our credit, and by March 17 the group score had mounted to 200. By the second week in April we had 434 to our credit and were top scorers for the whole European Theater of Operations. In the month from March 17 to April 16, we got more than twice as many German airplanes as we had in the two years of 1942 and 1943.
In my own case, I shot down fifteen Germans from March 3 to April 1.
I picked the best man I could get to fly on my wing - Johnny Godfrey of Woonsocket, R.I., who doesn't like Germans. They killed his brother, Reggie, at sea, and the name Johnny has painted on his plane is "Reggie's Reply." He means it, too.
Johnny and I spent twenty minutes over Berlin on March 8 and came out of there with six planes destroyed to our credit. I got a straggler and Johnny got one, and then I got another one fast. A Hun tried to out-turn me, and this was a mistake on his part. Not only cannot a Messerschmitt 109 out-turn a Mustang in the upstairs air, but even if he had succeeded, there was Johnny back from his kill and sitting on my tail waiting to shoot him down.
After two Huns had blown up and another had bailed out, Johnny and I formed up tight and went against a team of two Messerschmitts.
I’ll Take The Port One
"I’ll take the port one and you take the starboard one." I told Johnny, and we came in line abreast and in a two-second burst finished off both of them.
Then a Messerschmitt bounced Johnny. Johnny turned into him and I swung around to run interference for him. The Hun saw me and rolled right under me before I could get a shot in. But Johnny had fallen into formation right on my wing and he took up the shooting where I had left off. He put more bullets into the Hun while I was swinging up and around to run interference for him. Then he said his ammunition had run out and I said. "Okay, I'll finish him," and I followed the Nazi down into the streets, clobbering him until he bailed out.
Plenty of Competition
Teamwork is the answer to any man's score, but in the meantime there was plenty of competition within the team. Once a battle started there were a great many of the boys who saw in it what I saw - the chance to make a record that would come in handy later in life.
One of the best of them was Capt. B (Duane Beeson -jf).
On Thursday, April 6 (Wed. 5th -jf), Capt. B had twenty-one German planes destroyed to his credit and I had twenty-two. We went out to strafe some airports, and this is the kind of work all of us like the least. When a man commits himself to an attack against a ground target protected by flak, he just throws his plane at it and the rest is luck.
Capt. B’s Bad Luck
Capt. B had bad luck at one airport while I was having good luck at another. He destroyed two Nazi ships and then I heard him over the radio saying flak had started glycol to leak.
He said nothing after that for quite a while. Although he was only twenty-two years old, he was a man of great composure and he believed in radio discipline. After that long silence, he said in that soft, quiet, quick voice of his, "I am bailing out." And that was all he said - no good-byes, no sorrys.
That was the day my score ran up to twenty-seven destroyed. I didn't realize it until I put in my claim for five on the ground that I had seen burn and Lt. Grover C. Hall Jr., of Montgomery, Ala., said, "Well, Don, that makes you the man who has destroyed more German planes than any American in two wars."
I asked him if he knew Capt. B had gone down and he hurried off at once to B's squadron, and mess was very quiet that night.
On April 13, after I had run my score of destroyed to thirty, with twenty-three in the air and seven on the ground, we were over Schweinfurt. There were three Messerschmitts just sitting up there in front of me and not noticing me - just presenting themselves as the easiest shots I have had in this war so far.
Then I saw a Hun clobbering a Mustang mate of mine. I dropped my easy kills and dove on the Hun to bounce him off that Mustang. I didn't think about it at all; it was just a relief. If the feeling for team action had not been developed as a reflex in me - something I and all the other boys can do without thinking - then I would have been dead or a prisoner of war a long time ago.
LONDON, 5 May 1944 - (INS) - Capt. Don Gentile, leading American aerial ace, with a total of 30 enemy planes to his credit, has returned to the United States on a 30-day leave, headquarters of the European theater of operations announced yesterday. He was accompanied by his wing man, Lt. John Godfrey.
Captains Gentile & Godfrey (photo from leisuregalleries)
WASHINGTON, 19 May 1944 - (AP) - The flying firm of Gentile and Godfrey which has destroyed more than two score Nazi planes made a report to the Capital today.
