SMITH - 61st FIGHTER SQUADRON
We have received some fabulous material from the family
of the late Donavon F. Smith,
including scans of his WW2 logbook and photo album,
and it gives me great pleasure to be able to display them
from Niles in Michigan, Donavon commenced his Primary training
at Bruce Field, Ballinger, Texas on 30th March 1942 and
soloed the PT-19 after 7 hrs and 16 mins of instruction.
first to Randolph Field TX for Basic training followed by
Advanced training at Foster Field he graduated on October
9th 1942 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. Posted to the
61st Fighter Squadron of the 56th Fighter Group, the 27th
of that same month saw Donavon make his first flight in
1/2 hours of P-47 transition and formation training followed
before the 56th began to prepare for the trip overseas.The
remainder of Don's training for combat would take place
in the skies over the UK.
at Kingscliffe in January 1943 he flew his first mission
from Horsham St Faith on May 4th 1943.
30th 1943 saw the first confirmed victory for Donavon when
he shot down
an Me109 while the 56th were escorting B-17s on the mission
to Kassel, Germany.
April 1944 Donavon finished his operational tour, opting
to take 30 days leave in the USA and returning to the 56th
Fighter Group for a second tour.
While away on leave the 56th completed its move to Boxted
in readiness for the D-Day landings, and Don arrived back
with the Wolfpack in July.
after the move to Boxted the 56th began to be equipped
with the new “Bubbletop” P-47. Donavon
was assigned a D-26 which he named “Ole Cock
III”. It's this aircraft which is probably
the best known of his P-47s and was also Donavon's
second P-47 allocated to Donavon which carried the
cockerel nose art and the name "Ole Cock".
Lucian Dade returns to the USA on compassionate leave and
Maj Baker takes over as Group Flying Executive Officer.
Schilling, needing to fill the 61st squadron commander job,
is mentally surveying his men.
asks Donavon Smith, "Hey, Don, how old are you? About
shrugs, glances down at his boots and replies, "Yeah,
Dave, about that."
Smith assumes command of the 61st FS... at the age of 21.
He became 61st FS C/O in September 1944 and flew his 124th
and final combat mission with the Wolfpack on January 5th
1945, having scored 7.5 confirmed kills along with one probable
and three damaged. At that time Donavon was one of the last
seven original pilots remaining with the 56th Fighter Group.
WW2 a long and distinguished Air Force career followed
and Donavon reached the rank of Lieutenant General with
his last assignment being as Commander of the Sixth Tactical
decorations and awards during WW2 include:
Distinguished Service Cross
• Distinguished Service Medal (Air Force Design)
• Legion of Merit
• Distinguished Flying Cross with three oak leaf
• Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters
• Air Force Commendation Medal
• Distinguished Unit Citation Emblem with oak leaf
three photos above show Donavon's A2 jacket, with
close-ups of his leather name badge, and an escape
map made from silk.
photo on the left is of his headgear, proudly displayed
below a painting of the 56th Fighter Group by RAF
officer George Temple.
Sadly, Donavon passed away on 10th Sept 1974. In 1980,
the city of Niles Michigan named its Veterans' Memorial
Park the “Donavon Smith Memorial Park”,
and the address was read by his old 61st Fighter Squadron
colleague Jerry Johnson.
on the links below to see Donavon's complete logbook
and also his personal photo album which give a poignant
insight into the day-to-day life
as a pilot in the 56th Fighter Group.