Donald Gordon

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Donald Gordon, 89, died Jan. 4, 2010 in La Jolla, Calif. He was one of the few remaining World War II Fighter Aces.

Captain Donald "Flash" Gordon was born to his mother Helen Lee (Couch) and father Arch Brown Gordon on July 17, 1920, in a farmhouse just outside of Garland, Kan. He recently attended his 70th high school reunion at Fort Scott High School where he graduated in 1939. He continued on to Fort Scott Junior College, graduating in 1941. He also took the Civil Pilots training program and earned his pilot license. After finishing college, Flash entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program on July 7, 1941.

Following flight training, he was commissioned as an ensign in March 1942 at age 21 and was assigned to Fighter Squadron VF-10 on the USS Enterprise, known famously as the "Grim Reapers." He participated in many major combat engagements in World War II for nearly two years including the battles of Santa Cruz, Guadalcanal, Truk, Saipan, Guam, Gilbert Islands, and the First Battle of Philippine Sea. During his distinguished Naval Career, he was a World War II Ace credited with victories over seven Japanese aircraft; awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Gold Stars; the Air Medal with three Gold Stars; a Navy Commendation with Combat "V"; the Navy Unit Citation and two Presidential Unit Citations.

In addition to his wartime accomplishments, he was a member of the Navy's first jet carrier squadron in 1948 at Naval Air Station, Alameda, Calif. He commanded the F9F Cougar jet Squadron VF-143 at what is now MCAS Miramar, Calif., in 1956. He attended the Naval War College, in Newport, R.I., in 1957, and served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C., during the Vietnam era. After retirement from the Navy as a captain, in 1967, he was employed by Lockheed Corporation in Burbank, Calif., and finished his career there in 1982 as the director of customer relations. He was an active member of the Association of Naval Aviation, the Fighter Aces Association, and the Golden Eagles. He supported many aviation museums and associations throughout the country. He was invited to speak about his wartime experiences by organizations throughout the United States and overseas.

Although Flash prided himself with his aviation career, he never forgot where he came from and often told stories about the days on the farm with his three brothers (Alan, Carl, and Lee) and a sister (Dorothy), where for a time, they had no electricity, running water or indoor bathroom. He started milking cows and plowing the fields at age 8 and drove a tractor by 12 years.

He married his high school sweetheart, Peggy Jean Reynolds, in April of 1942. They spent their honeymoon in Coronado, Calif., as "Flash" prepared to leave for the war in the South Pacific. After 41 years of marriage, Peggy died battling ovarian cancer in 1982. In 1984, he married the late Nancy Greaves Kellerman of Stockton, Calif., who recently passed away on Oct. 14, 2009.

Captain Gordon will be remembered not only as the hero he was to all, but as a loving, generous, smiling man, who loved a party, never met a stranger, and genuinely loved people.

He is survived by son Jeffrey Gordon, of Norfolk, Va.; his wife Jo Anne; son Larry Gordon; daughter Michele Sawaya, both of San Diego, Calif.; four grandsons, Jeff and Andy Gordon, of Baltimore, Md., and their wives, Shelby and Grace, and by Nick and Alex Sawaya, of San Diego; three great-granddaughters, Hailey, Piper, and Charley, whom he just visited in Baltimore. Last, but not least, he leaves his most loyal companion of all, "Duke," a West Highland Terrier that he cherished and referred to as "my boy!"

Graveside services for Donald Gordon will be 11 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 19, at the U.S. National Cemetery No. 1, Fort Scott, with the Rev. Paul Babcock officiating. Military rites will be conducted at the cemetery by the Olson-Frary-Burkhart Post 1165 Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Detail.

Services are under the direction of the Konantz-Cheney Funeral Home, 15 W. Wall Street, P.O. Box 309, Fort Scott, KS 66701.

View obituary online at