At a joint press conference, Captain Don S. Gentile, deputy squadron commander of an Eighth Air Force group, and his wingman, Captain John T. Godfrey, each agreed that he wouldn't be alive without his partner's aid and that his score of enemy planes wouldn't be as high.
Gentile is a resident of Piqua, O., and Godfrey's home is Woonsocket, R.I. Both are of almost the same age, Gentile 23 and Godfrey 22.
Discussing the teamwork necessary for the ground strafing and air fighting tactics in which they specialize, Gentile said: "Every time I went out on my own without a good wingman, I got shot up. It was the same with Godfrey, so we decided we'd better stay together."
Godfrey said he got about 21 or 22 planes while flying with Gentile and the latter estimated his score at about 22 or 23 while Godfrey was flying as his wingman. Gentile is credited with destroying a total of 30 enemy planes, 23 of them shot down in combat.
Gentile's decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross with seven oak leaf clusters and the Air Medal with three clusters. Godfrey's decorations include the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with six clusters and the Air Medal with three clusters.
Both men plan to leave for their respective homes sometime tomorrow.
PIQUA, O., 22 May 1944 - Ohio's war ace, Capt. Don Gentile, who would rather have a quiet reunion with his family than a hero's homecoming celebration, is renewing old friendships at his native Piqua.
But a public celebration in honor of the 23-year-old Mustang pilot who shot down 23 enemy planes and destroyed seven more on the ground is scheduled for Thursday.
Detachments from Lockbourne Army Air Base at Columbus and the two air fields at Dayton, will march in the ceremonies which will include a war bond rally and memorial services for all of Miami County’s fighting men.
But the Gentile family spent Sunday in an observance that was all their own.
Early in the morning Don and his Italian-born parents, Mr. and Mrs. Palsy Gentile, slipped away by automobile to the Catholic shrine of Our Lady of Consolation at Carey, O., to fulfill a vow Mrs. Gentile made in Don's infancy.
The Gentiles have made the same trip annually for 22 years to spend the day in religious communion.
For Mrs. Gentile vowed she would return to the shrine every year should Don recover when he was overcome by gas once when he was a baby
And yesterday the Gentiles passed almost unnoticed among the worshipers from the surrounding countryside as they visited the shrine with a new thankfulness in their hearts.
At the close of the services, the pastor of the church, Rev. Fr. Ambrose Finnegan, gave the pilot a silver medal of Our Lady Of Consolation.
By The Associated Press, PIQUA, 26 May 1944 - The steel nerves that made Capt. Don S. Gentile an American ace in the European theater wavered momentarily last night as fellow townsmen formally welcomed him home.
Neighbors, who grumbled when he performed aerial acrobatics over their rooftops a few years ago, sang his praises as the city celebrated "Gentile day.”
Teachers who once reprimanded him for spending more time with airplanes than his lessons wrung his hand and recalled his youthful escapades with delight.
City officials who once knew him only as the son of industrious Italian immigrants acclaimed Capt. Gentile as the town's greatest hero.
Scores clamored for his autograph. Hundreds joined in a parade and thousands roared their acclaim for the flier who destroyed 30 Nazi planes - 23 in the air and seven on the ground.
It all was just too much for the 23-year-old Mustang fighter pilot. Tears filled his eyes as he watched his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Patsy Gentile, drink in the acclaim accorded their son by speakers at Roosevelt stadium.
The pilot's voice faltered as he groped for words of thanks, then told a crowd of more than 20,000, "I do not consider this demonstration a personal honor. Rather, it is a tribute to all the boys who are fighting this war."
His hand shook as he reached out to accept a gold wrist watch bearing this inscription: "From the grateful citizens of Piqua"
But Gentile's ready smile returned as he heard overhead a familiar sound - the roar of a Mustang like the plane he will fly again when he returns to England at the end of his 30-day leave.
New York, May 28 - (AP) - Captains Don Gentile and John Godfrey, the American aces whose one-two aerial punch has yielded them a combined bag or 59 nazi planes, today climaxed their first visit to the nation's metropolis with a broadcast in which they said they were anxious to return to action in "the big league."
