Donald William "Mac" McLeod

Don McLeod  

RAF & USAAF   Lt. Col.

Born in Blackstone, Mass. 21 April, 1914, son of Daniel & Wilhelmina L. (nee Crowley) McLeod.
Raised in Blackstone until family moved to Medford.
Attended Medford High school (played football & hockey).
Worked as a Policeman in Boston.
Went to Canada to join the RAF in 1941.
Trained at the Polaris Flight Academy in Burbank, Ca.
Did SFTS in Canada then sent overseas.
Left on a "steamer" from Montreal 22 July 1941.
Left Halifax Harbour about midnight on the 27th.
Disembarked on or about 9 August 1941.
Joined 121 Eagle Squadron in 1941.
Boarded ship and sailed for Malta 27 Feb. 1942.
Posted to Malta from HMS Eagle, 21 March 1942.
Flew a Spitfire off the Eagle to Malta.
Joined 126 Squadron.
Shot down 2 April 1942 in AB335 "F".
Bailed out wounded in left arm & left leg.
Parachute straps damaged his neck when 'chute opened.
Flown to Egypt to fly a Hurricane back to Malta, 21 April.
Posted to 53 OTU Llandow as instructor, 31 July 1942.
Transferred to the USAAC 23 September 1942 as Captain.
Posted to 4th FS, 52nd FG at Goxhill on 9 October 1942.
Left Goxhill for P.D.C. at Padgate, 23 October 1942.
Left Padgate on 24th for Greenock. Scotland..
Boarded S.S. Liester for overseas..
Arrived at Gibraltar, 6 November 1942.
Leading 4FS to Oran N. Africa - instruments all u/s, flew back to "Gib" lost 5 pilots, 2 OK, 3 interned in French Morocco.
Spent 2 weeks in Algiers awaiting orders.
Sent home to the USA to rest.
Took Jimmy & other Eagles to visit childhood friends.
Had a regular Hollywood field day with the press.
Posted back to Europe and a new Squadron.
His logbook shows his last rank as being Lt. Col.
Mac survived the war but on 22 Sept. 1946 he died while undergoing surgery (probably) meant to fix his neck.
He is buried at Blackstone Cemetery.



Pilots at the Polaris Flight Academy
Student Pilots at the Polaris Flight Academy. On the Wing: Jimmy Coxetter & Forrest "Frosty" Cox. Standing: Lewis Louden, John Lynch, Bob Sprague, Kenny Holder, Don "Mac" McLeod, Hugh Brown & Jimmy Peck is crouching.


121 Eagle Squadron Pilots
121 Eagle Sq. pilots in the UK. Top, 3rd from left is Peck (the only man in the picture who's looking at the right camera) & 3rd from left bottom is Mac. 2nd from right on the bottom is Vince Shenk who stayed in the RCAF & finished the war with 442 Sq. claiming that unit's last probable, a FW190 on 16 April.


U.S. Eagles Advised to "Stay-Put"

(Copyright, 1942, by the Chicago Tribune) LONDON, Jan. 5, 1942 — The applications of members of the Eagle (American) Squadron of the Royal Air Force, and other Americans serving here with Canadian troops, to he transferred to the American Army so far have been refused. They, as well as American business men who wanted to enlist, have been advised by the United States Embassy to "stay put" until a specific demand is made for their help by the War Department.
Eagle Squadron pilots and American members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force have been told that as Germany and Italy are now at war with the United States, they are helping just as much by remaining here as if they enlisted in the American force. During the last war, Americans serving in British and French forces were transferred into the American army.


Berkeley Boy Downs Nazi Flyers

28 March 1942 - Two Nazi flyers and their late model Messerschmitt pursuit planes were knocked out of the skies over Malta last week by a Berkeley boy, James Peck, of 1342 Carlotta street, and his RAF buddy, D. W. McLeod, of Boston, an Associated Press Cairo dispatch revealed yesterday.
Peck, only 20 years old, and McLeod were flying British Spitfire pursuits. They are among six members of the Second American Eagle Squadron helping to protect the British Mediterranean island from Nazi air onslaughts.
Three years ago, Peck's parents, Mr. and Mrs. James E. Peck, gave the boy permission to take flying lessons at Oakland Municipal Airport, they said last night. He obtained a private flyer's license there, and in June of last year, volunteered as a pilot with the RAF.
Both pilots received their preliminary training in Burbank and advanced training in Canada. Since their arrival in England late last year, they have taken part in many RAF raids over France.
But this was the first word Peck's family had that they were now in Malta — the much besieged base on the sea route supply line between Sicily and Nazi operations in North Africa.
Young Peck graduated from Berkeley High School and spent a year at the San Francisco Junior College. His father is superintendent of steel construction at the Bethlehem plant in Alameda.


