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Dominic Salvatore Gentile

Military

Don Gentile was born on December 6, 1920, to Italian parents in Piqua, Ohio. As a boy, he had always been fascinated with flying and built, as his mother remembered, hundreds of model airplanes. Don used to say to his mother, “I hope someday I'll be up there flying too.” As a teenager, he played football, baseball, and basketball and loved to swim. He was rather musically inclined and played the saxophone, drums, guitar, and clarinet. He had a sister, Edith, who was two years younger than himself.
When Gentile was old enough his father would give him ‘date money’ to take out a girl but he would bring most of it to the bank and save it. Gentile knew that if he could only get enough money to buy an airplane he would be an ace of the air. When he was 17 Gentile first flew in an airplane. “At that time,” he said, “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.” Gentile continually pestered his parents about learning to fly his father began paying for half-an-hour flying time every Sunday. After he had soloed Gentile began pressing his parents to buy him an airplane and eventually he found a homemade airplane for $300 which he bought with his own money. After finding out that the airplane was a death trap and continuing to pester his parents again, Gentile finally got a brand new airplane. From then on he began harassing the town inhabitants of Piqua by buzzing the town. “On Saturday afternoons,” he said, “I would beat up the town in my airplane, and the cops chased me . . . 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.”
On September 1, 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland, Gentile knew he was destined to play a part in the war. Since the USAAF required two years in college he told his parents that if he could join the RAF, which didn’t require college, he could make his mark in the war. After much arguing and a whole year, Don Gentile finally got his wish and was driven to Cleveland to join up with the RAF. In September of 1940, he was flown to Canada to start his training. His instructor back home had given him a ‘better than average pilot’ rating and with that, he started RAF training. After he finished training Gentile joined the famed 133 ‘Eagle Squadron’ and claimed two kills while in the RAF during Operation Jubilee.
In August 1942 the three Eagle Squadrons were transferred to the USAAF and formed the 4th Fighter Group. Captain Don Gentile’s best scoring months were from December 1943 to April 1944 and for many of his missions, he flew with his famed wingman, Capt. Johnny Godfrey. Being a ‘publicity kid’ Gentile gained a wide amount of fame. On April 11, 1944, three days after his last three kills, Gentile was awarded the DFC and called ‘one-man air force’ by General Eisenhower.
One the last mission of his first tour the press gathered to film Gentile landing only to watch him come in too long on a buzz job and have to crash land his plane, ‘Shangri-La’. Thankfully Gentile only suffered minor shock. His commander, Don Blakeslee (who had already established the rule that anyone who ‘pranged his kite’ would be grounded and sent home), grounded him. Gentile went home on a war bonds tour to an adoring public and very happy sister Edith and parents.
Don Gentile claimed 30 air and ground kills and accumulated 350 hours of flying time. He is labeled as the ‘Ace of Aces’, ‘One-Man Air Force’, and Godfrey and he were called the ‘Damon and Pythias’ team by Winston Churchill.
Don Gentile authored his autobiography ‘One-Man Airforce’ that was published in 1944.

In Memoriam

'I remember Don Gentile, Piqua, Ohio Central high school class of 1941, who was a daredevil private pilot early on, and went to war, first the RCAF, then USAAF, in England, where he became a leading ace with more than 20 victories, transferred to USAF, met tragic end in T-33 crash in Washington'
Remembered by John Korovilos, Trenton, MI

Service

People

  • John Ferra

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Crew Chief | 4th Fighter Group
    John Ferra was the one time crew chief of Captain Don Gentile for which he is most famous for. After Gentile was sent home, Ferra took care of 4 other kites until he was sent home in September 1945.

  • Richard Mansfield

    Military | Staff Sergeant (3rd Grade) | Assistant Crew chief | 4th Fighter Group
    Dick Mansfield was the one-time assistant crew chief to Don Gentile for which he is most known for. Dick's hometown was Longmeadow, Massachusetts. After Gentile was sent home Mansfield took care of 3 other aircraft before being sent home in September...