The two filers were interviewed on a radio program.
"I'd like to get back to the big leagues and try my luck again," said Gentile, the Piqua, Ohio, youth who is leading ace of the European theater with 30 planes.
"And if I could have Johnny as my wingman, that would be perfect," he added.
Godfrey, resident of Woonsocket, R.I., who was wing pilot to Gentile and runner-up to him in planes downed with 29, said, "That goes double for me."
From BETTY KNOX, 12 June 1944 - The Old Eagle Squadron hatched a brood of fledgling flyers and pushed them out of the nest in the fighter-bomber Mustang on D-Day.
Only five of the original Eagle Squadron are left now. Once there were 75 members of the unit that flew with the R.A.F. before America entered the war.
Don Blakeslee's fighter group, transferred to the U.S.A.A.F. in the fall of 1942. It is the highest scoring group in the U.S. Air Force, having accounted for 200 enemy airplanes in the air and 186 on the ground in the three months before D-Day.
Of the five veterans who remain, only three flew with the old outfit on "D" day.
The bulk of the squadron is made up of relatively new boys. Some of them in fact arrived the day before "D" day; since then these 19 and 20-year-olds, young in comparison with the old hands, are now flying from one to three missions a day.
In the ranks of Blakeslee's group are four of America's top five Fighter aces, none of whom has less than 27 kills to his credit. They are: Major James A. Goodson, with 30; Captain Don Gentile, with 30; Captain John Godfrey, with 29; and First Lieutenant Ralph Hofer, with 29.
The fifth, Major Bob Johnson, with 27, flies a Thunderbolt.
D-Day was an unlucky day for three of the big five. After flying in all the major shows since the tough old days, Gentile, Godfrey and Johnson could not keep the most important date in their flying lives, because they were on long-overdue leave in the United States.
As for Lieutenant Hofer, D-Day was different. Two enemy troop trains did not get where they were going, or anywhere, because at 7 a.m. Hofer stopped them - with our bombs.
Major Goodson says it was a good day considering everything. With Goodson, "everything" includes almost not getting back. But he thinks he's pretty lucky. He is the only one of the five aces who is in Britain today.
That is because yesterday Hofer crash-landed on an emergency strip on the Allied beach-head. Hofer is doing O.K.
Capt. Gentile In Chicago On War Bond Drive
16 June 1944 - Captain Don Gentile, of Piqua Ohio, air ace of the European war theatre, waves his hand in a "Go Ahead" signal to Chicago war bond buyers as he arrives in Chicago to lend impetus to the Fifth War Bond drive by appearing on several patriotic programs. Capt. Gentile seems to be taking his new duty well as he has let it be known he would like to get back into action.
London, 30 June 1944 - (CP) - Canadian fighter pilots accounted for 13 of 17 enemy planes destroyed in aerial battling over Normandy today and among them was Wing Cmdr, J. E. (Johnny) Johnson, English leader of a crack Canadian Spitfire wing operating from French bases, who shot down his 33rd German plane to become the leading Allied fighter ace in this theatre.
Johnson's 33rd Nazi cracked the long-standing record of 32 held by Group Capt. A. G. (Sailor) Malan, built up mainly when the South African ace was the R.A.F.'s outstanding fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain. Malan is not now on active operations.
Today was the second day in the last three that Canadian airmen have led all other Allied air units in knocking the Luftwaffe out of the: sky. On June 28 they shot down 26 of 34 German planes destroyed over the Normandy front.
Johnson bagged two in Wednesday's aerial battling and his record-breaking today came with a three-second burst at 200 yards range. Johnson went after him when No. 2 in his wing spotted the Nazi making for the safety of clouds. He got him and followed the enemy plane down until it crashed
"I was leading a flight of six aircraft when control called us to say that another of our flights was being rather heavily engaged 20 miles within the enemy lines around Argentan," Johnson said after he brought his flight back to base.
