Skip to main content
Edit entry 

Donald Eugene Purcell

Military

Capt. Donald Eugene Purcell, Pilot B24-H #418
8th AF, 2nd AD, 96th CBW, 466th BG, 784th BS
RAF Attlebridge, Sta 120.
_____________________________________________________________________________
Don on his experiences as a pilot during WWII (2006):

"After Pearl Harbor, I joined the Air Force on May the 7th, 1942. They had too many applicants for the fields that they had and they didn’t have enough training facilities to accommodate; so I didn’t go to the actual field until September. There were about five months that I was waiting to be called and go after I joined.

Training started out in Maxwell field, Montgomery. It was ground school training. There was a lot of college type stuff because most of us didn’t have college. We worked through pre-flight training and then after about five weeks or so we went to Nashville, Tennessee to be evaluated as to whether we would be pilots, bombardiers, or navigators. I was chosen as a pilot.

From Nashville, we went to Union City, Tennessee for two months flying an open-cockpit airplane. My first flight in that training I got airsick and I was scared to death that they were going to wash me out and send me back to ground troops or something. But, I got through it ok. They had a rule that if the temperature was below 20 degrees, we wouldn’t fly. So, we’d sit on the sunny side of the building and wait until the temperature got to 20 and then we took off. I had goggles, a helmet, beryline jacket and all, but my cheekbones were exposed and both of them froze; they turned chalk white and I stayed in the infirmary for three days doing nothing except just waiting for it to get unfrozen.

After Union City, Tennessee, we went to Newport, Arkansas for two months of what we called basic training; it was closed cockpit. Of course when we got to closed cockpit, I couldn’t get sick inside so I had to do something about it. I almost vomited the first time but I stopped it and swallowed it back down. From then on, I didn’t get sick anymore. After basic training, we went to what we called advanced training. This was in twin-engine airplanes and when we finished that phase of the training, we were commissioned as officers. I became a second lieutenant on the 28th day of July, 1943.

After we finished the training and I got my commission, we went back to Nashville and they had the transition from training to getting a B-24, a four-engine airplane nicknamed the Liberator. When we finished that, I guess we had four weeks of training in Nashville, and then we went to Salt Lake City to be assigned to combat crews. At the end of about two or three weeks they finally came up with the assignments and I was assigned as a co-pilot at Tucson, Arizona. They had three phases of combat training before they sent us overseas. The first phase was Tucson, the second phase was at Alamogordo, and the third phase was back at Tucson.

When we got to Tucson, the pilot that was on my crew was taken off the crew and put into third phase training then sent to combat. So they moved me over to first pilot and I finished my training in that position. After we trained, they sent us to Harrington, Kansas to pick up an airplane to fly overseas. My navigator was from Memphis, Tennessee, I was from Bessemer, Alabama, and the bombardier was from Decatur, Georgia. Well they told us to go to 9000ft after we took off from Harrington and stay there until we got to West-Palm Beach, Florida. It just so happened that we decided that since we were getting ready to go to war, we’d have a little fun so we buzzed the navigator’s house in Memphis and went back to Bessemer and buzzed my house. We went over about six or eight times, I guess, at an altitude of two or three feet. We had to pull up to miss the smokestacks at the Pullman plant. During this time, the RPM’s on the airplane engines were being run up and back by the co-pilot. My dad had a lot of chickens and when we left, he had a lot of broken eggs.

We came on over to Atlanta looking for the bombardier’s home and we weren’t paying too much attention to flying; we were looking too hard and just about the time we found his house we were very close to running out of air speed and altitude so we were lucky not to run into trouble there. Then, we went on down to Jacksonville but the traffic was bad and the weather was bad so they turned us around and took us back to Macon, Georgia. We were on a secret mission; nobody knew where we were. But, I was a second lieutenant and the bombardier was a first lieutenant. So, when we got on the ground in Macon, he took off for Decatur; I couldn’t stop him. The next morning, we were getting ready to leave but he wasn’t back. When we were taxiing down for takeoff, he ran down the runway and jumped in the airplane. Then, we went on down to West Palm Beach and the airplane had a gasoline leak so we stayed there for nine days while they fixed the airplane.

