F4F Wildcat Pilot Ensign Donald “Flash” Gordon of VF-10 “Grim Reapers”, 1942

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  1. LCDR Don Flash Gordon in a FJ-1
    Donald Gordon was born in Garland, Kansas on July 17, 1920. He attended Fort Scott High School and graduated in 1939, continuing on to Fort Scott Junior College graduating in 1941. Gordon also took the Civil Pilots training program and got his license. After finishing college, Gordon entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program on July 7, 1941. He completed flight training and was commissioned as an Ensign on March 12, 1942, at age 21. His first assignment was the new Fighter Squadron 10 (VF-10). The Squadron would be named the “Grim Reapers.”
    In October 1942, VF-10 was assigned to the aircraft carrier Enterprise. The first fighter Gordon flew from the decks of Enterprise was the F4F Wildcat. Gordon drew his first enemy blood on October 26 at the Battle of Santa Cruz. Ensign Gordon downed two Mitsubishi Type 97 aircraft. He was given a “probable” for a third Type 97 during the melee.
    His next combat was on January 30, 1943, during a 12-plane Combat Air Patrol (CAP) northwest of the heavy cruiser Chicago. Gordon was the first to spot 11 twin-engine Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” bombers. Calling in the enemy sighting to the other fighter pilots, they pealed off after the attacking “Bettys”. From astern, Gordon attacked one of the medium Japanese bombers. The bomber caught fire and nosed into the Pacific. He then turned his fighter onto another and dispatched the enemy bomber as well.
    Gordon did not get credit for either of the bomber victories because he was the last to get back to the ready room. By the time he checked in with his report and victory claims, he found out that there had already been 19 claims on only 11 enemy bombers, and Gordon knew that he had in fact shot down two of the bombers and watched two get away.
    This was a very good start for a fighter pilot’s career. In two engagements, Gordon was nicknamed “FLASH GORDON” after the science fiction action hero. It was well deserved, with three confirmed aerial victories, two shared and one probable.
    In June 1943, VF-10 returned to the United States. While there, the squadron was re-equipped with the new F6F Hellcat. The Hellcat was a much better fighter: bigger, faster and more powerful. It also packed more ammunition: 1,600 rounds of 0.5 in (12.7 mm) machine gun bullets, instead of 1,300 in the Wildcat.
    In January 1944, now as a Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Gordon returned to combat again aboard the Enterprise. He shot down a A6M Zero near Taroa on January 29, and on February 16 he became an ace when he downed another Zero over Turk.
    On April 1, 1944, Gordon was promoted to a full Lieutenant. During the battle known as the “Marinas Turkey Shoot,” Lieutenant Gordon downed a Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” torpedo-bomber attempting to attack the American fleet on June 19. The next day, he took part in the counter-attack on the Japanese fleet. As he escorted naval divebomber and torpedo aircraft, he shot down a Zero in their defense.
    Gordon remained in the Navy after the war and served in one of the first Squadrons VF-5A that transitioned into the new jet fighters with the FJ-1 Fury. Gordon continued his education and graduated from Jackson Collage in Hawaii. In 1961, He was promoted to Captain on February 1, 1962 and finally retired from the Navy in July 1967.
    During his Naval career, he was credited with seven confirmed aerial victories, 1 probable, and 2 shared. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Gold Stars, the Air Medal with three Gold Stars; Commendation with Combat “V” for the two shared victories, Navy Unit Citation and two Presidential Unit Citations, one for his role on Guadalcanal and the other was from his service on Enterprise.

    January 17, 2012 at 8:16 am

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