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Maj. Don S. Gentile

"One man Air Force."
- Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower upon presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Capt. Don S. Gentile in April 1942

Don Gentile (Dominic Salvatore Gentile) was born near the museum in Piqua, Ohio, on Dec. 6, 1920. He learned to fly in high school, and in 1941, he enlisted in the RAF. He was assigned to combat in 1942 as a member of No. 133 Eagle Squadron. In 1942 when the three Eagle Squadrons were transferred to the AAF as the 4th Fighter Group, Gentile was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and began a fabulous combat career flying Spitfires, P-47s and lastly P-51s.

By April 1944, he was the AAF's leading ace with 27.8* enemy planes destroyed in the air and on the ground. The next month he was ordered back to the United States because of the risk he might be lost in battle. Gentile agreed to take a one month rest from the rigors of combat with the understanding that he would be permitted to return to his unit.

Following his arrival in the United States, however, Gentile was not permitted to rejoin the 4th Fighter Group. Rather, he was permanently assigned to Wright Field as a test pilot until after the war. In 1947 he accepted a commission in the Regular Air Force. On Jan. 23, 1951, this great combat pilot who had survived all the enemy could muster against him, was killed in the crash of a T-33 jet trainer near Andrews Air Force Base, Md. He was posthumously promoted to Major.

* Note: Don Gentile was officially credited with 21.88 aerial victories and six ground victories. He also had two victories while assigned to No. 133 Eagle Squadron. 

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