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William J O'Donnell


William J. O'Donnell was from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1940. He, like most fighter pilots, had always had a yearning to fly. As a teenager he went through a Civilian Pilot Training programme and and obtained a Private Pilot's License. He then waited until he was old enough to become an Aviation Cadet and applied, with 13 others, for admittance to that programme. He was the only one of the group to pass the physical examination and was enlisted in December 1940. Upon graduation at Craig Field, Selma, Alabama, he received his commission and wings and became an instructor in single engine advanced raining. In October 1944 he went overseas to England as a captain and was assigned to the 4th fighter Group, 335th Squadron. He flew a full tour with 63 combat missions and then transferred to the 336th squadron as Squadron Commander, the first of seven squadrons he would eventually command prior to his retirement.
Colonel O'Donnell had five enemy aircraft destroyed to his credit when the war ended.

He had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal with 15 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Croix de Guerre with Silver Star.



  • William Gerth

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Crew Chief | 4th Fighter Group
    One-time Crew Chief for (then) Captain William J. O'Donnell.

  • Michael Isaac

    Military | Sergeant | Assistant Crew Chief | 4th Fighter Group
    One-time Assistant Crew Chief to S/Sgt. William S. Gerth, for Capt. William J. O'Donnell.

  • David Lambert

    Military | Sergeant | Armourer | 4th Fighter Group
    One-time armourer for (then) Captain William J. O'Donnell.

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Units served with

  • 4th Fighter Group

    4th Fighter Group

    Some of the pilots of the 4th Fighter Group had seen many hours of combat by the time they joined the 4th Fighter Group as they had volunteered with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force. The three 'Eagle Squadrons' of RAF Fighter...

  • 335th Fighter Squadron

    335th Fighter Squadron

    The 335th Fighter Squadron was the offspring of No. 121 (Eagle) Squadron RAF. Formed on 21 May 1941, No. 121 was the second of the three Eagle Squadrons composed of American volunteers flying out of England. They were known as the "Chiefs" and were...

  • 336th Fighter Squadron

    336th Fighter Squadron

    The 336th Fighter Squadron was constituted by the War Department on 22 august 1942, and was activated at Bushey Hall, England, on 12 September. It had been designated as No. 133 (Eagle) Squadron, and was made up of American volunteers to the Royal Air...

  • 4th Mobile Reclamation and Repair Squadron
  • Headquarters (4th Fighter Group)

    Headquarters (4th Fighter Group)

    The Headquarters Squadron was made up of true leaders. Most had flown Hurricanes, Spitfires, Thunderbolts and Mustangs. ...


  • 44-14557 'The Duchess' 'Sexey'

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 335FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. One-time personal aircraft of Major William J O'Donnell. Crew Chief: S/Sgt William S Gerth. Assistant Crew Chief: Sgt Michael P Isaac. Armourer: Sgt David H. Lambert.

Associated Place

  • Debden

    Military site : airfield
    RAF Debden, construction of which began in 1935, is perhaps most famous as a Battle of Britain fighter airfield, partly responsible for the defence of London in 1940. In 1942 it was also home to three RAF 'Eagle Squadrons’ of volunteer American pilots...


Event Location Date
Born Philadelphia, PA, USA 22 July 1920


Date Contributor Update
18 October 2017 10:14:23 general ira snapsorter Changes to service number, biography, events and unit associations

Merged with duplicate entries to include details from:
- Ted Damick, VIII Fighter Command pilots list;
- . 1000 Destroyed' by Capt. Grover C. Hall, Jr.'; Self ;
- the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia ;

Date Contributor Update
13 March 2015 19:26:48 apollo11 Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nationality, highest rank, role, biography, events, unit associations and place associations

Personal research & 'Eighty-One Aces of the 4th Fighter Group' by Frank Speer.