"We hurried as hard as we could and right away saw Spitfires, ME 109s and Focke-Wulf 190s having a great dogfight among the clouds. There was only one flight of Spitfires against about 20 or 30 of the Luftwaffe. We soon were among them, and the boys of my flight knocked down three."
Clouds made it "rather fun," said Johnson, adding: "If you got into trouble and found some one getting on your tail you had clouds to help you get rid of him. Then you could come out of the clouds again to look for another to tackle."
Johnson took over command of the wing March 16, 1943. Although an Englishman, he wears a "Canada" flash on his flying clothes as a mark of fellowship with the Canadians he leads. Re recently returned to active flying operations after a period of ground duty.
In cracking Malan's record, Johnson equaled the score set by Brendan (Paddy) Finucane, who had 33 German planes to his credit when he was lost in action last year.
Leading United States flier in this theatre was Capt. Don S. Gentile, who downed 23 planes in combat and destroyed seven on the ground, and who now is in the United States. Leading Canadian ace is F/L George Beurling of Verdun, Que., who destroyed 31 enemy planes, most of them over Malta when he flew with the R.A.F. He now is in Canada on flying-training duty.
Major Alexander Pokryshkin, a Siberian, is Russia's leading ace. He is credited with shooting down 53 German planes.
LONDON, July 5, 1944 - (CP) - Canadian Spitfire pilots, their 28-year-old English leader, W/C James E. (Johnny) Johnson again setting the pace, destroyed seven German aircraft over Normandy today, raising to 65 the number of enemy planes knocked down by Canadian fighter wings in one week. Johnson, leading Allied air ace in the European theatre, shot down two planes today to bring his score to 35. F/O R. C. McRoberts of Calgary (& Scotland) also got two "kills" in today's triumphant sweep by the Canadian fliers that followed their spectacular success of July 3 when they got 19 of the 21 German planes destroyed over Normandy that day. The Canadians shot down 13 planes on June 30, and 26 on June 28.
One aircraft was missing after the day’s operations by the Canadian fighters, which culminated an active 24 hours for airmen of the R.C.A.F.
Canadian-manned Typhoon and Mustang fighter-bombers attacked bridges over the Orne and broke up a road leading to that river, while Bomber and Coastal Command crews also saw action, and intruders were out over France. Johnson's kills today brought his score to three more than the mark set during the Battle of Britain by Group Capt. A. G. (Sailor) Malan, who is not now on active operations, and the late Paddy Finucane, lost in action last year. Unofficially, Finucane was credited with 33 planes.
U.S. Pilot Gets 28th
Lt.Col. Francis Gabreski, 25-year-old fighter pilot, today became the leading ace of the United States Air Forces when he shot down an Me-109 near Evreux, France, for his 28th victory. He now will take a delayed leave and go home to Oil City, Pa., to get married. He had postponed his departure until he broke the American record.
In addition to his 28 planes destroyed in the air, Gabreski also is credited with destroying 2 on the ground.
Capt. Don S. Gentile, 23, of Piqua, Ohio, also is credited with destruction of 30 German planes. 23 brought down in the air and seven destroyed aground.
Also credited with 30 planes is Major James A. Goodson, 23, of Toronto, who has served in the R.C.A.F. and the United States Air Force, fifteen of his kills were in the air and 15 on the ground.
Air records also were broken in Russia, it was announced today. It was announced in Moscow that the record of 53 German planes shot down by Major Alexander Pokryshkin has been equaled by two other Soviet fliers, Lieut. Nikolai Gulayev and Capt. Gregory Rechkalov.
Johnson recently returned to active operations at his own request after a period of ground duty during which he aided in the planning of aerial coverage of the invasion. He previously had command of a Canadian wing and was given another on his return to active flying, which he prefers to desk work. The Canadians now are flying new Spitfires, armed with twin cannon and four machine-guns in the wings.
Top Canadian fighter ace is F/L George Beurling of Verdun, Que., with 31 shot down, most of them over Malta. He now is back in Canada.
Aircraft of the R.A.F. 2nd Tactical Air Force had flown nearly 500 sorties by 6 p.m. with little opposition. A train with 15 tanks aboard was left in columns of dust and debris by bomb and rocket carrying Typhoons operating from Normandy bases.
