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Donald M. McPherson was born on May 22, 1922, and raised in Adams, Nebraska. When the Navy V-5 program waived the two-year college requirement, McPherson enlisted on January 5, 1943, and was thereafter appointed as an Aviation Cadet on February 4th. He earned his commission and wings at Corpus Christi, Texas, on August 12, 1944. Upon arriving at Daytona Beach, Florida, for advanced training, Don was assigned to fly the F6F Hellcat. He completed carrier qualifications at Glenview, Illinois, before shipping off to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to await a combat assignment. There he earned the Pacific Defense Ribbon flying combat air patrols over the area. Don was then assigned to the USS Essex as a pilot with VF-83, Wonder 5 Flight.
McPherson participated in cleanup operations near Iwo Jima and the Philippines before being assigned to strafing runs prior to the invasion of Okinawa. Don and his squadron were assigned to attack kamikaze aircraft before they could attack U.S. ships ear the island of Kikajima. He spotted two Japanese Val dive bombers on a converging course near the water and dived on them. The first Val’s pilot was hit and the aircraft crashed into the sea. Under heavy fire from the island, Don pounced on the second Val as it attempted to escape. A quick burst exploded the Val.
Over the next few months McPherson took part in raids on several Japanese islands, including the invasion of Okinawa, where they would try to bomb into the fortified caves in the hills. During a battle north of Okinawa on May 4, 1945, McPherson shot down three more Kamikaze aircraft earning his “ace” status. Three of McPherson’s Wonder 5 Flight also made “ace” that day.
On September 2, 1945, Wonder 5 Flight flew their final mission of WWII, a combat air patrol in the skies above the USS Missouri while General Douglas MacArthur accepted the complete and unconditional surrender of the Empire of Japan.
During his WWII service, Ensign Don McPherson earned the following decorations, citations, and awards: Naval Combat Aviator Wings; Distinguished Flying Cross w/2 stars; Navy Air Medal w/3 stars; Asia/Pacific Campaign Medal; WWII Occupation Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Navy Commendation Medal; Combat Service Commendation Medal.
Don McPherson left the service at the end of the war and returned home to Adams, Nebraska, where he was employed as a rural mail carrier and farmed as well. Don continues to make his home in Adams.