Donald Nathan "Don" Aldrich

RCAF  &  USMC  Captain

Purple Heart


Born 24 October 1917 in Moline Illinois.
Home in Chicago.
His father taught him to fly before he was 12 years old.
When he tried to enlist for pilot training in the American military before the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was rejected because he was married.

He joined the RCAF in February 1941.
Earning his Wings in November 1941.
He served initially as an instructor in Canada but he transferred to the Marines after the US entered the war and the RCAF would let him go (date unclear).
Wounded in action twice.
Shot down 20 Japanese planes while with VMF-215

He was KiFA on 3 May 1947 while attempting a forced landing at Glenview Naval Air Station. His Corsair ran into soft dirt and he flipped over (see morbid photo at bottom of page)
  Don Aldrich


Ace Scores His 20th In Raid On Rabaul

Guadalcanal, Feb. 12, 1944 - Captain Donald Aldrich of Chicago shot down 20th enemy plane during an attack on Rabaul, New Britain, Thursday. With the victory, Capt. Aldrich became the fifth Marine to reach the mark in the South Pacific.


Killer of 20 Jap Planes Decorated

Captain Donald Aldrich (right), Marine Pilot who shot down a Tojo, newest Jap fighter plane, over Rabaul, Feb. 9, to become the fifth Marine flyer to kill 20 enemy planes, is congratulated by his Commanding Officer, Major James J. Neefus, of Belle Harbor, N.J. after he was awarded the Purple Heart Medal at a South Pacific Base. Captain Aldrich, 26, is from Chicago and flew with the RCAF before joining the Marines. (Top Photo Caption)

RIGHT - Don Aldrich receives the Purple Heart


Top Marine Flying Unit Back From Pacific Front
Corps Got 135 Japanese Craft
High Man Has 20 Planes; S.C. Officer Commands Group

San Diego. Calif. —  (AP) — The Fighting Corsairs — the U. S. Marine Corps' top aviation outfit — returned to the mainland today with 135 1-2 Japanese planes to their credit.
With 17 fliers who came back for a leave before reporting for new assignments were Capt. Don Aldrich, 26, Chicago, who has 20 planes, and Capt. Harold Spears, Newark, Ohio, a 15-plane ace.
The squadron lost two pilots on its first mission and shot down only 31 enemy craft in 12 weeks. But in its final six weeks of overseas duty it destroyed 104 1-2 Japanese aircraft.
The half plane? A flier attached to another unit provided assistance in destroying one enemy plane.
The leading ace of the fighting Corsairs, Lt. Robert Hanson, Newtonville, Mass. is missing in action, after having sent 25 Japanese planes to their doom. Details of Hanson's last mission were disclosed today by the squadron commander. Maj. Robert G. Owens, 27, Greenville, S.C.
"Bob was coming back from a flight covering bombers to Rabaul on February 3rd when he apparently decided to strafe a lighthouse at Cape St. George, at the southern tip of New Ireland," Owens said.
"He made a strafing run, and then his right wing was seen to hit the water twice. The plane pulled up and the wing either exploded or caught fire. After a moment when it

  Don Aldrich recieves the Purple Heart
seemed he would make a normal landing, the plane twisted and rolled over into the water and disappeared."
Only 13 pilots of the Fighting Corsairs were lost — eight through enemy action. Other pilots of the unit who had not completed the prescribed 18 weeks combat duty still are in the South Pacific.
The pilot said that although the squadrons' planes often received extensive damage most managed to return to their bases safely. An exception was a plane piloted by Lt. George Cross, Chicago, whose right wing blew up. He dove through a rain squall which put out the fire and flew 230 miles to his airdrome, where he bailed out.


Aldrich & his wife Marjorie  

Captain Aldrich Home On Leave

Chicago - Marine Captain Donald N. Aldrich, Chicago's foremost Ace, arrived home on leave last night and was greeted by his pretty wife, Marjorie. Captain Aldrich, whose father was a commercial flyer, had almost 100 hours in the air by the time he was twelve years old. He shot down 20 Japanese planes in the Pacific in six months and is holder of the DSC. Captain and Mrs. Aldrich are shown together on the left.


New Aces Strive To Trump Rickenbacker

By The Associated Press NEW YORK, April 1, 1944 — On some fine tomorrow, a fighter pilot may alight at a southwest Pacific or English air base with the news that he has broken Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker's World war 1 record of 26 kills.
The marines' top ace, Joe Foss, who has tied that mark, is back on the prowl in the Pacific, and three other sharp-eyed fighter pilots are gunning along not far behind.
Maj. Foss, a Sioux Falls (S. D.) boy, shares with the missing Maj. Gregory Boyington of Okanogan, Wash., another marine, the honor of equaling Capt. Rickenbacker's record.
Now president of Eastern Airlines, Rickenbacker recently predicted it will be doubled or trebled before the war ends.
Capt. Richard I. Bong of Poplar, Wis., an army pilot in the southwest Pacific, has a bag of 25 planes.
Capt. Robert S. Johnson of Lawton, Okla., is the leading U.S. ace of the European theater with 22.
Maj. Walker Mahurin of Ft Wayne, Ind., had a victory string of 20 planes at last reports, as did Capt. Donald N. Aldrich and Capt. Kenneth A. Walsh of Brooklyn, N.Y.
A number of other American pilots in both theaters have records in the high 'teens within striking distance of the record for both wars.
The 81-planc record of Baron Manfred von Richthofen, German ace of World war I, has been exceeded by at least two German fighter pilots, a check of Nazi reports indicate.
Col. Werner Molders, killed in the crash of a transport plane at Breslau in 1941, had been decorated for 115 air victories, 103 in World war II, the rest in the Spanish civil war.