F/L J. B. Kerr of Trenton, Ont., brought the number of aircraft destroyed in the air by the City of Edmonton Intruder Squadron to 90 when he shot down a JU-88 over Northern France early today. This squadron's grand total now is 136, including planes destroyed on the ground.
Three kills and several damaged, credited to R.C.A.F. airmen yesterday, also were reported tonight. F/L H. C. Trainor, Charlottetown, P.E.I., got two German planes southeast of Caen, and shared in the destruction of a third with S/L G. D. Robertson of Toronto.
McRobert's victims today were ME-109's. Both fell near Bernay.
Other kills yesterday were recorded by F/L R. K. Hayward, St. John's, Nfld., who destroyed a FW-190, and damaged a FW-190 and a ME-109, and F/Ls A. B. Whiteford, Midnapore, Alta., and R. S. Hyndman, Belleville, Ont., each damaged a ME-109.
In an attack on shipping early today, F/O J. H. A. Senecal of Rosetown, Sask., saw three bombs from his plane explode on an armed auxiliary off Dunkerque. Pieces of wreckage flew in all directions.
WASHINGTON, 21 Nov. 1944 - (AP) - The Sixth War Loan drive was launched yesterday in bad weather over large sections of the country but good spirit throughout the land.
Treasury officials said that as yet they've seen no signs of the war complacency that had been feared in connection with the $14,000,000,000 borrowing campaign.
There were no figures available on yesterday’s bond sales. No one could say whether rain and snow had caused large numbers of volunteer doorbell-ringing salesmen to postpone their best efforts until today.
From one end of the country to the other, great parades, pageants, realistic war demonstrations, rallies, and variety shows were held yesterday and last night. Ten counties, led by Prairie County, Montana, (population 2,051) surpassed their quotas even before yesterday's opening. Five of the ten are in Montana.
Edward N. Scheiberling, national commander of the American Legion, issued a statement saying "our privations and sacrifices are as nothing" compared with those of the men at the front, and "no American ought to let them down."
He said that perhaps a year or two years will pass before victory, but "even if victory were to come tomorrow, we would have to pay, feed, clothe and hospitalize our men for some time to come, because demobilization cannot be instantaneous."
War finance headquarters announced that five national heroes are devoting themselves to the sale of Sixth War Loan bonds: Maj. Samuel Gracio, Maj. Don S. Gentile, Capt. Raymond Wild, Lt. Col. Roswell Rosengren and Maj. Allen V. Martini.
Movie stars, too, were deploying through the country to sell bonds. Gamble said they have real "working assignments," appearing in about 100 cities. The movie industry also has been hard at work preparing short subjects which you'll sea at your theatre.
Columbus, Ohio, 25 Nov. 1944 - Captain Don Gentile, who was the ace of the European theatre of operations with over thirty German planes to his credit, and his fiancee, Isabella Masdea, are shown in the office of the marriage license clerk here today, Nov. 25th, as they swore to statements when obtaining their license to wed.
Isabella Masdea & Captain Don Gentile swear they've told the truth
Columbus, Ohio, 30 Nov. 1944 - (AP) - Capt. Don Gentile, an ace fighter pilot in the European theater, was married in a formal military ceremony Wednesday to Isabella Masdea.
The wedding was performed at St. John the Baptist Catholic church, with Father Rocco Petrarca officiating. The bride and groom left the church under an arch of crossed sabers held aloft by 10 Army Air Force officers.
Gentile, 23, a native of Piqua, Ohio, came home last spring after shooting down 23 German planes and destroying seven on the ground. He since has been stationed at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio. His bride is 21.
WASHINGTON, 22 Dec. 1944 (UP) — An honor roll of 34 Army Air Force fighter aces, each of whom has destroyed 15 or more enemy planes in combat, was issued by the War Department today and at the top of the list was Maj. Richard I Bong, of Poplar, Wis.
Among them, they have shot down a total of 689¼ German and Jap planes.