Cheer News of McLeod's Work With RAF


BLACKSTONE, March 30, 1942 — Friends of Pilot Officer Donald W. McLeod of this town were glad to hear today that he was one of two American fliers in the RAF who shot down two Messerschmitt 109-Fs' in a 60-second combat over Malta on Tuesday. He recently wrote to friends in the old home town, telling briefly of some of his experiences with the RAF.
Last fall, McLeod took part in bombing expeditions over Germany. At that time, the 27-year-old pilot was attached to the famous 121st Eagle Squadron.
McLeod took six weeks basic training as a U. S. naval air cadet in 1937, at Squantum air base, and served at the Pensacola, Fla., naval air base for nine months. For two years he was out of aviation. A year ago he enlisted in Canada for service in the RAF. He was sent to California for further training. He has frequently come in contact with a personal friend, Robert Montgomery, who gave up a motion picture career to enter the RAF.
McLeod is a native of Boston.

Lt. Mooney & Lt. McLeod of the 121st Eagle Squadron

  Mooney & McLeod


Berkeley Boy Is Happy Now; Bagging Axis' Best Planes

1 April 1942 - He craved action —this Berkeley boy— and now he is getting it, knocking Nazi Messerschmitt pursuit planes out of the skies over Malta, where much of the Axis aerial might has been felt during the last few weeks.
Jimmie Peck, son of Mr. and Mrs. James E. Peck of 1342 Carlotta St., is only 20, but he already is a war veteran, a seasoned fighting flier who has the makings of a second Eddie Rickenbacker. Press reports from Cairo confirm this.
It was only last week that Jimmie — Flight Lieutenant James Peck, Second American Eagle Squadron — and his Boston buddy, Lt. D. W. McLeod, sent two Nazi planes plunging seaward in flames into the blue Mediterranean, now turning purple with the blood of brave men.



21 April 1942 - Praise for James E. Peck, 20-year-old Berkeley pilot officer with the RAF, as an "excellent fighter" in the British defense of Malta came today in a United Press dispatch from London. Quoting reports to the RAF command at Cairo, the dispatch said young Peck was one of two American fighters "who almost daily go up to battle axis planes that have been trying for months to knock Malta out of the war."
Although individual scores in planes destroyed by Peck were not available, it was reported that he and Donald W. McLeod of Norwich, Conn., shot down two Junkers 87s and a Messerschmitt 109 last Sunday.
"My last letter from him came on March 1 from England," said his mother, Mrs. Mary Peck of 1342 Carlotta Avenue, Berkeley.
"His only complaint then was he wasn't getting enough active duty.
"I guess things have changed since then."
Peck, a Berkeley high school graduate, enlisted with the RAF a year ago after both the army air corps and the Canadian air force rejected him because of his qualifications.
American pilots at Malta chiefly fly Hurricane fighters, but some Americans trained to handle Spitfires were sent there recently.