The Paris radio reported recently that a Lt. Col. Mayer, credited with 102 planes, had been killed in an air accident. He reputedly was the last survivor of the original Richthofen squadron, named in honor of the baron.
The British always have been inclined to discount these enemy records on the theory that German requirements for official confirmation are not so rigid as their own.
The British World War I record of 73 planes, hung up by Maj. Edward Mannock before his death, seems fairly secure.
Wing Commander Brendan (Paddy) Finucane, an Irishman with the royal air force, had 32 planes, to his credit when his Spitfire was shot into the English Channel in 1942.
Flight Lt George Beurling, ace of the Canadian fighter pilots, had a bag of 30 planes in most recent reports.
Before his death in an accident in Italy in January, Wing Commander Lance Wade of Tucson, Ariz., was considered the RAF ace in the Mediterranean. He had 25 planes officially and many more probables.
Leading Russian ace is said to be Alexander Pokryshkin with 53 planes.


Capt. Bong's 27 Planes Downed in Combat Puts Him at Top

(By The Associated Press) 13 April 1944 - Today's Southwest Pacific headquarters announcement that Capt. Richard Ira Bong has downed 27 enemy planes in combat makes him the leading American ace in number of planes shot down in combat, but second to Capt. Don S. Gentile of the European theater in the number destroyed both in the air and on the ground.
Gentile, the Piqua Ohio fighter pilot who flies from Britain, is credited with 30 planes destroyed — 23 shot from the skies and seven others destroyed on the ground.
Bong, who lives at Poplar, Wis., broke Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker's long-standing record of 26 planes shot down in combat in World War I by getting his 26th and 27th enemy plane over the Japanese base at Hollandia, New Guinea.
Only planes destroyed in aerial combat are tallied in the Pacific theater while all planes destroyed, both on the ground and in combat, are credited to Eighth air force fliers in Britain, the navy keeps no official counts of individual victories but Lt. (jg) Ira Kepford of Muskegon, Mich., is credited with 16 Japanese planes.
The Marine record of 26 planes downed is held jointly by Maj. Joe Foss of Sioux Falls, S.D. and Maj. Gregory Boyington of Okanogan, Wash., who is missing in action.
Nineteen other army, navy and marine corps fliers have destroyed 15 or more enemy planes, and while Mediterranean theater records list no fliers among the top 24 with 15 or more planes to their credit, the two leaders there are Maj. Herschel Green of Mayfield, Ky., with 13 and Lt William J. Sloan of Richmond, Va. with 12.
The leading aces are:
European theater: Capt. Don S. Gentile, Piqua, Oh., 30; Capt. Robert S. Johnson, Lawton, Okla., 22; Capt. Duane W. Beeson, Boise, Ida., 21; Maj. Walker Mahurin, Fort Wayne, Ind., (missing) 21; Maj. Gerald Johnson, Owenton, Ky., (missing) 18; Maj. Walter Beckham, De Funiak Springs, Fla., (missing) 18; Maj. Francis S. Gabreski, Oil City, Pa., 17; and Lt.-Col. Glenn E. Duncan, Houston, Tex., 15.
Pacific (Army): Capt. Richard Bong, Popular, Wis., 27; Col. Neel E. Kearby, San Antonio, Tex., (missing) 21; Lt.-Col. Thomas J. Lynch, Catasauqua, Pa., (dead) 19; Capt. Thomas B. McGuire, Jr., San Antonio, Tex., 17; Maj. Robert Westbrook, Hollywood, Calif., 16 and Maj. George S. Welch, Wilmington, Del., 16.
Pacific (Marines): Maj. Joe Foss, Sioux Falls, S.D., 26; Maj. Gregory Boyington, Okanogan, Wash., (missing) 26; Lt. Robert Hanson, Newtonville, Mass., (missing) 26; Capt. Donald Aldrich, Chicago, 20; Lt. Kenneth Walsh, Brooklyn and Washington, 20; Lt.-Col. John L. Smith, Lexington, Okla., 19; Maj. M. E. Carl, Hubbard, Ore., 17; Lt. William J. Thomas, El Dorado, Kan., 16 and Capt. Harold R. Spears of Ironton, Ohio with 15.


Marine Air Ace Dies In Crash


Chicago, 3 May 1947 – Marine flying ace Captain Don Aldrich, who emerged from the war as Chicago’s top ace with 20 Jap planes to his credit, was killed today when his Corsair fighter plane turned over during a forced landing here.



Photo (by Cliff Oliver) shows Capt. Aldrich
trapped in the cockpit of his shattered plane

  Aldrich crash


Victories Include :

12 Aug 1943

25 Aug 1943

26 Aug 1943
2 Sep 1943
12 Jan 1944
14 Jan 1944

20 Jan 1944
22 Jan 1944
26 Jan 1944

28 Jan 1944
7 Feb 1944

9 Feb 1944
one Zeke
one Zeke
one Zeke
one Zeke
one Zeke
two Zekes
two Zekes
one Zeke
two Zekes
two Zeke
one Zeke
one Zeke
one Tony
one Zeke
  4  Zekes
two Zekes
one Zeke
one Tojo
destroyed &

20 / 6 / 0


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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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