We took off from there and one hour out from sea, we opened our orders to see where we were going. We were going England by way of South America then Africa. Before we left Tucson, after we finished training, one of the gunners picked up a little dog that was supposed to have been a hairless Chihuahua. We took it with us and we weren’t supposed to; we broke another little rule. We took it with us overseas and we turned it into a tramp. We had three groups in our division in GI trucks that went from base to base and this little old dog they let ride the bus from one base to another. Finally got to England after quite a lengthy trip through South America and Africa and we found our way into our home base in Attlebridge.

After leaving Dakar, we went to Marrakesh and then we took off from there to Scotland and we didn’t have much visibility and very poor navigational aid. I saw what I thought was the airport we were looking for, so we landed. It turned out to be one country shy of where we were supposed to land; it was Wales instead of Scotland. But we took off again and headed back to Scotland.

At the base in Scotland, I was given a crew of ten. I was the first pilot; we had a co-pilot named Meredith Carb. He was from Fort Worth, Texas. Matthew was our navigator. He was about 18 years old; the youngest one in our crew from Rochester, New York. Our bombardier was Joe Adams and he was from Savannah, Georgia. Harold Knudsen was the radio operator. He was a professional piano player before the war and he was from Portland, Oregon. The flight engineer had a handlebar mustache and looked just like Jerry Colonna and he was the oldest man in the outfit; he was 32 years old. I was 23 and I was the next oldest. We also had 4 gun-men that shot 50.cals from the airplane. I think all I can say is that I was pumped up rather than scared for war. We were Gung Ho; we were out to get Hitler in any way that we could. Therefore, we didn’t worry much about anything.

A good part of our missions were short but I’d say that maybe half of them were about ten hour flights. We’d take off and then we’d circle above the clouds until we got our formation intact and then we’d take off for the target which was about eight to ten hours away. I was doing my flights as a leader in formation. I was on his [formation plane] right wing and you had to stay in close formation or else you got lost because at that altitude, if you got lost, you couldn’t get back into formation. Our plane went all the way from carrying small fragmentation bombs to 2000lbs bombs. Our maximum load was four 2000lbs bombs.

On my first mission, we heard all kinds of talk about flak 88s and enemy fighters and that kind of stuff. I guess we were over France and about fifty miles ahead I could see little flak bursts and smoke and my feet started chattering on the rudders; I couldn’t stop them. I was nowhere near any danger but for some reason, my feet started chattering.

On the third mission, which was on Easter Sunday, we were going to bomb Berlin and we had fighter escort the whole way. They were P-40s and P-47s and they escorted us to Denmark. Then the P-51s picked us up for the rest of the flight. The 47s had to turn back because they was running out of fuel but the 51s hadn’t gotten there yet when the Luftwaffe became our host. I remember one of them came down right in front of our airplane and we saw what we thought was orange lights blinking but it was really the machine gun firing at us. He shot an airplane from our group down; the one under us that has stuck with me pretty good. As soon as we got back to England on the ground, I went to church.

While I was flying, my two brothers, Roy and Percy, were fighting in the navy. I saw both of them once or twice before D-Day. Percy came to my base with a friend of his to check the engines of the airplanes. I got the chance to take Percy up on a flight. Of course he got airsick and he talked about that continually. The last time I heard from Roy, he was in Utah. It turned out that he was in the MP. Percy was in Louisiana. Roy and Percy ran into each other on the streets of New York on their way out. They were just getting ready to board ship and they found each other. They stayed together for a while then went their separate ways.

I flew 30 or so successful bombing runs when I was honorably discharged from active duty as a Captain. We got air medals for each five completed missions we flew. I have a distinguished flying cross with two clusters, which I got for being a good boy. When I came back to the states, they tried to make an instructor out of me. I was sent to Alabama to instruct B-24 pilots and that’s where I made the mistake of running into my wife. When I came home from the big war, she was at my house. I was discharged at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Georgia."
_____________________________________________________________________________
After the war, Donald became a pilot for Eastern Airlines where he flew for 35 years before retiring. His EA plane is on display in the Smithsonian Air and Space museum in Washington DC. Donald passed away in 2010 at the age of 89 and is survived by his two sons, two daughters, eight grandchildren, five great grandchildren.

