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Passings / Donald Blakeslee

Decorated flying ace during WWII

October 06, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Col. Donald Blakeslee, 90, commander of the first American fighter group to reach Berlin during World War II and one of the war's most decorated pilots, died of heart failure Sept. 3 at his home in Miami, the New York Times reported, citing his daughter.

In his four years in the European theater, Blakeslee flew nearly 500 missions and had about 1,000 combat hours to his credit. He was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses, seven Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Silver Stars, six Air Medals and the British Distinguished Flying Cross, the Times report stated.

He later was awarded the Legion of Merit, another distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals for his service during the Korean War.

The Times reported that as commander of the 4th Fighter Group of the 8th Fighter Command during World War II, Blakeslee's group was credited with destroying 1,020 German aircraft, 550 shot out of the sky and 470 more destroyed on the ground.

Blakeslee was born Sept. 11, 1917, in Fairport Harbor, Ohio.

In 1940, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and, after pilot training, was sent to Britain, where he flew combat missions for the Royal Air Force, mostly with other American volunteers.

He was transferred to the U.S. Army Air Forces in September 1942 and became group commander of the 4th Fighter Group in January 1944. He retired from the Air Force in 1965.

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