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OBITUARIES : Vice Marshal Donald Bennett; Led RAF Night Bombing Raids

September 18, 1986|From Times Wire Services

LONDON — Air Vice Marshal Donald Bennett, the heroic World War II airman who pioneered the daring "Pathfinder" system that guided British night bombers to their targets, has died at the age of 76, family sources said here.

The Australian-born Bennett, who was well known in Los Angeles aviation circles in the 1930s, died Monday in a hospital near London.

In 1940, as a captain in the Royal Air Force, he came to Los Angeles as liaison officer to local aircraft plants, organizing transatlantic delivery of hundreds of bombers to embattled Britain.

A year later he was decorated after being shot down while attacking the German battleship Tirpitz, crashing in Norway and making his way across that Nazi-occupied nation to eventually rejoin the RAF.

His principal contribution to the British war effort, however, was leading radar-equipped light Mosquito bombers of the "Pathfinder Force," which dropped flares to mark targets for the heavy bombers that followed to make the main attacks on Germany.

The Pathfinders were credited with greatly improving the accuracy of British night bombers.

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