Service

People

  • Joseph Adams

    Military | First Lieutenant | Bombardier | 466th Bomb Group

  • Meredith Carb

    Military | First Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 466th Bomb Group

  • Charles Matthews

    Military | First Lieutenant | Navigator | 466th Bomb Group

  • Mahlon Mattison

    Military | Captain | Bombardier - Squadron Bombardier | 466th Bomb Group

  • Khoren Narzakian

    Military | Technical Sergeant (2nd Grade) | Flight Engineer | 466th Bomb Group

  • Oliver Shaw

    Military | First Lieutenant | Navigator | 466th Bomb Group

  • Robert Villeneuve

    Military | Staff Sergeant (3rd Grade) | Gunner | 466th Bomb Group
    https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/61266176/robert-donovan-villeneuve

Show more

Units served with

  • 8th Air Force

    8th Air Force


    Eighth Air Force Bomber Command became the Eighth Air Force on February 1944, it oversaw bombardment of strategic targets in Europe until 1945. ...

  • 2nd Air Division

    2nd Air Division

    Division
    In December 1944, the 2nd Bomb Division was redesginated the 2nd Air Division.

  • 20th Combat Bomb Wing

    20th Combat Bomb Wing

    Wing
    Prewar bombardment wing in the northwest. Moved to England, May–June 1943, for duty with Eighth Air Force. Received its first groups in November 1943 and served in combat in the European theater from December 1943 until April 1945. Returned to the US...

  • 96th Combat Bomb Wing
  • 466th Bomb Group

    466th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 466th Bomb Group flew B-24 Liberators from Attlebridge, Norfolk, during the last year of the war in Europe. The Group flew 232 missions in the course of the year and celebrated the 100th one by inviting local people onto the base to mark the...

  • 93rd Bomb Group

    93rd Bomb Group

    Group
    93rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated 1-March-1942 at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. On 15-May-1942 the Group moved to Ft. Myers, Florida to continue advanced flight training and also to fly anti-submarine patrols over the Gulf of Mexico; they...

  • 329th Bomb Squadron
  • 784th Bomb Squadron

Aircraft

  • 42-7682 Connie

    B-24 Liberator
    "Connie" was originally assigned to the 93rd BG at Hardwich Sta. 104 before being transferred to the 466th BG in the fall of 1944. It crash landed in the Netherlands on March 31, 1945 and was salvaged.

  • 41-29413 Our Baby

    B-24 Liberator

  • 42-95109 Shamrock

    B-24 Liberator
    8th AF, 2nd AD, 96th CBW, 466th BG, 784th BS This a/c was H2X equipped and used as PFF lead plane on missions 113-230 by: 418 - Purcell (113-143) 464 - Johnson 684 - Grey Reventment #53, Attlebridge Sta. 120

Missions

  • 8th Air Force 275

    23 March 1944
    The industrial areas of Brunswick, Munster, Osnabruck, and Achmer, Germany as well as the airfield at Handorf, Germany become the targets for a force of 768 heavy bombers despatched by all three Air Divisions. The bomber gunner claims on German...

  • 8th Air Force 293

    9 April 1944

  • 301

    13 April 1944

  • 576

    26 August 1944

  • 662

    3 October 1944

  • 667

    6 October 1944

  • 669

    7 October 1944

  • 676

    14 October 1944
    Black Week

  • 715

    16 November 1944

  • 720

    21 November 1944

Associated Place

  • Attlebridge

    Military site : airfield
    Attlebridge was constructed for RAF use and completed to that standard in 1942. However, with news that it was to be assigned to the American Air Force, the runways were extended and additional hardstandings and outbuildings constructed for the heavy...

  • Hardwick

    Military site : airfield
    Planned as an RAF bomber airfield, Hardwick was used first by the 310th Bomb Group, equipped with B-25 Mitchells. In December 1943, the B-24 Liberators of the 93rd Bomb Group moved in, and remained until the end of the war, flying over 330 missions....