The Eighth Air Force, which operates in Europe against the Germans, had the most aces — 13 — with scores of 15 or better kills. The Fifth Air Force, operating in the Southwest Pacific, was next with 10, but it boasted the two top men - Maj. Bong and Maj. Thomas B. McGuire, of San Antonio, Tex., who has bagged 30 Jap planes.
Next in line were the 15th Air Force which operates in the Mediterranean and has four aces in the select circle; the Ninth which operates in Europe and has three top-ranking aces, and the 13th (based in the South Pacific) and the 14th (based in China) each with two.
Maj. Bong is credited with 38 kills but since the list was tabulated Dec. 15, he has run his bag to 40.
Other high ranking fighter pilots and their scores were:
Lt. Col. Francis S. Gabreski, of 95 Spruce St., Oil City, Pa., Eighth A.F., 28 (POW in Germany)
Maj. Robert S. Johnson, Lawton, Okla., Eighth A.F., 27.
Maj. George E. Preddy, Greensboro, N.C., Eighth A.F., 24.
Capt. Don S. Gentile, Piqua, O., Eighth A.F., 23.
Maj. Gerald T. Johnson, Eugene, Ore., Fifth A.F., 23.
Maj. Fred J. Christensen Jr., Watertown, Mass., Eighth A. F., 22.
Col. Neel E. Kearby, Dallas. Tex., Fifth A. F., 22. (Missing in action).
Col. Glenn E. Duncan, Houston, Tex., Eighth A.F., 21 1/2 (Missing in action).
Capt. John J. Voll, Goshen, O., 15th A.F., 21.
Maj. Walker M. Mahurin, Fort Wayne, Ind., Eighth A.F., 21.
Maj. Jay T. Robbins, Coolidge, Tex., Fifth A.F., 21.
Lt. Col. Robert B. Westbrook, Hollywood, Cal., 13th A.F., 20.
Col. Charles H. MacDonald, St. Petersburg. Fla., Fifth A.F., 20.
Lt. Col. Thomas J. Lynch, of Catasauqua, Pa., Fifth A.F. 26, (killed in action)
[Col. Lynch was an engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh and was graduated in
1940. His widow, a Swissvale resident, was the former Rosemary Fullen, of 7368 Schley Ave.]
Col. Hubert Zemke, Missoula, Mont., Eighth, 19 1/2.
Lt. Col. David C. Schilling, Traverse City, Mich., Eighth, 19.
Col. David L. Hill, Victoria, Tex., 14th A.F., 18 1/2.
Capt. John T. Godfrey, Woonsocket, R. I., Eighth, 18 (prisoner of war in Germany).
Lt. Col. Herschel H. Green, Mayfield, Ky., 15th A.F., 18.
Capt. Duane W. Beesen, Boise, Ida., Eighth, 18 (prisoner of war in Germany).
Maj. Walker Carl Beckham, Defuniak Springs, Fla., Eighth, 18 (prisoner of war in Germany).
Maj. Don M. Beerbower, Hill City, Minn., Ninth A.F., 17 1/2 (killed in action).
Capt. James S. Varnell, Charleston, Tenn., 15th, 17.
Capt. Cyril F. Homer, Sacramento, Cal., Fifth, 17.
Maj. Edward Cragg, Cos Cob, Conn., Fifth, 17 (missing in action).
Capt. Glen T. Eagleston, Alhambra, Cal., Ninth, 16 1/2.
Lt Col. William N. Reed. Marion, Ia., 14th, 16 1/2.
Maj. George S. Welch, Wilmington, Del., Fifth, 16.
Lt. Col. Richard E. Turner, Bartlesville, Okla., Ninth, 16.
Maj. Samuel J. Brown, Tulsa, Okla., 15th, 15 1/2.
Maj. Bill Harris, Springville, Cal., 13th A.F., 15.
Capt. Richard A. Peterson, Alexandria, Minn., Eighth, 15.
21.83 / 1 / 3 + 6 On The Ground
Score (air kills only) from the Air Force Historical Research Agency
In the article below he is credited with 32 destroyed (not true), 9 probables & 6 damaged.
I have no idea where they got those numbers from but it seems he may have additional probable & damaged claims.