5 Americans With R.A.F. Still Fighting at Malta
Four at Most Bombed Spot Dead, Two Back in Britain

LONDON, 17 July 1942 - (UP) - Of eleven American pilots in the Royal Air Force who went to Malta, the most bombed spot on earth, four are dead. Five, with a number of Canadians, Australians and other Britons, continued to take off from Malta's scarred air fields to fight the Italians and Germans.
Those still fighting are: Reade Tilley, twenty-four years old, of Clearwater, Fla., who has been decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and has five enemy aircraft to his credit; Ripley Ogden Jones, twenty-seven, of Cooperstown, N. Y., credited with one and a half enemy planes; Douglas Booth, twenty-three, of Brooklyn; Bruce Downs, twenty-six, of San Antonio, Tex., and Richard E. 'Sunday' McHan twenty-two, of Pocatello, Idaho.
Two others, James E. Peck, twenty-one, of Berkeley, Calif., and Donald W. McLeod twenty-eight, of Norwich, Conn. returned to the British Isles recently.
These seven flyers arrived in Malta with the first Americans in March, when the Axis was beginning its biggest attacks. Ten days after he arrived, McLeod was shot down. With cannon fragments in his left arm and leg, he parachuted 800 feet and broke his neck. Two months later, he was flying again.
Peck and Tilley received the first decorations awarded to Americans in Malta. Peck shot down five German planes without getting a scratch or a bullet hole in his Spitfire.


11 Yanks with RAF in Malta Play Hero Roles; Four Killed

By WILLIAM R. DOWNS, United Press Staff Correspondent.
LONDON, July 17, 1942 — This is an accounting of 11 American pilots in the RAF who went to Malta, the most bombed spot on earth.
Four are dead. Five, with a number of Canadians, Australians and other Britons, still take off from Malta's air fields to fight the Italians and Germans.
The five are Reade Tilley, 24, who has been decorated with the distinguished flying cross and has five enemy aircraft to his credit, of Clearwater, Fla.; Ripley Ogden Jones, 27, credited with one-and-a-half enemy planes, of Cooperstown, N. Y.; Douglas Booth, 23, of Brooklyn; Bruce Downs, 26, of San Angelo, Tex., and Richard McHan, 22, who was born in Omaha, Neb., but whose family lives in Pocatello, Idaho.
The remaining two, Jimmy Peck, 21, who was born in Calexico, Cal., and whose father lives in Berkeley, Cal., and Don McLeod, 28, who was born in Blackston, Mass., but whose father lives in Norwich, Conn., returned to the British Isles recently.

Broke Neck But Flies
They arrived in Malta in March, when the Axis was trying to blast the island out of the Mediterranean. Ten days after he arrived, McLeod was shot down. With cannon fragments to his left arm and leg, he parachuted 800 feet and broke his neck. Two months later he was flying again.
Peck, who with Tilley, received the first DFCs awarded to Americans in Malta, shot down five German planes without getting a scratch or a bullet hole in his spitfire.
McLeod's escape from death has become a legend. It happened on April 2, when RAF forces in Malta had not been reinforced and there were only a half dozen or so planes to meet the scores of bombers and fighters the Italians and Germans were sending over.

'How it Feels to Die'
"It happened that four of us went up to meet 24 Messerschmitt 109s escorting bombers in a daylight attack," McLeod said. "I thought I was all right until I saw stuff flying around me like a horizontal hailstorm. Then I knew I was in for it. I said to myself, 'So this is how it feels to die.'"
McLeod said his Spitfire was shot up so badly that the right aileron was sticking up vertically and his elevators were disabled. "The only thing to do was to hold the ship in a 200-mile-per-hour glide," he related. "I was 21,000 feet up when the attack started. I saw the machine gradually torn apart as Jerry after Jerry attacked. I kept looking over my right shoulder. I'd see two of them coming at me. Then I'd skid some and they would miss. Then I'd skid again. I felt something burn my left arm and leg, and saw blood, but it didn't hurt.

Radio Shot Away
Then I skidded again. That was all I could do. The radio was shot out from in front of me and I couldn't talk to any one so I decided to get out of there."
RAF observers said McLeod bailed out between 500 and 800 feet. When the parachute opened, the straps struck his chin and snapped his body so hard that his thyroid cartilage was fractured. He alighted off the coast, where a ship picked him up.
They said the Germans usually were extremely friendly after they were shot down. Often the Germans autographed books for RAF pilots with: "I hope you break your neck and both legs." The Nazis considered this a good joke and were highly complimented if their books were similarly endorsed by the British.
They told of other remarkable escapes from death.