  • Ira Wolfert

    Civilian | 4th Fighter Group
    Ira Wolfert grew up in New York City and at age 20 married poet Helen Herschdorfer in 1928. Two years later he he graduated from the Columbia University School of Journalism. From there he worked for North American Newspaper Alliance and in 1942,...

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Units served with

  • 8th Air Force

    8th Air Force

    Command

  • 4th Fighter Group

    4th Fighter Group

    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...

  • 336th Fighter Squadron

    336th Fighter Squadron

    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...

  • No. 133 'Eagle' Squadron

    No. 133 'Eagle' Squadron

    Squadron
    'On 1 August 1941, No. 133 reformed at Coltishall as the third 'Eagle' Squadron manned by American personnel. Equipped with Hurricanes it became operational at the end of September. The next month the Squadron moved to Northern Ireland, returning to...

Aircraft

  • 43-6572

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 336FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. Personal aircraft of Lt Thomas K McDill, re-assigned to Capt Joseph H Bennett 24-May-44. Failed to Return (FTR) during an engagement with a gaggle of German fighters, aircraft was rammed by an Bf109 piloted by Ltn...

  • 43-6913 'Shangri-La'

    P-51 Mustang
    Assigned to 336FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. Personal aircraft of Dominic 'Don' Gentile. He claimed 7.5 of his 21 victories in this aircraft. Don Gentile crashed this A/C whilst displaying to reporters after his final mission at his home base Debden on 13-Apr-44.

  • 42-8659 'Donnie Boy'

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    Assigned to 336FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. One time personal aircraft of Capt Dominic Gentile. Transferred to 367FS, 358FG, 9AF USAAF.

  • 42-7884 'Reggie's Reply' / 'Lucky' 'Donnie Boy'

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    P-47D Thunderbolt 42-7884, was 2nd Lt John Godfrey's first 'REGGIE'S REPLY', which he inherited from his future flight leader 1st Lt. Don Gentile. ...

  • 41-6180 "Missouri Mauler"

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    Assigned to 336FS, 4FG, 8AF USAAF. One-time personal aircraft of Lt Willard W Millikan.

  • BL255 'Buckeye-Don'

    Spitfire
    Supermarine Spitfire BL255 Mk Vb, Built at Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory. ...

  • BL776 'Buck-eye Don'

    Spitfire
    Supermarine Spitfire BL776 Mk Vb, Built at Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory. 39MU 14-2-42 145S 13-6-42 133S 30-9-42 336S 1-10-42 DeH 18-8-43 Cunliffe-Owen 28-2-44 Cv RNAS 880S Henstridge 9-4-44 as trainer 759S Yeovilton 9-44 761S Henstridge 1-45

  • BS445

    Spitfire
    Supermarine Spitfire BS445 Mk IX, Const #3373, Built at Eastleigh. ...

  • BL673

    Spitfire
    Supermarine Spitfire BL673 Mk Vb, Built at Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory. ...

  • BM530

    Spitfire
    Supermarine Spitfire BM530 Mk Vb, Built at Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory. ...

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Missions

  • VIII Fighter Command 133 SQ. RAF

    26 September 1942
    14 aircraft and pilots took off from Great Sampford for Bolthead, Devonshire, landing there at 1230 hours. At 1350 hours and after a very sketchy briefing, 12 aircraft of the Squadron took off together with 401 with orders to make rendezvous with a...

Associated Place

  • Biggin Hill

    Military site : airfield
    An RAF Station with US lodger units. USAAF Spitfires and P-38s were attached to RAF No 11 Group stations in mid-1942 for training; also used for special operations by British and US forces.

  • 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...

  • Duxford

    Military site : airfield
    RAF Duxford, now a museum and still a working airfield, was operated by the USAAF from 1943 to 1945. The base was briefly the home of the 350th Fighter Group in late 1942, but it was not until April 1943 that it became a fully American station when the...