Milwaukee, 14 August 1948 - Capt. Don Gentile, World War II air ace, said Friday night that the United States should build up its armed forces "just in case." Gentile, who destroyed or damaged 47 enemy planes in European combat, arrived at the centennial exposition as the guest of L. A. Larson, commander of the Wisconsin wing of the Air Force association. He was scheduled to join other guests of the association in V-J Day ceremonies Saturday at the grandstand. "We don't want to be caught napping as we were last time," the flier said in an interview at The Milwaukee Journal Communications Center. "Let's be ready if it comes."
Gentile reached the rank of major during the war. When he rejoined the air forces last December, he said, he was given a captain's commission.
The Ohio captain's record of 32 enemy planes destroyed, nine probably destroyed and six damaged was second only to the total of Wisconsin's Maj. Richard I. Bong with 40 destroyed and nine probables. Since Bong's death while testing a jet plane in August, 1945. Gentile has been the ranking American ace.
"I was asked to come back into the air force," he said, "and now I intend to make a career of it." He is assigned to USAF headquarters at Washington, D.C.
The 27 year old flier, who was decorated 31 times, said that he was enjoying the exposition sights.
"This is about the finest show of its type that I've seen," he said.
Captain Gentile Has New Son
Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, D.C., January 1950 - Captain Don Gentile visited his wife today at Walter Reed Hospital where their 3rd son, Pat, was born on the 11th.
Isabella & Don Gentile with their
ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md., 28 Jan. 1951 - Capt. Don S. Gentile, United States ace of World War II, died instantly today when the Jet trainer he was piloting crashed and burned.
He was the war's twelfth ranking American ace in total of enemy planes destroyed in the air and on the ground. He downed nineteen German planes and shot up six on the ground.
Captain Gentile, 30 years old, who lived through three years of air warfare, was killed while on a routine flight in a T-33 two-seat trainer, a version of the P-80 Shooting Star jet fighter. An enlisted man riding with Captain Gentile also died. His identification was withheld pending notification of next of kin.
An Air Force spokesman said Captain Gentile's plane crashed at 3:30 P.M. in good, clear weather. This was just twenty-five minutes after he had taken off from Andrews Field to "put in" some of the flying time the Air Force requires of its officers who are not taking regular turns as pilots.
The crash occurred between Ritchie and Forestville Md., both suburbs of Washington
WASHINGTON, 29 Jan. 1951 - (AP) - Capt. Don S. Gentile, Second World War ace credited with shooting down 20 German planes and destroying six others on the ground, was killed in the crash of his jet plane Sunday at nearby Forestville, Md.
PILES INTO TREE
Onlookers watch the wreckage of Capt. Gentile's plane burn among the trees
Sgt. Gregory D. Kirsch, 20, riding as a passenger, also was killed. Kirsch was assigned to airways communications at Andrews field near here. Officials there said he had "gone along for the ride" on Gentile's flight.
Unmarried, Kirsch was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Kirsch, Box 605, Crawford Avenue, Spangler, Pa. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1948 on graduation from high school at Spangler.
Gentile, who knocked down 21 German planes in air combat and destroyed six on the ground while flying a Mustang fighter, was on a "routine proficiency" flight from nearby Andrews Field.
He crashed 20 minutes after his take-off in a field between Ritchie and Forestville, Md., both just a few miles from here. The plane clipped the tops of several trees before it ripped into a wood lot on a farm at Forestville, Md. Gentile was thrown out of the plane and a series of small explosions inside the craft threw flaming parts over a large area.
Gentile, who learned to fly while in high school in Piqua, Ohio, was survived by his wife and three children, Don, jr., 5, Joseph, 3, and Pat, one.
He was the son of immigrant Italians and their greatest pride. His parents, Pasquale and Josephine Gentile, owner of a cafe, were stunned in Piqua as were many of the townsfolk. The handsome, dark and rangy flier was their hero.
Thanks go out to
On these pages I use Hugh Halliday's extensive research which includes info from numerous sources; newspaper articles via the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC); the Google News Archives; the London Gazette Archives and other sources both published and private.
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