Happy 100th Birthday to B-26 Pilot Don Wolfe

Don Wolfe served as a B-26 pilot during WWII.

Another one of my veterans reached the amazing age of 100!

Donald Wolfe served in the Army Air Corps in Europe.

I interviewed him a few years ago and have kept in touch. He recently celebrated his birthday with a party.

Unfortunately, I could not attend, though I dearly wanted to. I hope everyone had a smashing time!

Don Wolfe’s story is told in They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans

Thanks to Major Wolfe for his service to our country! Below is an excerpt of Don’s story from my book, They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans.

Eileen Zeissig, whom I blogged about a few weeks ago, just celebrated her 100th birthday as well!

Eileen Zeissig who served as an Army nurse in Europe during WWII recently attended a talk I gave at a library. Other attendees were thrilled with her gracious personality and stories!

Here is a photo of her at one of my recent speaking events that she attended. The other attendees were thrilled to have her there. She served as an Army nurse in Europe. She, like all of the other women who volunteered to serve in the military during World War II, was a plucky gal!

Eileen’s complete story is in the same book as Don’s. With 34 stories of people like these in ‘They Did It for Honor‘, it’s a powerhouse of good role models for all of us to emulate!

You can also watch 1-min segments from my interviews with Don Wolfe & Eileen Zeissig at my Youtube channel. There are a few other vet interviews there as well. Please Subscribe to my Youtube Channel and Like the segments. This enables more people to see/ hear their stories. I’ll be posting other WWII vet interview segments in the near future.

Thank a vet today for his/her service to our country! We wouldn’t have our freedoms without them!

**

On his 52nd bombing mission Donald Wolfe’s B-26 right engine began smoking. It had been hit by a German fighter.

Using evasive maneuvers, Wolfe and his air crew stayed in the air long enough to bomb a German flight headquarters building before arriving safely at their British air base at Muching Green, England.

For their heroism they each received the Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded for “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.”

As a boy, Wolfe had dreamed of flying after spotting an Army balloon near his family’s farm in Aberdeen, South Dakota, in 1935. After graduating from high school in 1939, he enlisted in the US Army but wanted to join the Army Air Corps. He was assigned to the 3rd Infantry, Co I and transferred to Fort Leonard Wood near Jefferson City, Missouri, as part of the Quartermaster Corps.

The base was so new that there was no electricity and water and only shells of buildings. The gate house was a stick stuck into a bucket of cement.

By January 1942, following America’s call to war against Axis Powers following the Japanese attack against Pearl Harbor, the base was fully staffed with 45,000 soldiers.

Upon spotting a sign advertising for soldiers who wanted to be pilots, Wolfe applied. Unfortunately, he failed the eye exam. The doctor told him to rest his eyes with dark glasses and return the next day. Wolfe agreed, but secretly had a different plan.

He stayed in the waiting room. Each time the exam door opened, he memorized the eye charts – all nine of them. The next day he passed the exam and graduated from flight school in October 1942.

Wolfe and other pilot graduates were sent to a B-26 training field at MacDill Air Base in Tampa, Florida. They learned Morse code, weather, and astral navigation.

An Allied plane hits its target during a mission. National Archives.

The B-26s with 2,000-horsepower engines were tricky to fly. “Those planes killed many pilots on takeoffs and landings because they flipped,” he said. “We older pilots had flown planes without rudders. I could feel the plane’s rudders and pedals moving through my feet, so I handled it successfully.” 

By May 1943, Wolfe was promoted to second lieutenant of the 391st Bomb Group.

In January 1944, Wolfe and his crew flew to Muching Green to fly combat missions, called ‘sorties’, over France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany. On June 6, 1944, they lent air support to the Allies at D-Day.

By August 1944, Wolfe had flown 67 combat missions. He returned to the United States for a much-needed rest and towed targets in an AT-23.

After his discharge, he earned a degree at Indiana Tech as an aeronautical engineer. Later, Major Wolfe served at Bakalar Air Base in Columbus, Indiana, and instructed on aviation subjects for ROTC at Indiana University and Baer Field (renamed Fort Wayne International Airport).

By the time Wolfe retired from the Air Force in June 1964, he had accumulated 4,720 hours of flight time — all inspired by a balloon.  

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