Events

Event Location Date
Born Piqua, OH, USA 6 December 1920
Enlisted Cleveland, OH, USA 1940

Joined the Royal Canadian Air Force

Joined No. 133 (Eagle) Squadron RAF RAF Coltishall, Norwich, Norfolk NR10, UK 1941
Operation Jubilee Dieppe, France 19 August 1942

Claimed first two kills.

Based Debden September 1942 – 28 April 1944

Transferred to US Army Air Force, 4th Fighter Group, based at Debden.

Crashed - Morlaix tragedy Bolt Head, Salcombe, Devon TQ8, UK 26 September 1942

BS445 slated for Morlaix mission, flown down to departure field, Bolthead. P/O Dominic S Gentile, Blown tire on takeoff, crashed into ditch. Scratched from mission.

Died Forestville, MD, USA 28 January 1951

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
29 October 2017 22:54:51 WD-C Mustang Changes to biography
Sources

Fixed mistake

Date Contributor Update
28 October 2017 17:59:57 WD-C Mustang Changes to biography
Sources

Fixed minor spelling and grammar errors in biography

Date Contributor Update
22 December 2016 20:53:57 WD-C Mustang Changes to awards
Sources

http://www.4thfightergroupassociation.org/uploads/8/2/0/3/8203817/336_ge...

Date Contributor Update
25 May 2016 01:15:54 WD-C Mustang Changes to biography
Sources

Fixed grammar

Date Contributor Update
15 May 2016 21:48:31 WD-C Mustang Changes to biography
Sources

http://acesofww2.com/USA/aces/gentile/

Date Contributor Update
18 April 2016 22:34:24 WD-C Mustang Changes to media associations
Sources

Other AAM entries

Date Contributor Update
07 April 2016 21:01:47 WD-C Mustang Changes to nickname
Sources

Added nickname

Date Contributor Update
25 February 2016 13:51:43 Al_Skiff Changes to unit associations and place associations
Sources

http://www.4thfightergroupassociation.org/the-morlaix-show.html
https://1942morlaixdisaster.wordpress.com/the-pilots/

Date Contributor Update
15 January 2016 11:03:17 Al_Skiff Changes to events, aircraft associations and mission associations
Sources

http://www.4thfightergroupassociation.org/the-morlaix-show.html
https://1942morlaixdisaster.wordpress.com/the-pilots/

Date Contributor Update
29 March 2015 12:25:08 apollo11 Changes to person associations
Sources

Personal research and 'The Debden Eagles' by Garry L. Fry.

Date Contributor Update
12 March 2015 21:21:02 apollo11 Changes to awards
Sources

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

Date Contributor Update
24 November 2014 11:13:18 Emily Changes to memoriam and unit associations
Sources

John Korovilos, via American Air Museum Memory Book Correspondence.

Date Contributor Update
03 November 2014 16:02:53 Lucy May Changes to service number and biography
Sources

Incorporated information from a record for 'Donald S Gentile' which used the following sources:
The records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / Fighter Aces of the U. S. A. and Mustang Aces of the Eighth Air Force

Date Contributor Update
24 October 2014 13:05:52 Al_Skiff Changes to aircraft associations
Sources

USAAF Photo

Date Contributor Update
02 October 2014 12:06:09 Emily Changes to middlename, firstname, nickname, highest rank, biography, awards, events, place associations, aircraft associations and media associations
Sources

Freeman, The Mighty Eighth, p. 275.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominic_Salvatore_Gentile
http://acesofww2.com/USA/aces/gentile/

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / Fighter Aces of the U. S. A. and Mustang Aces of the Eighth Air Force

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:07:21 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / Ted Damick, VIII Fighter Command pilots list / http://www.4thfightergroupassociation.org/pilots.html

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