Typical Brooklynite
"We saw Doug (Booth), who is a typical Brooklynite, flying from a cloud on the tail of a Junkers 88," Peck related. "Right behind him was another Junkers on his tail. While Booth was firing at the Junkers in front of him, the one behind gave him a long burst and the Spitfire disintegrated in the explosion. Doug said he never remembered getting out of the cockpit. He must have been knocked out. He came to falling through the air and pulled the ripcord. Then he passed out again. He was unconscious when he landed."
The four Americans killed at Malta were: Eddie Streets, 21, who was born at Trappe, Md., but whose father lives at Easton, Md.; Hiram Putnam, 29, of Bobville, Texas, whose mother lives in Clarkwood, Texas; Harry Kelly, 26, of Los Angeles, whose father's address is Barstow, Cal., and Eddie Steele, 21, of Salisbury, Md.
Streets was killed by a bomb shortly after he arrived. The rest were killed in combat.


Pilots at the American Eagle Club
American Pilots Visit London Club - A tray of Coca-Cola soon disappears as Mrs. Barbara Blake of the American Red Cross serves a group of American flyers at the American Eagle Club in London. The fighter pilots are (left to right front row): Capt. J. E. Peck, D. F. C, of Berkeley, Calif., decorated for outstanding action at Malta; Capt. D. W. McLeod, of Norwich, Conn.; Lieut. H. D. Hively, of Oklahoma, and Lieut. A. H. Hopson, of Dallas, Texas. (Back row): Capt. O. H. Coen, D.F.C., of Carbondale, Ill., an original Eagle Squadron pilot who has brought down one enemy plane since the transfer to the U. S. Air Corps and Lieut. S. P. Dillon (left), of Long Beach, Calif.


'Eagles' Shifted To U.S. Army

LONDON, 16 Sept. 1942 — The sharp-shooting, fast-flying pilots of the American Eagle Squadrons became Yanks in name as well as fact today.
Their last sortie under the British colors just a memory, the Eagles were transferred, bag and baggage, plane and propeller, to the United States Army Air Force. London tailors were rushing several score officers' uniforms for the Eagles, who are itching to parade in the khaki of the United States Army. That doesn't mean they intend to throw away their blue RAF uniforms, shiny from long, hard wear. They'll be taken home as souvenirs.
Approximately 100 Americans, many of whom paid their own way to Britain, died fighting over the Continent while flying under the banners of the three Eagle Squadrons. An estimated 30 or 40 are prisoners in Germany. And another 100 were killed in operational training accidents.


Letter from Jimmy Peck to his folks 23 Oct 1942

Dear Mother and Dad,
Well it’s been a long time hasn't it? I came back from —— July 14th, spent a week in London and then went to an OTU as an instructor. On Sept. 23rd, Mac and I went to London and were sworn in to the U.S. Army Air Corps, both as Captains, and were sent to the same Group but different Squadrons. I sent a telegram on the 24th of September but evidently, you did not get it. We could have come home if we had wanted to, to be instructors, but I had two months of it and I don't think I could stand it.
We have a swell bunch of fellows in our group and I think that we will do all right. Remember what happened to me after that famous Feb. 14th letter of 1942? Well, I am going to do it again but not in the same place. Keep your eyes on Hal Roache's column and maybe you will see something interesting. Say hello to the folks. How is little Jimmy doing? I have a $10,000 life insurance policy now, so I don't feel so bad about things. I am afraid that my writing is getting worse and worse but my hand isn't as steady as it used to be, not that it ever was. Keep your fingers crossed and please don't worry because this is one little boy that is coming home after this mess is over. I have always known that I would live through this so don't ever worry about me if you don't hear from me for awhile. Bob Sprague is a Captain in the First Eagle Squadron but he may come home. Bruce Downs, who was with me, is also here. Well I must close now. Don't worry. I'll get through.

Capt. James E. Peck, D.F.C.
52 Fighter Group
2nd Squadron
A.P.O. 525
c/o Postmaster, New York


No, I'm not in New York


After signing up with the Americans, the lads take some well deserved leave back home