Events

Event Location Date
Born Demopolis, AL 14 October 1920
1st 466th BG Combat Tour RAF Attlebridge 22 March 1944 – 22 April 1944
2nd 466th BG Combat Tour RAF Attlebridge 26 August 1944 – 21 November 1944

Returned to the 466th BG from the 93rd BG after presumably training as a lead crew/pilot

Lived in Bessemer, AL 1945

345 Owen Street

Died Marietta, GA 24 September 2010

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
17 April 2021 02:44:20 466thHistorian Changes to service number
Sources

466th BG Historian

Date Contributor Update
15 April 2021 14:03:22 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to service number and biography
Sources

according to don's personal records

Date Contributor Update
15 April 2021 14:01:29 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to aircraft associations
Sources

don flew 41-29413 in flight echelon movement 'c' february 1944 from miami to england according to his personal records that he saved

Date Contributor Update
24 April 2020 22:30:18 466thHistorian Changes to events
Sources

https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=2238&h=11574244...
466th BG Archives - Officers of Attlebridge booklet, page 27
"Attlebridge Arsenal" - Brassfield & Wassom, page 330

Date Contributor Update
10 February 2020 17:41:20 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to awards
Sources

family records

Date Contributor Update
04 February 2020 07:21:06 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to place associations
Sources

attlebridge diaries, 93rd bga

Date Contributor Update
04 February 2020 00:12:18 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to aircraft associations
Sources

466 bga

Date Contributor Update
03 February 2020 22:52:50 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to mission associations
Sources

attlebridge diaries, attlebridge arsenal, 466bg association

Date Contributor Update
03 February 2020 22:42:12 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to mission associations
Sources

attlebridge diaries

Date Contributor Update
03 February 2020 20:47:48 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to person associations and mission associations
Sources

attlebridge diaries

Date Contributor Update
03 February 2020 19:08:14 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to person associations
Sources

attlebridge diaries

Date Contributor Update
03 February 2020 19:03:31 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to unit associations
Sources

attlebridge diaries

Date Contributor Update
30 January 2020 21:39:21 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to unit associations
Sources

attlebridge diaries

Date Contributor Update
28 January 2020 23:03:17 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to biography
Sources

spelling errors

Date Contributor Update
28 January 2020 22:52:39 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to awards
Sources

family records

Date Contributor Update
28 January 2020 07:15:45 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to aircraft associations
Sources

466th Bomb Group Association

Date Contributor Update
28 January 2020 00:04:10 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to biography
Sources

466 BGA

Date Contributor Update
28 January 2020 00:03:34 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to mission associations
Sources

8th Air Force Historical Society

Date Contributor Update
27 January 2020 19:37:39 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to awards
Sources

family records.

Date Contributor Update
27 January 2020 10:21:21 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to mission associations
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
27 January 2020 10:10:51 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to mission associations
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
27 January 2020 09:31:23 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to biography
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
27 January 2020 09:29:32 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to biography
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
27 January 2020 09:27:20 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to biography
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
27 January 2020 09:25:23 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to biography
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
27 January 2020 09:21:18 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to biography
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
27 January 2020 08:58:20 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to unit associations
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
27 January 2020 07:30:23 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to biography
Sources

home interview.

Date Contributor Update
27 January 2020 01:47:10 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to nickname, aircraft associations and mission associations
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
27 January 2020 01:34:13 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to biography
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
27 January 2020 01:13:04 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to biography
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
27 January 2020 01:12:30 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to biography
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
26 January 2020 19:51:23 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to awards
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
26 January 2020 19:48:06 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to media associations
Sources

,

Date Contributor Update
26 January 2020 19:47:09 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to awards
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
26 January 2020 07:08:04 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to media associations
Sources

home photo gallery

Date Contributor Update
26 January 2020 00:40:42 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to awards
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
18 December 2018 16:37:00 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to biography
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
15 December 2018 23:21:09 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to biography
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
15 December 2018 22:59:44 davidlangstonpurcell Changes to middlename, highest rank, role, biography, unit associations and place associations
Sources

.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:07:29 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / Unit roster in the book ATTLEBRIDGE DIARY by Wassom & Brassfield, page 349

Share