Lieutenant Donald "FLASH" Gordon
Artwork and Research By;
Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette
Hellcat Ace, Donald "Flash" Gordon
Print Size 12x18"
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Lieutenant Donald “Flash” Gordon
Donald Gordon was born in Garland, Kansas on July 17, 1920. He attended Fort Scott High School and graduated in 1939. He then continued his education at Fort Scott Junior College graduating in 1941. Gordon was deeply interested in becoming a pilot so when he learned about the Civil Pilots training program, he joined right away. It wasn’t long before Donald got his prized pilot's license. After finishing college Donald entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program on July 7, 1941. Donald completed flight training and was commissioned as an Ensign on March 12, 1942. He was twenty-one years old. Plus he had been chosen to be a fighter pilot.
His first assignment as a fighter pilot was when he was assigned to the new Fighter Squadron 10. The squadron would be named the “Grim Reapers.” The squadron was assigned to the USS Enterprise which was stationed in Hawaii. The time was September 1942. While on the Enterprise Donald would be deployed on the Big “E” two different times.
The squadron leader was a combat veteran from the Battle of the Coral Sea, Lt. Cdr. J.H. Flatley. Flatley was already a Hero and his men were eager to follow him. They would be flying the stubby Grumman F4F Wildcat equipped with six fifty-caliber machine guns, three in each wing. The Wildcat that Flatley flew during the Battle of the Coral Sea only had two fifty-caliber guns in each wing. The new Wildcats with the Grim Reapers would now have six machine guns. The two additional guns will prove their worth in their first combat.
It was October 1942 and the new Squadron was sailing with the USS Enterprise, CV-6. Donald and the rest of the pilots took their turns flying on and off the decks of the carrier as they flew escort of the fleet. It was one beautiful sunrise and sunset after another. Rumors of a battle flew faster than their fighters.
They were indeed looking for the Japanese Imperial Navy. The American force would be made up of the USS Enterprise and the USS Hornet. Just six months or so earlier the Hornet sailed with its decks filled with twin engine bombers deep into Japanese home waters. Target, Japan. The Hornet then served proudly at the Battle of Midway.
Now the Hornet and the Big “E” would find and fight a yet unknown Japanese Task Force. Just over the horizon the Japanese carriers Shokaku and the Zuikaku, joined the Zuiho and the Junyo. It was four Japanese carriers against two American. The day of battle was drawing close. The carrier to carrier battle would be named the Battle of Santa Cruz.
Donald drew his first enemy blood on October 26th during the battle. Ensign Gordon downed two Mitsubishi Type 97, aircraft. The Type 97 was also known as the Val dive-bomber. Donald was able to decimate both enemy aircraft with the six fifty caliber machine guns. He was given a “probable” for a third enemy aircraft during the melee which he damaged but no one saw the dive-bomber go down. Surly the Japanese bomber never made it back to his carrier but no one will ever know.
His next combat was on January 30, 1943 during a twelve-plane CAP or Combat Air Patrol northwest of the Cruiser, USS Chicago. Gordon was the first to spot eleven twin-engine Mitsubishi “Betty” bombers approaching the American Fleet. Donald called in the enemy sighting to the other fighter pilots. Each fighter in turned winged up and peeled off in the direction of the attacking enemy medium bombers.
Once the fighter group located the twin-engine bombers they quickly came in around to attack the enemy from the rear. From astern Gordon attacked one of the Japanese bombers. He saw his rounds chew up the tail, wings and rip up the side of the fuselage. The bomber caught fire easily and nosed into the Pacific. Donald then turned his fighter onto another enemy bomber and dispatched the enemy as easily.
Amazing but Donald did not get credit for either of the bomber victories. Since he was in charge he was the last to get back to the Ready Room. By the time he checked in with his report and to claim his victories Donald found out that there had already been 19 claims by the other fighter pilots in the group. There were only eleven enemy bombers to start with! Donald knew that he in fact had shot down two of the bombers and he watched two get away completely! Such was some of the confusion of battle and a little greed form fellow pilots. He brushed off the loss of credit.
The other pilots knew that Donald was aggressive right away in training which is good for a fighter pilots career. In two engagements Gordon was labeled “FLASH GORDON” form the science fiction action hero. It was well deserved with three confirmed aerial victories, two shared and one probable. Plus the two lost bombers he did not get to claim.
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Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette
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Re-Posted on June 22, 2011