Jimmy Peck in Berkeley

9 February 1943 - The Berkeley boy without nerves, who battled with 20 Nazi single-handed and then came down, washed up and went into his quarters to write a letter to his mother, shuddered with fright before a battery of newspaper cameras when he alighted from a Santa Fe train at University Ave. and West St. shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday, "That was worse than fighting with a flock of '109's' (Messerschmitt fighters)" he told us last night.
He read cautiously from his log book of his RAF service, omitting what he had done personally in fighting over Malta. "Well, here's one entry I can tell you about," he said. "It was made the next day after we had reached Malta. Put a Junkers 88 out of commission.
"Then the day after that Capt. Donald W. McLeod and I shot down a couple of '109's' and it was a busy afternoon. And another day I got tangled up with 20 of them at about 18,000 feet and it got rather exciting. The other entries are about like that and of no special interest to the public."
Capt. Peck put aside the log book, thought a second and said: "I might tell you of one of the weirdest sights I saw around Malta. One of our gang, Flight Lieutenant Johnny Johnson had a funny one.

"He was just about to land— wasn't 50 feet off the ground when a bomb exploded on the field right under him. It wrecked his controls but pointed his plane upwards and he rose suddenly to about 800 feet. Then he took to his chute and landed safely — got only a sprained ankle.
"Johnny blamed that on the fact that he didn't have his little white elephant charm in his pocket. No, we flyers aren't exactly superstitious. And in Johnny's case he did have a crack-up later even with the elephant along."
Charms or no charms, Jimmie Peck has had a charmed life. He was in 45 air battles and didn't so much as get a machine gun bullet through his plane. No, he isn't superstitious, but he never flies without his inexpensive wrist watch, in fact, he only removes it when he is under a shower. That watch was owned first by Pilot Larry Chatterton of New York, an RAF pilot who hit a balloon cable near London, crashed and was killed. Then another airman in the RAF — Pilot James Coxetter owned it. He was lost in a crash.
"Guess I kind of figure that lightning won't strike three times in a row," he added. "Anyhow I have been lucky."


Eagles Take in Hollywood

Africa Promise Kept by Flyer
A promise made to his buddies eight weeks ago in far-off Casablanca was fulfilled yesterday by Capt. Donald W. McLeod, Army pilot, when he and three fellow flyers visited Elyse Knox, screen actress.
While in Casablanca, Capt. McLeod witnessed a film in which Miss Knox appears. He told his buddies he was a childhood friend of the performer. They immediately made him promise to introduce them to her if they ever got to Hollywood.
Yesterday, on leave, they all showed up at Universal Studio where Miss Knox is under contract. Capt. McLeod's buddies are Capt. James E. Peck and Lieuts. Karl L. Kimbro and Jack L. Reed.

KEEPING A PROMISE — L to R are: Lts J. L. Reed and Karl L. Kimbro, Elyse
Knox, Capt. Don McLeod & Capt. Jim Peck as actress greets Air Force friends
of her childhood friend, Capt. McLeod, who promised to introduce boys to her.

Hollywood bound


Peck, McLeod & other pilots with 2 actors
'Signing' the Elizabeth Montgomery look-alike's leg. Might be a relation - Mac was friends with Robert Montgomery as well


Mr. and Mrs. James E. Peck, Sr., 1342 Garlotta Avenue, Berkeley, California.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Peck
We want you to know that Jimmy's friends here deeply sympathize with you in your tragic loss. Jimmy was one of our oldest men and we were always so proud of him. All the boys who joined up with the Allies before America came into the war did a grand job, and we shall be forever grateful.
Maj. Don McLeod who was always with Jimmy is now in the hospital and has been for several weeks. I had to tell him about Jimmy and he wants you to know that he is going to write you just as soon as he is able.
Jimmy's death was a blow to all of us, but especially to his pal, McLeod.
There is very little one can say at a time like this, but I hope the love and sympathy of Jimmy's many friends will help you a little to bear your loss.
If there is anything at all that I can do, I shall be very pleased. With best regards.

Yours sincerely,
Frances E. Bexter
American Eagle Club


Victories Include:

24 Mar 1942
25 Mar 1942

date unk
date unk
date unk
date unk
date unk
date unk

10 June 1944
one Me109F
one Me109F

one Me109
one Me109
one Ju87
one Ju87
one Ju88
one Ju88

two Me109s
two Me109s


destroyed &
126 Sqn RAF
126 Sqn RAF


4 / 2 - 0 / 6 - 2

Probable & damaged claims with unknown dates are from his logbook



--- American Aces ---


Thanks to Jim for the pix and infos !

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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